Silverstone Int’l 4 Sep 2013

IMG_20130904_075116_CThis track day was organised by Silverstone in conjunction with Suzuki on the shorter 1.8 mile International circuit and luckily for me you didn’t have to be riding a Suzuki to take part. This was a three group track day costing £155 (US$ 230) for 7 x 20 minute sessions on track.

Earlier in the week I had got a call from Joe, one of the Silverstone organisers, asking if I would swap from the Novice to Inters group because they felt that someone who had ridden the circuit a few times had no business being in the Novice group anymore! Based on my recent experience at my previous Snetterton track day in the Inters group which hadn’t been as intimidating as I feared, I agreed.

Silverstone is really starting to grow on me both as a track venue and organisation. I was here last Sunday for the Moto2 and MotoGP races with my family and I had a brilliant day watching some of the most exciting racing I’ve seen in a long while. The event was well organised and although expensive, I did feel that the day was well worth the money.

Barry Sheene's Suzuki 1975 XR14

Barry Sheene’s 1975 XR14 Suzuki

On arriving at 7am, I was directed to the new (International) Wing pits complex by the gate security. These new garages are huge and really spacious. Suzuki had set up a display of former race bikes which was really interesting; especially seeing the progression from 1970’s and 80’s bike to the current generation of race bikes. Even though Barry Sheene’s 1975 Grand Prix bike was there, a little Suzuki race bike that didn’t look much bigger than a bicycle from 1967 stole the show for me.

1967 Suzuki TR50

1967 Suzuki TR50

The usual track day briefing was extended to allow Suzuki to welcome everyone and introduce some of their current and former riders. The riders included John Reynolds, Josh Brooks, PJ Jacobsen and Simon Crafar of Motovudu fame; there were also a couple of younger riders that I didn’t recognise and whose names I didn’t catch either. We were advised that all the riders would be available for a chat and would be out on track with us during the day. A raffle was also organised to allow us to get a free one-on-one session with Simon Crafar and although I never normally win raffles, I decided to enter my name in anyway.

The first session of the day comprised three sighting laps followed by the remainder of the session. Having ridden the International circuit twice last year and the GP circuit twice this year, I wasn’t too daunted by the prospect of riding in the Inters group. In the event quite a lot of the field passed me once the sighting laps were over but with so much space on track I doubt that I and the other slower riders held anyone up for too long. During that session (or the one after, I can’t remember which), someone came off on the entry to Club and had to be stretchered off the track in an ambulance. Apart from that one incident, the day was fairly clear of red flags and injury.

The three groups were arranged into different sets of garages with each group having its own group of instructors that were on hand for the day. I quite like Silverstone’s instructors as they always seem friendly and willing to hand out advice and help you on track. I managed to persuade Joe to show me the best lines for two laps and then have him follow me. Although I’d come to Silverstone in the hope of sorting out my body position, he confirmed that my upper body was still too stiff on the bike. He explained that this was stopping me turning the bike quickly enough and would tire me out needlessly. From that point onwards, I decided to ignore the other traffic out on track and really focus on just two things; my lines and relaxing my body.

thumbsupWhile riding the next session and trying to focus on these two things, Joe went screaming past me giving me a big thumbs up. After the session, he confirmed that although my lines were still erratic, he thought I had made quite a significant improvement in body position. Some progress at last!

During the morning between sessions, someone from Suzuki came over to find me. Amazingly, I’d won a free session of instruction with Simon Crafar! It was scheduled for the penultimate session of the day (session 6 of 7). Having watched the Motovudu video a few times, I was really excited to have the opportunity to ride with Simon – he’s a top guy who is really down to earth and seems as excited about helping you as you are to be helped! Prior to session 6, I went to find him and ask what we would be doing. He explained that he would follow me for a lap or so and would then lead from then on; I was to follow and do whatever he indicated. We went over hand signals; brake, turn in, open the throttle, stay on the gas, be over here on the track etc – these probably sound complicated but made perfect sense when on out track.

One thing that Simon advocates which seems unusual if you haven’t seen the Motovudu videos is coming off the throttle immediately after hard braking on corner entry to allow the bike to turn in more quickly. Simon emphasised this on track repeatedly by taking his hand off the throttle to point at something on the corner entries! You can watch some of these laps with Simon in the video below. Sorry if it’s not always easy to see the hand signals but that’s because of the GoPro’s wide angle lens.

What was really interesting to me was how riding with Simon gave me the confidence to brake later and harder and to travel through the corners faster and more confidently than ever before. He later confirmed during the debrief that he wanted to show me that both the bike and I were capable of much higher speeds round the track than I was used to and that it could be done in such a way that didn’t really trigger panic. I can honestly say that riding with Simon was a revelation! If I can organise it I would ride with him on a one on one basis for a day as soon as possible as this would be the best “go faster” upgrade investment I could make. He indicated that he can normally help a someone like me go up one group in a single day of tuition which is probably even more impressive than it sounds.

Last year I rode around this circuit at 1:40 following one of Ron Haslam’s instructors at the Ron Haslam school. Riding on my own I managed to get my time down to 1:35 but it didn’t always feel that comfortable. Riding with Simon, my lap time was reduced to 1:33 but the difference was that I felt more in control and more comfortable despite travelling round the circuit more quickly. These are my times for the day:

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 - - Didn’t time this session
2 7 1:37.01 Red flagged due to bad crash youtube
3 10 1:35.49
4 11 1:35.64 youtube
5 9 1:38.96 youtube
6 7 1:33.81 Riding with Simon Crafar youtube
7 10 1:37.99 youtube

By the final session of the day about 30% of our group had packed up and left and I travelled round the track practising some of the things I’d be shown or told about that day with much of the track to myself. That last session was great fun because instead of trying to ride more quickly I concentrated on trying to flow from corner to corner more – check out the video below.

Because of its relative closeness, facilities, instructors and track, Silverstone is rapidly becoming one of my favourite circuits to ride. Luckily I have one more session here in October before the end of the UK track season and I hope to have another brilliant time combined with great weather if we’re really lucky.


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