Silverstone GP 20 May 2013

SilverstoneGPHaving ridden Silverstone’s International circuit twice last year, I was really looking forward to riding on the GP circuit. The cost of riding the GP circuit at Silverstone is high at £199 (US $300) but then again you are getting to ride an iconic track with excellent facilities that just happens to host F1 racing in the UK.

SilverstoneGP-Pits1I arrived at the track at 7am with grey and overcast skies, but at least it was dry… if a little on the cold side. We were housed in the new “Wing” building along the International start/finish line. Compared to other tracks, the pits at the Wing are palatial with masses of space and all the facilities that you could want on hand and nearby – there’s no need to trek half a mile for the toilets! Not only that but the organisers even laid on complimentary tea and coffee which was available all day long in our pit garage.

Sign on was straight forward with fewer forms and details required compared to other circuits. The noise limit for the day was 105dB static and unlike other tracks there is no compulsory noise testing although it was available on a voluntary basis. There are noise detectors on track and if your bike is flagged up as being too noisy then that would be the end of your track day. The track operates a one strike and you’re out policy. The onus is therefore on the rider to ensure that the bike complies with their noise restrictions. Apparently one bike was refused access to the track because of its race exhaust pipe.

SilverstoneGP-Pits2The GP circuit is over 3.6 miles long, and up to 50 or so bikes are allowed per session. Luckily for us, there were only about 25 bikes in each of the three groups. This made for a really relaxed and informal atmosphere in the pits and also meant that each bike pretty much had the track to itself.

Like my other track days, I booked into the Novice group and our first session comprised three sighting laps followed by one or two further laps before the 20 minute session ended. During the first session, we encountered fine misty rain which made visibility poorer although the track seemed to offer good grip levels and actually felt dry.

The track is L-O-N-G and pretty confusing the first time that you ride it. It really feels like two tracks tacked together. There are two start-finish straights that both feel very similar and both have a right hander at the end; one requires brakes and the other does not, so the onus is on you to remember which is which otherwise you could make a painful mistake. It wasn’t until the 5th or 6th session of the day that I started to work out where I was on the track and what corner was coming up next.

The Silverstone GP circuit is smooth and fast! Most of the corners can be taken at speed while five corners are almost second gear ones with heavy braking on the entry. The video below shows the racing line as ridden by Neil, an excellent chap and one of Silverstone’s bike instructors. In the second lap, I try and emulate his lines. You can judge for yourself how well you think I did.

I decided not to bother using my data logger in the morning as I figured that I could log the four afternoon sessions instead. In the event, I managed only to log one afternoon session! Basically my GPS unit’s battery went flat after the first afternoon session despite the fact that I thought I had fully charged it before the track day. This means that the other times you see below are estimated from watching my video footage.

A word to the wise – fill up with fuel over lunch! Silverstone has fuel onsite, but it takes ages to get from the new International pits to the fuel station and back. In fact after the first afternoon session I set off for fuel and ended up missing half of the next session after driving around the perimeter road for what seemed like ages. That also meant rushing to get back onto track to the extent that I also forgot to switch the data logger and camera on.

These are my estimated times:

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 4 ? Including 3 sighting laps
2 6 3:10 Estimated from video footage
3 6 3:14 Estimated from video footage
4 5 3:12.66 Only session properly logged!
5 ? ? Missed half the session due to fueling issue!
6 6 3:12 Blinding session with Neil again!

Although there were seven sessions available to us, I realised that I was pretty tired in the 6th session, and I didn’t feel like going out for the final session and pushing it and crashing. That last session following Neil (the instructor) and having him follow me was immense fun and I was happy to leave the track having survived six sessions with a huge grin on my face. Even Neil seemed to have enjoyed himself that session too!

Here’s a short except from the first session after lunch showing that you can outdrag litre bikes down the straight on a 600cc bike – some moments are at 2:30, 8:00, 10:45 and 13:00. It’s also funny that no matter how fast you think you’re going, there’s always someone who will just blast past you making you wonder how they did that – there’s an example at 9:20 too.

Silverstone GP is an awesome track. It is fast and very rewarding but it does take time to learn it. Unlike other tracks that predominantly have right handed corners, this one has a nice mix of lefts and rights; some fast and some slow. Would I go and ride there again? Definitely!

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