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:
|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|
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.
This is something I understand intellectually but I just can’t seem to get right yet. The theory is so simple:
- place the ball of the inside foot on the peg
- slide your butt over to the inside – have one cheek over the edge of the seat
- bend both arms ensuring that your outside arm is straighter and resting on or close to the tank
- 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.
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:
- not using it early enough in the turn
- 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!