Brands Hatch GP 3 Jun 2013

brands-GPI was really looking forward to returning to Brands to ride the GP circuit again because I’d enjoyed it so much the last time out.

After such a good time at Silverstone, I had been debating whether to move myself up from the Novice to Intermediate group. I was running in the top half of the Novice group but there were riders in that group that were still significantly faster than I was. As a result, I decided to book into the Novice group for Brands. That was a wise decision as it turns out but more on that later.

This trackday was organised by MSV and the weather was forecast to be sunny and warm for the whole day. In the event, the weather forecast was spot on and we got to ride in perfect conditions! MSV run great race tracks with good facilities but their actual track organisation is not up to the same level as that of companies like No Limits who just seem more rider focused.

BrandsPitAt the briefing we were advised that the first session of the day would consist of three sighting laps followed by a return to the pits before going out for the remainder of the session. What actually happened is that after the three sighting laps we returned to the pits and sat around for what seemed like ages for some unknown reason. No one crashed so there really was no good explanation for the seven minute holdup! When we finally got out on track we managed to squeeze one more full lap in before the first session ended.

I happened to be talking with an ex-racer in the Fast group and exactly the same thing has happened to them. He was hopping mad and went off to find someone to complain to. Why the big fuss? Well, when you only have five 20 minute sessions costing you £1.70 a minute, you don’t want to be sat in the pit lane for any length of time unnecessarily when you could be out riding. This is where companies like No Limits are so good because they’re just as keen as us to maximise track time.

As with all my track days, I was looking forward to having some fun and improving my riding technique. Hopefully any improvement would translate into better lap times. My last time out at Brands on the GP circuit, I had managed to get my lap time down to 2:08 and I had every expectation of shaving another few seconds off that time by the end of the day. As a point of reference, the quick guys in the fast group are lapping in the low 1:40’s while racers will be lapping anywhere from 1:37 to 1:40 so you can see how far I still have to go.

Despite the frustration of the first session, I decided to do something constructive by focusing on my lines round the track. Because we were running in a long line at an easy pace that session, it made it easy to concentrate on using the best lines possible. By the second session, I was running at 2:12 – 2:14 on average with a fastest lap of 2:10. Looking at the video below of that second session it’s possible to see that on the whole my lines were reasonably OK as I tried to run wide into the turns and turn late for the next apex.

One of the benefits of having a few track days under your belt is that you understand how much faster you can go down the straight (by pinning the throttle wide open) and how much later you can brake for the corners. The downside to this new found confidence is that I was beginning to “charge” the turns by running too hot into the turn (for my skill level). This had several negative effects. Firstly, my lines started going to pot as I focused on getting down the straight as fast as I could instead of focusing on setting myself up for the corner properly. Secondly, the higher speed meant that I need to turn more quickly, and I was not really doing this properly. The net effect of this is that I was probably going more slowly through the corners when charging the turns than when I wasn’t.

In this next video from the third session shot from the back of the bike keep a look out for the cones. The yellow ones are the turn in markers for the corners. The red ones denote the apex of the corner. You can see how often I (incorrectly) turn well past the yellow cone – this is a symptom of running quicker into the corner but not turning the bike quickly enough. As a result of that basic mistake, I then end up missing the red apex cone.

The interesting thing is that although I was faster on the straights than the last time I rode the GP circuit back in early May my quickest lap time of the day was still 2:08 so despite doing some things better, I was also doing other things worse which had the effect of cancelling out any improvements I made.

Here are my progress for the day:

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 5 2:15.06 Too many sighting laps and too much delay
2 9 2:10.41
3 8 2:08.13
4 8 2:08.61
5 9 2:10.93

In this last video of the final session, you can see how I can often pull away from other riders on the straights and also how those same riders easily catch and pass me on the corners.

Overall I really enjoyed my day out at Brands. The GP circuit is still AWESOME! I met some really nice people in my garage and had many interesting conversations during the day. The riding was great fun although that was tempered slightly by my frustration over the silly mistakes that I was making and which were being exaggerated by my riding style (or lack thereof!).

On the plus side, I now have some concrete things to work on. These include:

  • slowing down on the straights to allow a better “flow” through the corners
  • faster turn rate at the corners achieved using a slightly more aggressive counter steer
  • trying to carry more speed through the corners

The Novice group is still the right place for me, and I intend to keep riding in it until I’m pretty much running at the head of the group for several sessions. At the moment, I think I’m still some way off that.

On my next track day, I hope to be riding with an ex-racer friend with a view to getting him to help me eliminate some of the silly mistakes that I’m currently making. I really think that by slowing down a little to give myself more time, I will develop a better riding style and hopefully achieve the faster lap times that I’m after. We’ll see.

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