This was my first evening track day session and I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect. This was also my first event that was run by Focused Events. I have heard mixed things about them but decided to approach the evening with an open mind.
Sign on and noise testing was from 4 – 4:45pm. The briefing was at 5pm and that sessions started at 5:30pm and would run to 8pm. There were only two groups; novice/inter and inter/fast. Each group got a 15 minute first session with three sightling laps plus whatever time was left over, followed by 3 x 20 minute sessions. That meant 1 hour and 15 minutes on track for £65 (US$90) which works out at great value for money, I think.
I met up with John again at the track, and unlike last time it looked as though we were going to be blessed with a glorious summer’s evening. This would be our third track day together and although John tends to ride in faster groups than me, it’s great having a friendly face to shoot the breeze with between sessions; even though we don’t often ride together. John doesn’t give a lot away but I suspect that he’s one of those gifted riders who hides his talents under his bushel. You see him here motoring around Druids.
As I was wandering along the pit garages I also spotted Phil who used to instruct for EasyTrack. We talked, I asked questions, and he offered to ride the final session with me to give me some tips. What’s really great about track days is that you do start to recognise different faces and that on the whole most people are really friendly, approachable and willing to help out. More on Phil’s feedback later.
After a slightly disappointing previous session at Brands I was hoping for some tangible improvement. This included the following:
- taking a better line into corners
- braking later for corners and/or trying not to coast into corners quite so much
- getting on the gas earlier through the corner and winding the throttle open more
- hanging off the bike more to reduce the lean angle in corners
The first session was quite slow paced for the sighting laps, and I didn’t bother running a data logger for that session as a result. In fact I barely made it out on track in time as I got the sessions mixed up and was chilling out when I should have been getting ready to get out on track!
In the second session, I wanted to try and shave a few seconds off my previous lap times by trying to focus on the things that I mentioned above. In the event I managed to reduce my time by over 3 seconds. But this this came at a cost. In trying to go faster, I felt that I was really starting to rush the corners and that my riding felt much less controlled and more untidy than previous track days at Brands.
I even managed to grind my toe guard going round Druids which caused me to stand the bike up mid corner, so that I ended up running off the track onto the gravel and grass. Somehow (and luckily) I managed to avoid being hit by anyone else and keep the bike upright. I quickly rejoined the session with the only symptom off my “off” being a massively elevated heart rate! You can see some of the mayhem in the short video below.
This video is quite instructive (for me) as it highlights:
- poor line for Paddock Hill (first corner after the start/finish straight) – should be much further over to the left
- not driving out of Paddock early enough – should be on the gas on the downhill section
- lazy braking for Druids (turn 2) at 1:28 with a late and slow turn in
- not getting on the gas early enough at Graham Hill (turn 3) at 1:40
- being off the throttle instead of having a neutral or slightly cracked open throttle through Surtees into Clearways (turns 4 and 5) at 1:50
- catching my boot mid corner, standing the bike up and running off track at 2:33! All a symptom of too much (unecessary) lean angle
And yet despite all that I still managed to post my quickest time round Brands at 1:05.13 – not only that but I managed three 1:05 and four 1:07 laps out of 14 laps that session. Looking at the video from the day, I can see that almost 2 seconds of the improvement in lap time has come from driving out of Clearways/Clarke earlier and more agressively.
Here are the session times:
|1||-||-||Not timed… barely made it out on track in time!|
|2||14||1:05.13||Off towards the end of the session|
|3||9||1.06.06||Started late to due last lap crash in previous group|
|4||10||1:06.49||Not sure why this session was so short|
In the final session of the evening, Phil kindly agreed to ride with me to try and help me sort out some basic errors. Before we went on track, he emphasised the need to exaggerate the hanging off style especially with respect to my head and inside shoulder. Initially he followed me and then I followed him… as best I could. I kept getting mugged by other riders and trying to stay with Phil became a game of diminishing returns. I suspect that he didn’t expect me to be quite as slow as I was! See the footage below.
After the session we had a quick debrief. Although I thought I was hanging off the bike like a monkey, he confirmed that I wasn’t trying nearly hard enough! He also lamented my lazy “road-riding” style in corners. Interestingly he suggested earlier braking points for the corners and then using the throttle to drive on out of the corners. Although he was kind enough not to say so, I could imagine him thinking, “what the hell have you been doing on track since we rode with you last year!”. His parting words were “hope to be at Silverstone with you on the 23rd” – I hope I’ve made some improvement before we meet again!
I may be clutching at straws but I’m banking on the fact that with more practice (on and off track) that soon something will click and some of these faults will begin to disappear as my confidence and riding style improve.
Overall the evening was brilliant. The track conditions were perfect and the two group format worked really well. Despite some of the negative things I’d heard about Focused Events, they ran a pretty tight ship and things ran really nicely and smoothly. I’ll definitely be back for more evening sessions!
Andy an instructor and great guy that I met last year on an EasyTrack track day at Brands looked over the footage and had the following comments to make:
- you struggle to hold a line into and through a corner as you are often totally off the throttle which makes the bike feel hard to turn and like it wants to run wider – you need to tip in on a neutral throttle and progressively roll the throttle on as you go through the corner and onto the next straight… This should also let you turn the bike quicker which is another of your aims!
- look at how much room you often have on corner exit – typically you are exiting the corner mid track so you can safely increase speeds through many corners and just use more of the available track
- getting on the gas smoothly and earlier will give you nice safe gains in lap times from carrying more speed ALL the way down the straights
- your revs often seem low in the corner too – I try and corner in a gear where my revs are at least 2/3 of maximum – this gives you a much more responsive throttle both when closed and when you want to accelerate again – you seem to take a while to pick up strong acceleration from many corners even after you have gone back on the throttle and this is costing you speed all the way down the straight
- get used to braking hard and selecting the right gear early – as you get more
used to this you can then adjust your braking points to progressively take you
nearer to the corner
- if your boots are touching down then your feet are in the wrong position
- when you come up to a slower rider try not to settle in behind them into the corner, leave a gap so you can use your better speed to simply accelerate past them with drive from further back. If you get right up to them and adjust to their speed then it just becomes a throttle/horsepower drag out of the corner – many slower riders are on big bikes and can accelerate quite quickly so you end up stuck for a few corners not just one