Silverstone GP 14 July 2014

focusedEventsThis track day on the Silverstone GP circuit was organised by Focused Events and cost £159 with three groups. Since many of their track days now seem to be four group events, I made double sure that this was a three group one before booking; four group track days end up giving you a lot less track time and a lot more “hanging around” time, in my opinion.

While Silverstone use the new Wing pits complex for their own track days, other track day organisers are often relegated to the older pit area on the National start finish straight. While these facilities are fine they are neither as spacious nor fresh as the newer Wing facilities which we were lucky enough to be using this day.

SilverpitsOn arriving at 7:30am, I was shocked to see how full the parking area was. It reminded me of arriving at Brands Hatch where 100+ cars and vans completely choke all the available parking space. Luckily the Wing paddock area and pits are expansive so despite there being many riders and bikes, it wasn’t particularly hard to find space in the garages that were available to us.

The 8:20am briefing ran over the usual things that are mentioned but also explained how this “Chrono” day would run. Basically all riders are given a race transponder which is used to measure lap times in the first two sessions. After lunch the groups are re-adjusted so that all riders are grouped according to their relative speed. Besides being one of Focused Events USPs over other UK track day organisers, the idea is that this adjustment improves safety by reducing the speed differential between faster and slower riders in each group. Supposedly, this contributes to fewer red flags and delays and more track time.

The first hour of the day was spent getting three sighting laps out of the way. Each group went out for their alloted three laps before returning to the garages. It seemed to take an hour for all three groups just to do their sighting laps, although I’m not entirely surprised as the pace around the track was incredibly slow; even in the Inters group. According to the transponder, the sighting laps took 4 minutes each – this is about 30% slower than my normal track pace.

One other difference to my previous track day here was that the chequered flag, used to signify the end of the session, was placed at the end of the long Hanger straight instead of their normal position at two points on the track; on the start/finish straight and at the end of the Brooklands straight. The new location was terrible because i) you couldn’t see the flag clearly anyway against the background and ii) you generally have more important things to be worrying about as you’re slowing down from 130+mph combined with the fact that iii) the pit entrance is only 250 yards from the heavy braking into the Stowe corner. I think I only clearly saw the chequered flag one or twice during the whole day! Try and spot the flag in the yellow circle below to see what I mean.

chequeredflag

In my first session after the sighting laps, I managed a 3:02 which was almost identical to my fastest time on my previous visit in June. This boded well for a sub 3 minute lap in the following sessions, I felt. My impression was that I was running in the bottom half of the Inters group as I was both being overtaken (a lot) but still overtaking a few other riders. You can see this session in the video below.

GrassTrackingOne high point of the first session was being overtaken on the grass by a spirited rider at over 100mph!

However, in the next session, I got stuck behind another rider for two laps who was impossible to pass – he was faster down the straights but slower through the corners, and getting stuck behind him cost me nearly 10 seconds a lap. I’m not an agressive rider on track as I have no wish to be the cause of an accident and this means that I can be stuck behind someone for a while. Just as I was trying to get past on the third lap, the session was halted due to a red flag after a rider came off at the Village complex. I arrived at the corner just after the spill and have no idea how he came off. You can just see the rider running off the track (1) to the left with his bike lying on the right hand side of the track (2).

crash-riderbike

With lunch scheduled at 12 and the revised group lists were to be posted for the restart at 1pm, I had probably posted my best time in the first session. After lunch, I found myself moved down to the novice group. Although a little annoyed about this and particularly my performance in session two as I felt that I could have ridden faster, I figured that if my lap times indicated that that’s where I should be, then that would be the best group to be in.

As it turned out, I actually enjoyed the four sessions after lunch, with the exception of the continuous delayed starts as I got quite a lot of practice overtaking other riders – this isn’t something that normally happens a lot for me in the Inters group!

I think we only managed one session that day that didn’t have a delayed start; one session was even delayed by 10 minutes. My previous outing at Silverstone, I estimate that I managed to achieve 26 full (timed) laps across 6 sessions. On this track day, we only managed 19 full laps across 6 sessions which equates to just under 20% less track time. While I can see benefits on using transponders to reorganise the groups, it doesn’t necessarily contribute to fewer red flags nor increased track time which is one of Focused Events claims for using them. However I do feel that reorganising the groups based on time does actually make for a safer environment on track with less speed differential in the groups.

Although I nearly skipped it, the final session of the day was great fun. Reviewing the footage I can see that I’m still missing a lot of corner entry points and apexs, however that was offset by the fact that I felt a lot more comfortable braking (slightly) later into corners and trying to carry some more speed through the quicker ones. You can see the video from that session below (although it’s titled Session 6 – it’s actually session 7, the last one of the day).

Here are my times for the day.

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 - - Sighting laps only
2 3 3:02.03 youtube
3 2 3:13.92 Red flagged
4 4 3:03.52
5 2 3:07.68 10 minute delay at start
6 4 3:08.38
7 4 3:06.75 youtube

Here are my Chrono times from the transponder

Time Lap LeadLap Lap Time Speed Hits Strength Noise
09:33:39 1 1 04:07.7 53.193 104 124 11
10:23:28 2 6 49:48.9 4.408 97 124 10
10:26:33 3 6 03:05.2 71.157 98 123 11
10:29:38 4 6 03:04.9 71.257 92 125 10
11:33:16 5 10 03:38.6 3.45 99 124 10
11:36:29 6 10 03:12.0 68.609 88 124 9
13:06:53 7 11 30:24.5 2.429 99 122 10
13:10:07 8 11 03:13.6 68.07 98 122 10
13:13:18 9 11 03:11.6 68.777 89 125 11
13:16:23 10 12 03:04.9 71.243 93 127 10
14:12:39 11 17 56:15.5 3.903 95 125 11
14:15:51 12 17 03:12.7 68.39 95 124 12
15:05:48 13 23 49:57.0 4.396 94 126 13
15:09:02 14 23 03:13.5 68.098 85 124 12
15:12:17 15 23 03:15.0 67.571 97 121 11
15:15:27 16 23 03:10.1 69.327 88 124 11

Interestingly, I cannot make head nor tail of the transponder times as few of them seem to marry up with those reported by RaceChrono. In the past, RaceChrono users report almost identical lap times with transponders when the two are used simultaneously, although I couldn’t corroborate this on the day.

Compared to my previous outing on the same GP circuit, my lap times are almost identical (even on a session by session basis!). So although I felt more comfortable on track, with later braking and trying to use more speed through the faster corners, this didn’t actually equate to faster lap times. Although the other Inters riders may not have appreciated it, I would have preferred to have stayed in the Inters group for the afternoon sessions as riding with quicker riders has the effect of pulling you along by showing you how much more speed can be carried into and through the corners.

The combination of a great circuit and good weather is hard to beat, and this day proved no different. Despite slightly less track time than previous visits, the day was good fun and I look forward to returning again soon.