Silverstone GP 30 September 2015

SilverstoneGPIt has been nearly four months since my last track day and so I was really looking to riding Silverstone’s GP circuit as my final track day this year. This event was organised by No Limits; a company whose ethos seems to be giving good value for money and lots of track time. The day cost £155 (US$ 250) and we would be using the same track configuration and pits as the BSB field that would be arriving the following day to set up for the penultimate 2015 series event.

The weather forecast for the day was good with sunshine predicted and no showers. I arrived at the track just after 7am after an hour’s drive and was surprised to see how full the paddock was. When I had made the booking a couple of weeks earlier, there were plenty of free spaces but with the draw of a great circuit and good weather it looked like the event would be full instead.

I unloaded the bike and kit into one of the garages that had a mix of road bikes, track bikes and race bikes; one of which was showing signs of recent offs with scratched fairings held together with cable ties. I grabbed a space near a power socket and set my bike on its stands with the tyre warmers on. The air and track temperature were definitely on the cold side so I elected to use cold tyre pressures of 29psi in the rear and 31psi in the front before switching the warmers on.

The briefing at 8:30 was the usual affair and was thankfully short and to the point. It’s refreshing to get a briefing that focuses on giving important information without the waffle given by those that like the sound of their own voice. Unusually for Silverstone, static noise testing was required for the fast group; probably on the basis that many of the fast group bikes are race bikes and likely to be noisy.

The race Fireblade with an Akropovic exhaust parked next to me in the garage failed the noise test and its owner had to go and buy a baffle for the pipe. Even with the baffle fitted, he only just managed to squeeze under the noise limit; probably because Silverstone required the bike to be revved to 7,500rpm instead of the more usual 5,500-6,500 like other circuits. When queried about the higher revs, the noise tester claimed that Silverstone were leading the way in championing more stringent noise regulations!?! If they are not too careful, they will start losing all their customers.

As usual, I was in the Inters group for this circuit and ours was to be the first group out on track for three sighting laps before continuing the remainder for the 20 minute session. We were scheduled to have 7 x 20 minute sessions with a one hour lunch break between 1 and 2pm, but my feeling is that 6 x 25 minute sessions and no lunch is much better on such a long circuit; a format used by Silverstone themselves for their own track days. The order on track would be Inters, then Novices followed by the Fast group.

The first session didn’t produce any surprises during the sighting laps however once they were out of the way and the pace increased, I seemed to be passed by quite a few riders including two packs of 4-5 riders. Their pace was so rapid that I wondered if they shouldn’t have been in the fast group. I suspect that riders will book into any group that has availability when their normal group is full and this was the case for some of these riders. The others were probably “heros” that wanted to spend their whole time overtaking all the other riders in the group.

After returning to the pits, I went to speak with the tyre man as I had had two slides from the rear; one coming onto the Hanger Straight and the other on the left hand exit from the Aintree corner before it joins the Wellington Straight. He reminded me that the track was still cold but that I should aim for hot tyre pressures of 31psi in the rear and 33psi in the front for the Pirelli Rosso Corsa tyres that I was using. He reminded me that the pressures should be checked after the tyres have been warmed up with the tyre warmers and resulted in me needing to take about 2psi out of both tyres.

For the second session, I set up my cameras and data logger using the Garmin Glo GPS receiver. The session went well and I noticed that I was braking deeper into the turns compared to me last visit although I may have been scrubbing off more speed than I wanted through the corners as a result. I was curious to see how I has done in terms of times for that session but discovered the the Garmin GPS has malfunctioned with the data logger showing a single lap of 4:07… despite the fact that I has been around the circuit at least four times. I switched the GPS and data logger off in order to reset them both for the next session.

I had asked Del one of No Limits instructors to help me with my riding in the third session, and we joined the circuit at the back of the first pack to head out. I had last ridden with Del at Donington back in March and was looking forward to riding with him again. The plan was that I would follow him for one or two laps to see his lines and then he would follow to see how I was doing.

The session was running late as a result of someone’s engine blowing up and putting oil on the track after Stowe in the previous fast group session. Eventually we were allowed out and I followed Del as closely as I could. I started off reasonably well until we got to Stowe corner at the end of the Hanger Straight. Del peeled into the right turn while I nearly ended up running off the track as a result of not concentrating properly. Looking back on it now it seems quite funny now, but it didn’t at the time!

The result was that Del backed off the pace more which wasn’t what I wanted, although to be fair, I couldn’t keep up with him through the corners anyway. This is another area that I will still need to work on more in the future. While following Del, I also noticed that I was still making the rookie mistake of turning into the corners too early. After two laps following Del, he waved me past and I tried to remember as much as I could as I led for the remainder of the session. This turned out to be just one more lap as the session was shortened because of the original delay at the start.

During that session I managed to post a 2:55 minute session, just 3 seconds slower than my best time at this circuit. I was pleased with that although I never managed to repeat it again that day. During the debrief Del thought that I had ridden reasonably well, and that the corner speed I was after would come with more practice and application. He also mentioned how “smooth” I had been riding around; something echoed by other instructors I have ridden with. Perhaps “smooth” means “slow”?

These are my lap times for the day:

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 - - 3 sighting laps
2 ? GPS failed
3 3 2:55 GPS failed youtube
4 ? GPS failed
5 4 3:00.69
6 4 3:03.00
7 3 3:01.56

While I was slightly frustrated that I couldn’t get close to a lap time around 2:50 that day, I did feel that I made some good progress. I was definitely braking later into the corners and was using the gearbox more and with slicker gear changes. I also noticed that I was running out of revs down the Hanger Straight and might now fit a rear sprocket with one less tooth (down from 49 to 48) to give me 3-4% more top end speed which should equate to about 145mph (as measured by GPS).

I also discovered that the Garmin Glo GPS receiver had packed up during the next session that I tried using it again, so I removed it from the bike and replaced it with the QStarz 818 unit which has never let me down. I got rock solid reading from the QStarz for the final three sessions. The Garmin may be headed for Ebay as it has let me down too many times now. I think its a fairly poorly designed device with a terrible on/off switch which probably contributes to it having no battery power when you need it.

The combination of weather, good organisation by No Limits, great people to talk to in my garage and being back on track after a long lull made for a brilliant track day and a perfect way to end my 2015 track season.