Silverstone GP 13 Jul 2013

silverstone_gpAfter a scorching two weeks where temperatures often climbed in to the low 30s (80-90F), a change in the weather coincided with Focused Event’s Silverstone GP track day. Instead of hot sunshine, we were treated to the full gamut of weather conditions ranging from the sun trying to break through the clouds to thunderstorms and lightning!

This track day was unusual in that it ran from 9am to 2pm with only two groups running 20 minute sessions and all for £139 (US$ 210). This came about because Ducati had the track booked for the rest of the afternoon. What a brilliant format; two groups is MUCH better than the 4 groups that more and more track day companies seem to be opting for more now. No sooner had you come in from a session and got a drink than you were being called to line up in the pits again for your next session – now that’s how a track day should be!

Two groups meant greater speed differences between riders than in 3 or 4 group format track days. But at a long and wide circuit like Silverstone, this was never a problem. There was always stacks of space for the faster riders to overtake slower riders. Hopefully more track day companies will adopt this as a new format; one set of track day riders from 9am-2pm and a second set from 2pm to 8pm. Potentially, they could generate more income that the day/evening formats that are sometimes offered while giving riders even more track time and better value for money. Now there’s an idea!

We were greeted with a damp track for the first session but at least it wasn’t raining. Within 15 minutes that changed as the rain started. By the second session at around 10am, we were out in a thunderstorm complete with forked lightening! There was water everywhere with some of the corners under at least an inch (3cm) of standing water. Apart from getting soaked in my leathers, riding in the rain was actually a great experience as the more cautious riding meant that you had plenty of time to focus on lines.

Soon after that second session, the track was closed until the thunderstorm had passed. Marshalls and crew were then duly sent out to sweep the standing water from the corners. Because the track and ground were hot from the previous couple of week’s good weather, the track began to dry more quickly than I expected.

For the third session, we were greeted with a track that had the occasional dry/damp line while other parts of the track were still pretty wet. After all the hot weather, the rubber, oil and other muck had been lifted to the track’s surface by the rain turning some parts of it into an ice rink. As I rode around I would feel the bike suddenly shift alarmingly even when barely leant over. Quite frankly, this was deeply unsettling as it felt like the bike was about to slam down the track on its side without the slightest provocation! My laps times that session were 1/3 slower that they were in the dry. Even riders on wets were less than impressed by the track conditions and many riders from either group came in early to sit the session out in the hope that the track would dry off later. In fact, some riders chose to abandon the day altogether. Perhaps 1/5 of the original riders didn’t even bother hanging around for the remaining sessions.

By the fourth session just after midday the track had finally started to dry out, especially on the racing line. There were still damp patches around the circuit mainly off the line in corners. Having been thoroughly chastised by the conditions in the previous session, I made a point of focusing on the best line I could. In fact, for most corner approaches, I was mindful of the line I wanted and was pleasantly surprised to see that I was doing a reasonable job of sticking to it. One thing that I did notice is that I wasn’t looking far enough ahead round the corner to plan both the apex and exit points instead focusing on the braking and entry point almost to the exclusion of all else. Because Silverstone has longer straights compared to somewhere like Brands Indy, in some ways, you actually have more time to plan your corner entries.

Silverstone-offIn the final session of the day, we were riding in almost perfect conditions with virtually all of the racing line around the circuit dry. Moving off the line in corners would immediately put you into damp and slippery conditions. Luckily I managed to stay upright by ensuring that I followed the dry line as much as I could. Quite a few riders ran off the track at various different points; mostly without incident as there is plenty of runoff tarmac which allowed them to safely rejoin the circuit.

One other aspect that I tried to focus on was body positioning in corners and this time I really noticed something that I mentioned in my previous post. I definitely do not like right handed corners compared to left handed ones! I particularly noticed this going around Stowe, Copse and Luffield where I could feel myself all crossed up despite my attempts to sort myself out each lap. The contrast between those corners and the left handers like Chapel, the first part of Luffield and the left hander leading on to the National Straight was as stark as night and day. Perhaps I’ll need to find a quiet roundabout one of these days and practice going round and round it until I start to like right handers too!

The video below is for the last session of the day. I didn’t dare use the external mic for fear of shorting out it or my GoPro camera (with all that rain about), so the sound is courtesy of my new Muvi HD7 camera which is fitted to the previously unused rear righthand footrest bracket.

Due to the rain, I didn’t bother switching on RaceChrono for the first two sessions, so these are my times for the other three sessions:

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 - - Wet track with 3 sighting laps so I didn’t bother timing this session
2 - - Heavy rain came in after 3 laps
3 3 4:01.32 Slippery as hell! Session red flagged due to accident
4 4 3:19.96 Drying but with wet patches
5 6 3:12.63 Almost perfect conditions

Had the track not closed during the morning due to waterlogging, I think we probably would have had an extra two sessions. Despite that and the rain, I still think it was a brilliant day out and I don’t begrudge the cost. I came to focus on my lines, body positioning and throttle usage, and I feel that I have started to make some progress towards those goals.

Silverstone’s GP circuit really is amazing to ride with plenty of space both on the track and in the pits and garages. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and book a track day there before the winter sets in!


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