After a disappointing outing at Brands GP ten days earlier, I was looking forward to a better improvement in my riding this time round. Whether or not that turned out to be the case, you’ll have to judge for yourself.
The track day was organised by MSV in conjunction with Ride magazine with only road legal bikes being allowed round the track. Ride wanted a “reclaim our trackdays” theme to the day where in the not too distant past everyone rode to a track day, rode round the track and then rode home again afterwards. No vans, race or track bikes or tyre warmers were allowed. Nowadays, at least 50% of the bikes on a track day seem to be sporting tyre warmers and are transported to and from the track in a van. I was initally sceptical about the motivation for the day, but on reflection I think that it turned out rather well with a more relaxed feel to the whole proceedings.
A friend and I booked this track day the afternoon before on the expectation of a dry day. When we arrived we were slightly disappointed becaused it was grey with ominous looking dark clouds. By the start of the first session, there was a fine drizzle falling which meant that even if the weather improved the first couple of sessions at least would be on a wet greasy track. MSV were running three groups per hour; one fast/inters group and two novice groups. We were both booked into the first of the two novice groups.
With a few track days under my belt now, I tend to daydream a little during the pre-session briefings. However one thing I did note was the head instructor advising everyone to take it easy for the first few laps each session until their tyres had warmed up especially in view of the damp track surface. His talk ended with the prophetic words, “into the first corner, into the second corner, into hospital!”. They were going to come back and haunt one poor unfortunate individual in the fast group who came off at Paddock Hill, the first corner just after leaving the pits following the group’s first three sighting laps. He had to be stretchered off the track in an ambulance. A short while later the air ambulance arrived to take him to hospital. I’m not sure of the outcome but I wish him well.
During the first session, I took it fairly easy and tried to concentrate on my lines and smooth use of the throttle. It turns out that riding on a damp track was a useful exercise as focusing on this two aspects alone meant that I was only 2-3 seconds off my fastest time on the same track when dry! The video below shows part of the second session that morning with a light drizzle still falling. Watch the back stepping out on Paddock Hill at 0:28s through slightly enthusiastic use of the throttle!
Also take a look at the section at 0:45s when I’m overtaken by another Daytona 675. Despite being overtaken, we both arrive at the apex of Graham Hill bend at approximately the same speed and time. Although this rider has been forced to take a worse line through the corner, it’s really interesting how much drive he gets out of the corner despite being leant over more than me. If you listen to the video carefully, you can hear that he gets on the gas around 2 seconds earlier than I do. Just love the rasping sound of the 675 triple!
Being late on the throttle is one aspect of my riding that I will really work on next time on track. I reckon that this alone would yield a total 4-6 second improvement around Brands Indy circuit especially when you factor in the fact that a 1-2 second improvement is available to me at the exits of Graham Hill, Clearways/Clarke, Paddock Hill and Druids.
The third session of the morning was cut short due to two crashes in the fast group before our session was due. It seemed to take ages to clear the bikes and riders from the circuit. As a result, both John and I decided to sit the session out. There’s quite a lot to be said for riding in the novice groups; the riders are more cautious and less aggressive which generally equates to fewer red flagged sessions and more track time.
With no apparent improvement in the weather forecast, John decided to abandon the day, and went back to the office. Having seen that I had more grip than I expected and that my wet track lap times were close to my dry track ones, I decided to continue. After lunch, the weather steadily improved and the track began to dry nicely. The remaining three sessions that afternoon were on a dry track. Below is a video of part of the last session of the day.
The video highlghts three aspects of my riding that I still need to work on:
- getting on the gas earlier coming out of turns
- being less lazy about positioning the bike on the correct lines on the approaches to corners
- improving my body positioning so that I can carry more speed through the corners
So what were my times for the day?
|1||-||-||Wet track with 3 sighting laps so I didn’t bother timing this session|
|2||13||1:10.54||Still wet and greasy|
|4||13||1:11:90||Reduced my pace due to the number of crashes seen that morning!|
|5||9||1:08:57||Session started late due to previous session’s crash|
The previous outing (at Brands GP) I was looking to make some specific improvements. If I’m being honest I’m not sure that I actually did achieve everything that I wanted. One thing that did please me however is that my wet track riding times are now much closer to my dry times than they were before. Six months ago my wet lap times around Brands Hatch Indy were 6 seconds slower than the 2-3 seconds that they are now.
Next time out, I’m really going to have to make a concerted effort to drive out of corners earlier and more aggressively, and to not be so lazy about following a better line around the circuit. I’m not really sure when I’ll next ride around Brands Indy as the rest of the available track days this year are all 4 group formats. That either means 7 x 15 minute sessions or 5 x 20 minute sessions; neither of which is ideal considering the cost. Perhaps I’ll have to try some alternate tracks for a change?