Brands Indy 17 Jul 2013 – Part 2

This is a continuation of this post.

After receiving some excellent and helpful feedback from my previous post about riding at Brands Indy, I headed to Brands again with some revised goals in order to continue to try and improve my riding and reduce my lap times. These included:

  • not rushing or charging the corners by braking earlier
  • trying to use more of the available track space on corner entry and exit
  • opening the throttle sooner in a corner in order to drive through and achieve more speed down the straight
  • improving my body position when cornering to achieve a lesser lean angle for the same corner speed

Comparing the video below with that from my previous outing at Brands I can see that I didn’t really achieve any significant improvement on the first three objectives. I also doubt that I made that much improvement on the body positioning objective either but it’s hard to realistically determine this from the video. However, one good thing that you can determine from the video is how well the external mic works at picking up the amazing sound from the 675 triple engine – a pure symphony of sound!

My lap times at Brands Indy have been pretty static at around 1:07 – 1:08 for the past two track days now, which means I’ve hit some kind of plateau. Watching videos of the day, I can see that the quicker riders are quicker because they carry more speed through the corners and onto the straight which is primarily a function of getting on the throttle earlier in the corner. If I could sort this one aspect of my riding out then I think I could probably shave anywhere up to 5 seconds a lap off my times.

Here are the session times for the day:

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 - - Not timed
2 18 1:07.83 Timed Chrono session for regrouping
3 14 1:07.14 Running in group 2 instead of 1
4 15 1:07.49 Back in group 1
5 17 1:07.04
6 11 1:07.44
7 9 1:09.14

There are a couple of things to note about those times. Firstly that the quickest lap time of each session except the last was around 1:07. In the last session, I was both tired and wary of coming off which meant that I definitely backed off the pace a bit. Secondly the discrepancy in the number of laps. My feeling is that the time keeping wasn’t always that accurate and that in at least two of those sessions we had fewer than our alotted 20 minutes (for whatever reason).

The lack of improvement is disappointing, so let’s see if I can figure out what went wrong.

Body position

This is something I understand intellectually but I just can’t seem to get right yet. The theory is so simple:

  1. place the ball of the inside foot on the peg
  2. slide your butt over to the inside – have one cheek over the edge of the seat
  3. bend both arms ensuring that your outside arm is straighter and resting on or close to the tank
  4. pull your head and shoulder (upper body) towards the inside of the corner so that you head is inline with you inside mirror

Why is this important? Because it should allow you to carry more speed through corners with a reduced lean angle -the less lean angle you have the more power you can put down with the back wheel.

Sounds simple, so why do I struggle to sort this out? Well it appears that I have a particular aversion to right handed corners! Now this is a bit of a problem, as almost all of the race circuits in the UK run clockwise with a higher proportion of right handed corners than left.

What I’m basically doing in a right handed corner is sliding my butt over to the inside (and probably not enough) while leaving my head and shoulders nearly central over the tank which results in a twisted back and “crossed up” posture. This manifests itself quite clearly as a pain or tension in my neck and particularly on right handed corners. I think my body position on left handed corners is actually better (based on less pain in my neck!), although I don’t have any photos to confirm this.

What’s the solution? Reducing my work load in corners so that I can focus on getting my body position correct will be the simplest approach at least until this becomes more automatic. The easist way to reduce the workload in a corner is to reduce speed – I think spending one or two sessions next time out on track riding at 60-70% of my ability will allow me to devote the extra mental capacity to practicing this more effectively.

Forcing myself to slow down and ignore what else is going on track will require some discipline but I think that this is the only way I’m really going to start to make some progress. Otherwise I’m in danger of doing more track days and repeating the same mistakes endlessly.

Poor lines

Keith Code describes the racing line in a corner as that line that allows you to use the throttle most effectively. There is no one line that suits all riders for any particular corner.

I know that I need to focus on trying to find and take the best lines I can into and around the corners. Generally before a track day, I’ll do some research by watching fast group riders at the same circuit on YouTube. I try and imprint those lines in my head. However, it often happens that when I get out on track that information seems to magically disappear and I end up riding in the middle of the track again.

I’ve ridden Brands Hatch Indy several times now, and you’d have thought that the proper lines should be imprinted in my head – they’ve been shown to me on more than one occasion. But as you can see from the video, that just isn’t the case! So what’s going on? In one word speed! The faster I go on track, the more I revert to type and try to remain towards the center of the track through a combination of a lack of discipline and a strong sense of self preservation.

Moving from the middle of the track to the outside edge on corner entry feels scary – a fear that is compounded the faster you go. When I was shown the racing lines by one of the No Limits instructors at Brands Hatch GP, he made a point of going slowly for 3-4 laps so that I could really focus more of my mental capacity on learning those lines without any fear kicking in. That trick really helped me to understand what he was trying to show me and made it easier to go faster and more safely around the track for the rest of the day. I did notice myself diverging from those lines as the day wore on due to a combination of my increased speed increased and lack of attention – that speed difference was only a matter of 5-8 seconds a lap over a 2 minute lap.

Slowing down for a couple of sessions at my next track looks like a promising solution to reinforcing those lines. The lower speed will hopefully allow me to concentrate on the lines for corner entry and exit, and deal with my body position at the same time.

