Silverstone GP 2 September 2014

silverWingThis was my fifth visit to Silverstone this year (not including coming to watch MotoGP 2014) and my third time out on the GP circuit.

The track day was organised by Silverstone and cost £175 (US$ 280). It was great to be on the same circuit as Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi just two days after the MotoGP race. As with most Silverstone organised events, this one featured three groups and the use of the newer Wing pit facilities.

D675-rearAlthough the forecast was for dry weather, I left home in light drizzle which thankfully cleared as I got closer to the circuit. On arriving at 7:15am, the conditions were dry and cool. I unloaded the van and got settled into one of the other garages along with 100 or so Inter and Fast group riders. Sign on and the briefing were pretty standard along with an explanation about the new location of the chequered flag at the end of the long and fast Hangar Straight. I’ve already commented on the difficulty of seeing this flag in my previous post and sure enough the same problems with its location manifested themself again.

Track days on the GP circuit normally comprise 7 x 20 minute sessions. This day was different in that there would only be six sessions although each would be 25 minutes long. This is a much better format as less time is wasted in the changovers from one group to the next. Only in a couple of sessions, did I start to feel my energy sap towards the end of the session, so 25 minute sessions are perfectly do-able and safe.

In the week before this track day, two racers took a look at a video from my previous visit to Silverstone’s GP circuit and made the following suggestions:

  • pick a later braking marker at the end of the three long straights; Hangar, Wellington and the National (old pit) straight
  • open the throttle more while the bike is cranked over instead of waiting until it is almost upright
  • (when upright) pin the throttle wide open instead of opening the throttle gradually

In addition to the advice given above, I also wanted to try improve my riding position by:

  • relaxing my forearms and hunkering down on the bike more
  • hanging off the bike more whe cornering especially on right hand corners when I seem to stiffen up instead of relaxing

My fastest lap time the previous time out had been 3:02.03 so I had a benchmark to measure any improvement that I managed to make.

The first session involved three sighting laps and then a couple of further laps before the session ended. I used that session to familiarise myself with the track again. Watching the MotoGP racers two days earlier, I was struck by how accurately they hit their apex points lap after lap and so I endeavoured to make some effort to focus on my lines without worrying about too much else.

Prior to the second session I set up my camera and RaceChrono data logger and would focus on the points and tips that the racers had given me. Although I managed to switch the cameras on for this session, I forgot to switch RaceChrono on which means I had no lap time data for the second session!

Normally the third session of the day is the one where I will set my fastest lap time before the effects of tiredness and/or lunch set in. And that’s what happened as my fastest time was recorded in session 3 as you can see below.

Session 3 Time Improvement
Lap 1 00:03:06.200 +3.17
Lap 2 00:03:02.600 +0.57
Lap 3 00:02:59.696 -2.33
Lap 4 00:02:57.141 -4.88
Lap 5 00:03:07.563 -

Applying the advice given by the racers, I managed to achieve nearly a 5 second improvement in my best lap time, and more importantly managed to make a steady two second improvement each lap between laps 2 and 4. The time for lap 5 is slower because it includes the end of an “in lap” and entry into the pit lane. The end of that timed lap was actually recorded while running down the pit lane. If we’d had more time that session, there’s a chance that I might have been able to post an even faster time, who knows?

Here’s the video for session 3.

In focusing on those specific changes to my track riding, I managed to achieve pretty consistent lap times in the other sessions as you can see by the individual laps times for the afternoon sessions 4 and 6 below.

Lap Session 4 Session 6
Lap 1 Out lap
Lap 2 00:03:01.869 00:03:02.176
Lap 3 00:03:00.821 00:03:01.600
Lap 4 00:03:00.189 00:03:01.473
Lap 5 00:03:00.189 00:03:02.993
Lap 6 In lap

On track I could feel a change in my riding style. I was getting on the gas harder (although not necessarily a lot earlier) and I was definitely braking later at the end of the long straights. On a couple of occasions I felt pretty sure I was going to over cook it and have to run off the track instead of making it around the corner safely.

Reviewing the video from the day, I can see that I still have more work to do in terms of braking. This will necessitate choosing a later braking marker and braking harder and earlier. This is crucial because if you choose a later braking marker and don’t brake hard enough, early enough then you have to carry more trail braking into the corner than you might feel comfortable using.

The other areas that still need (a lot more!) work are body position, carrying more speed through the faster corners and getting on the gas earlier after the apex of the corner. Someone watching from the pit wall remarked that I still look very “crossed up” on the right hander going into Abbey at the end of the Wing straight, so that still needs working on.

Here are my lap times for the day.

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 5 - 3 sighting laps
2 - - Forgot to switch timer on?!
3 6 2:57.14 youtube
4 6 3:00.18
5 6 2:58.60 youtube
6 6 3:01.47 youtube

Compared to the previous outing on the circuit with Focused Events where we received only 19 complete laps, the six session format this day meant that we received 33 complete laps even allowing for two red flags! I really think that the 6 session format is a winner especially for longer circuits.

Perfect weather conditions, the achievement of some specific track riding goals and a significant lap time improvement all add up to one of the best track days that I’ve been on this year. An added bonus was talking with Ruichi Kyonari, Buildbase’s BSB rider in the garages who was riding in the fast group. He was incredible to watch on track and a top bloke to boot. It’s great to see him with his mojo back and challenging for the title again this year.

There are only two more Silverstone GP dates this year and it will be a tough choice between Focused Events or No Limits days since neither can generally organise an event as well as Silverstone themselves. If I do make it back this summer, I hope to consolidate on my existing improvement by practicing on the same circuit again.

All in all, I was lucky enough to have ridden a great circuit again and have a great day – it’s going to be hard to top this one this year!