Snetterton 300 24 Aug 2013

SnettI had a relative that lived near Snetterton, and as a result I’ve tended avoided this circuit because I always remembered how painful the drive to visit was. Two hours on some God awful roads with ridiculously low speed limits that really needed an extra lane for all the traffic they carry.

Focused Events sent a reminder last week about a 3 group track day at Snetterton on Saturday for £89 (US$ 133) and with the weather forecast to be good I booked the day along with Andy, a former EasyTrack instructor I met last year. He offered to take a look at my riding and help me try to make some improvements.

Although the forecast leading up to the day had been good, I left home in fine drizzle which became heavy rain by the time I arrived at the track. Thank God I’d had the foresight to pack some decent waterproofs, and to apply some RainX to my visor before setting off!

Snetterton has fewer garages then other circuits and as a result riders tend to arrive early to get better access to the garages and reserve their space inside. I was slightly surprised to find parked vans parked two and three deep in places outside the garages even arriving at 7:15am! While sign on and noise testing was pretty straight forward, the 8:30 briefing seemed to go on for ages. Having done a few track days now, I noticed myself switching off during the briefing as I don’t really hear anything new. However, I did note that we were reminded about safe passing and giving riders a wide berth; diving down the inside of a rider already committed to their turn was expressly prohibited. Good.

Normally I would ride in the novice group but because I wanted to ride with Andy, I’d put myself into the Inters group as he was riding and coaching some friends in that group. The first session of the day comprised three sighting laps… in the rain. Luckily the laps were slow, but even so, I found some of the corners pretty hairy in the wet. Thankfully the session ended after those laps, and we weren’t due out again for another hour. We all hoped that the rain would stop that the track would dry, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be. Those lucky enough to be running wets ventured out for the second session while I sat it out in the garages chatting with other riders occasionally checking the weather forecast on our phones.

Andy offered to ride with me and give me some pointers during the third session of the morning. Because his bike was shod with Diablo Super Corsas, he borrowed a friend’s CB500 that had wets fitted. The plan was that I would follow him for a couple of laps, and then he would follow me and then we would chat afterwards. The plan fell apart almost immediately as I got hopelessly left behind him within the first few corners. I could feel myself locked rigid on the bike, and I was making the bike’s job of getting around the circuit even harder than it needed to be. Although I normally enjoy riding with Andy, I can safely say that I didn’t enjoy a single instant of that session fearing that the bike and I would go skittering off the track at the slightest provocation.

During the debrief Andy’s main comments were that I needed to loosen up and relax a lot more on the bike instead of fighting it. He also indentified a major issue with my body position. He pointed out that although I was pulling my head to the inside of the bike now, I left my butt behind on the seat and my inside leg close to the bike instead of out from the bike. I was therefore still “crossed up” but in the opposite way to before. Using his bike on its stands, he both demonstrated my mistake and the correct position. This basically required me to slide my butt off the seat more so that my outside thigh was across the seat with my knee resting against the outside of the tank. He emphasised how sorting out my body position would allow me to get the bike around the corners more safely by allowing me to keep it more upright – a really essential skill for the current rainy conditions.

By the fourth session of the day, we still had persistent drizzle falling and the track was still soaked. Throughout the morning the recovery van had been sent out to collect bikes that had gone off the track, so although I set off that session nervous about the prospect of cornering and braking in the wet I was also determined to try and follow Andy’s advice. Andy was coaching someone else but I must have been doing something right because he gave be a huge thumbs up one lap into the session as he screamed past me on the short straight after Hamilton. I really made a concerted effort to hang off the bike that session and although I wasn’t always successful, I did notice that when I did succeed corners felt easier and safer to get through.

snetterton-circuitBy the first afternoon session, the rain has eased off and the track began to develop dry-ish patches. I was really hopeful that all the bikes screaming round the circuit would begin to create a nice dry line to ride on, and that did seem to happen. By the middle of that session I was really starting to enjoy myself – Snetterton is both a fast and technical track with some really difficult corners like Montreal, Nelson and Murrays. Coram is also the longest corner that I have ever ridden which tightens nastily up at the end just when you need to brake and flick left while you’re still cranked over to the right! The Bentley (back) and start/finish straights are both really long with the latter reminding me of the Hangar straight at Silverstone especially since it also has a fast right hander at the end.

After the fifth session, I came back into the pits with a big smile on my face; my first really enjoyable session of the day! Andy has been out on track with me and back in the pits he confirmed that I looked like a different rider compared to how I started out the day. In fact after the sixth session, he even commented that he passed me without realising it was me he was passing (until later) because I looked so relaxed going around the circuit!

With the weather being so bad, I didn’t bother filming or timing any of the four morning sessions but I did time the three afternoon ones. I abandoned the final session of the day as the rain started in earnest midway through the session and that was after the session had been cut short by a red flag incident too. These are the times for those final three sessions:

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 – 4 - - Didn’t time these sessions
5 6 2:53.52 Drying track youtube
6 5 2:43.24 Mostly dry track youtube
7 3 2:47.52 Red flagged then abandoned due to rain youtube

Although Snetterton is a bit of a pain to get to, the track offers a more challenging and rewarding riding experience than some of the other tracks I have ridden. This combined with the lower price to ride here compared to other circuits makes for a compelling argument to return again soon.

Despite the rain’s best efforts I still had a really enjoyable day meeting new people, catching up with old friends; all of whom I’ve met through track days. Although my lap times are still (very) slow, I also feel that I have made a huge stride forward in my riding which I hope to consolidate at my next outing at Silverstone in ten days time.

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