Using the Throttle

Using lots of throttle on the straight is easy… even I can do it! Knowing how much throttle and when to apply it in a corner is much harder. Most instructors advocate getting on the throttle as soon as you can in a corner. After braking hard for the corner, the throttle is then cracked to settle the suspension so that the weight distribution between the front and rear tyres is biased to the rear.

I seem to have (at least) two major problems with throttle usage:

  1. not using it early enough in the turn
  2. and not using enough of it as I drive out of the turn

Generally I find that the faster I approach a corner the later I get on the throttle. You’d think that this simple fact would cause me to reduce my turn entry speed so that I could overcome the two problems identified above. It is this instinct for self preservation which also prevents my opening the throttle more quickly and fully as I’m coming out of the turn.

If you watch the above video, and then compare it to a previous video from Brands, then you’ll see that I did try to approach the corners in a more controlled manner. My feeling though is that what I took for more control was in fact laziness and complacency. Let me explain…

In trying to slow down for the corner entry, I tried to brake earlier for the corners. However on reviewing some of the video, I can see that I often coasted into the corners (after braking) at only a slightly slower pace than the previous track day! It isn’t good enough to brake earlier if you then negate that by not applying the brakes hard enough so that you arrive at the corner at the lower speed you wanted in order to then drive on through the corner.

The solution? Brake early and brake hard while the bike is upright. Come off the brakes and crack the throttle to settle the suspension. Assuming that I’m then cornering at a speed that isn’t triggering all my survival instincts I should be able to roll on the throttle earlier and harder to drive out of the corners.

I’m at Silverstone GP next week and I plan to try again with these same objectives outlined at the start of this post. I have video footage following one of Silverstone’s instructors which I will study before the track day. Armed with that knowledge I intend to ride the first two sessions at around 70-80% of my ability so that I can hopefully make better progress.

On one level, this day was frustrating, but on another level it was amazing fun. You know you’re having a good time when you get back into the garage after a session with a huge grin on your face… and trust me when I tell you that this happened quite a lot!

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4 thoughts on “Brands Indy 17 Jul 2013 – Part 2”

  1. Excellent write up mate. I was in group 1 too what a great day. I was mostly in the 1:03’s with a couple of 1:02’s which I was quite pleased with for my first time there and only previous track days were 2 years ago at Lydden Hill. Also I didn’t know we’d be given our lap times so wasn’t really trying to get a whole lap together wish I had now, ah well next time, think I could shave at least 1sec off maybe 2.
    Do you have any other vids you’ll be posting up from the day, would love to catch myself on there just to see what my body position etc looks like?
    Regards to your attempts at getting quicker I think you might be over analysing things a bit to be honest and trying to do too much which is prob actually making you slower. What I mean is at the times you are running you shouldn’t need to be perfecting all the techniques you described, certainly not all at the same time. I think the most important thing first is to perfect your lines which generally did look pretty good in your vid. The reason for this is to me having the correct line just gives you more room to manoeuvre and makes the corner shorter and not as sharp meaning less lean required for less time which in turn means you can carry more corner speed.
    Rather than trying to hang off like stoner when at the speeds you are going there really isn’t the need, maybe start by just hanging off a little and as you say not crossing up your upper body.
    Hope I don’t sound patronising cause im certainly not an expert but I just think you could make better progress sticking to your lines and just pushing up your corner speed a bit then the rest could come after to keep you progressing. Believe me I wasn’t hanging off much at all and certainly wasn’t going round with my knee down or anything for my laps to be 4-5 secs quicker. And also I have quite a number of times on track and road ridden considerably quicker than guys scraping their knee sliders and hanging off like monkeys when I have still got 1 and a half butt cheeks on the seat.
    Look forward to reading your next blog and hopefully see a few more vids.
    Regards,
    Gaz

    1. Glad you had a brilliant day too – I’ve posted more videos, you can find them here on YouTube. There are a couple more waiting to be processed and I’ll try and get those posted next week.

      Yours must have been one of the bikes flying past me on a regular basis! :)

      Your comments and information about your own lap times and riding style are really interesting and useful – so thanks for that feedback. I agree that the key to a faster lap time is a faster corner speed, especially on the exit. I’m riding an amazing bike that could lap at 15 seconds a lap quicker in its current set up but my lack of skill and ability that is preventing that from happening.

      The (over-) analysis is borne out of my frustration at seeming to have stagnated at the same lap times for the past two track days at Brands. Maybe I just need to grow a pair…

      Next time you’re out on track, keep an eye out for a black Daytona and come and say “hi”.

  2. Hi

    Just looked at your vids – great quality and funny to see myself on there from another perspective. I was in group 2 but am afraid to say I didn’t notice you on the day – I was on a red 749s..

    I think the other poster has it right – don’t over analyse. You simply need to go faster. Were you getting your knees down at most of the corners? It’s not the be all and end all of course but it’s a good indicator of your body position if you were – a lot of novices think they’re hanging off the bike when they’re really not. I had a bit of a moment on Weds as it’s been a while since my last TD and I’d forgotten quite how much you need to hang off, I thought I was going OK until my pegs started scraping and my knee wasn’t even touching down!

    1. Analysing is in my nature – it’s actually part of what I do for a living… so it’s a hard habit to break!

      I was only in group 2 for the first session after lunch which might explain why you didn’t notice me – I was probably just a target for you to get past a few times that session. I think I remember seeing your bike in one of the garages (maybe 8 to 10?). That 749 is one beautiful machine.

      Sounds like you had a great day too. Well done for not getting spat off when you decked your pegs.

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