Another track day at Silverstone on the GP circuit organised by No Limits. Having been on this circuit a few times before, I normally ride in the Inters group however it was fully booked and so I booked a place in the Novice group because it still had some spaces available. I hoped to be able to move up a group during the day although there is no guarantee that this would happen. This track day with No Limits cost £169 (US$270) but had the advantage that instruction is available for free.
Being the end of May I had hoped that the weather would be sunny and warm. No such chance though because the weather was cold and overcast on the drive to the circuit at 6am. We were allocated the old (National) pits for the day and I was amazed at just how many cars and vans were already in the paddock area at 7am – it looked like the day was going to be a busy one! Having set up in one of the garages, I went off to sign in where I asked about the possibility of moving up a group but was told to ask again nearer lunch time as all the groups were currently full.
The order of the groups out on track was Inters, Novice and then Fast – the fast group going last because noise testing is now mandatory at Silverstone for the fast group; presumably on the basis that many of the bikes are race spec machines with loud exhausts. Silverstone also operates drive by noise monitoring and if caught exceeding the noise, you will be black flagged. Whether you get banned or not depends on individual circumstances including whether you had a baffle in at the time or not. If not, then that could be the end of the day for you.
Fine rain had started before the first session started but the track still looked dry. However as bikes came in after just three sighting laps, you could see that their tyres were shiny from the wet. As we went out for our sighting laps, the rain started to get a little heavier and I wondered if I should have switched from my Pirelli Supercorsa’s to the full wets which I also had with me. In fact the pace of the sighting laps was slow enough that there was no problem cornering while keeping the bike fairly upright. The sighting lap pace had been so slow that we just managed one more lap after the sighting lap before being called in again.
Back in the pits, I wondered about switching to wets, but figured that the first session on a wet-ish track has actually been OK, and since the rain looked like it might be abating, I decided to remain on the Supercorsas. In the second session, I found that there was much more grip available that I thought, even though my visor was getting spattered with water. I was able to manage a pace that allowed me to overtake most of the group before joining a five bikes that were running at the same pace and seemingly at the head of the group. During that session, my track sticker for the novice group flew off the front of the bike which gave me an excuse to go and speak to the organisers again.
While wandering over to their pits, I bumped into Del, one of No Limits instructors who offered to ride with me in the next session. He didn’t seem to keen to ride with me in the novice group on safety grounds, so offered to speak with one of the organisers. The result was that I got moved up a group. Having ridden with him recently, he remembered most of my faults, and reminded me to try and make full use of the track, and to try and maintain as much corner speed as I could. We agreed that I would follow for two laps after which I would lead and he would come past again if there was something specific he wanted to point out. You can see this session below – the beginning is worth watching to see Del’s lines and one handed riding around corners at a speed that I couldn’t hope to match while clinging on the bike with two hands!
Watching the video back, I can see that although I am improving, I’m still not making full use of the available track and I’m probably still slowing too much for some of the corners – I often found myself halfway round corners (Luffield and Stowe) thinking that I could have gone faster instead of washing so much speed off on the corner entry. Catching up with Del later, he confirmed much the same. He suggested continuing to practice in the new few sessions and then to catch up towards the end of the day to see how I was getting on.
Although the day remained overcast and cold, the levels of grip from the track was good. In the following sessions, I made a point of trying to use more of the track but never managed to get close to the 2:49 time that I managed in the session with Del. Following an instructor forces you to concentrate on the lines and to maintain a higher corner speed that I would normally try. Without that guidance, I slowly found myself lapsing back into some old habits ending some 7-9 seconds off my earlier pace. In my faster sessions, I was able to keep pace with many of the bikes on track including the 1000’s, but as my pace dropped I found myself being overtaken more and more.
After re-fueling the bike for the final session, I thumbed that starter button to give the engine time to warm up before hitting the track. The engine turned over fine but would not fire while both the oil light and EML (engine management light) remained on. After several failed attempts to start the engine, my day was definitely over. Later talking with a mechanic that worked on Daytonas, he suggested that the CPS (crank position sensor / pulse generator) may have failed. This is a pretty common failure and manifests itself in either rough running or a bike that won’t start. The bike had been running beautifully all day, so it looked I was experiencing the later symptom.
I caught up with Del to explain the situation and to thank him for his help and advice on track, before proceeding to load the van with my gear and bike. Although I was annoyed about the engine, I was grateful to have been able to ride most of the day, to have had some fantastic instruction and to have had a really enjoyable day overall. I love riding at Silverstone especially on the GP circuit, although the downside of doing so only becomes apparent when you ride a small and twisty track again and feel that you have to learn to tackle slow corners again.
Sometimes the day before a track day, as I’m gathering my gear and loading the van, I wonder why I bother getting up at 5am to get to the track for 7am as it can seem like a lot of effort. It’s only when I head home again after a great day on track that I realise why it is worth the effort. Track riding really is a lot more rewarding than riding on the road!