Silverstone GP 21 June 2016

DSC_0010_CAnother track day at Silverstone GP, and only a month after my last visit – I guess that I must really like this circuit! Unlike my last visit, this ‘Chrono’ event was organised by Focused Events and cost £169 (US$ 270) for 7 sessions with three groups.

In the days leading up to this track day, the weather forecast had been pretty poor and so I was pleasantly surprised to be driving to the circuit in dry and warm conditions. I arrived in the paddock just before 7am to find many of the garages already well occupied. I located one for myself and a friend who would be joining me later with his Ducati Panigale 1299S. I didn’t expect to have much of a chance of keeping up with him on track because 1) he’s a faster rider than me and 2) has a 75+ horsepower advantage too! We were also joined by a friend of his riding a Ducati 848 EVO who turned out to be faster than both of us.

We were all booked into the Inters group but could be changing groups after the third session due to the use of transponders to re-order the groups by speed (lap times). This is the ‘Chrono’ aspect of a Focused Events trackday – the first two sessions are timed and those times are used to re-order the groups after lunch.

The first session comprised three sighting laps after which we returned to the pits. Instead of being allowed back out for the remaining 8 minutes of the session, we were directed back to our garages. This is a major change from No Limits who only require two sighting laps before being allowed to continue on track for the remainder of the first session.

On my previous track day, I has been running Pirelli Supercorsas; with an SC1 on the front and an SC2 on the rear. However some other 675.cc members (instructors and racers) recommended the Continental RaceAttacks as a serious alternative. Since this are about 30% cheaper than the Supercorsas and come in an Endurance (think of it as an SC2.5) they are better value for money too as they should survive more heat cycles and mileage before needing changing. As before I was running tyre warmers and ran 31 psi hot on the front and 28 psi hot on the rear (both pressures are measured when the tyres are fully heated using the warmers).

In the second session, we both left the pits together and although I departed in front, I felt that it was only a matter of time before the 1299 would come charging past me. Sure enough, about halfway round that first lap, I saw a red missile streak past me, however I quickly repaid the favour by passing into the next corner. I then got caught up behind two other riders and the Ducati tore away again. After that trying to keep up was a lost cause although I tried anyway. At the end of the session, we both arrived back in the pits sweating buckets and raving about the track conditions as they were pretty much perfect.

In the third session, we realised that we would have to maintain a reasonable pace to avoid being dropped from the inters back to the novice group after lunch. With that in mind, I did my best to try and keep up with the Ducati but wasn’t able to do so (yet again!). However the sight of it in the distance was enough to keep me focused on riding as quickly as I could. It must have worked because I consistently managed a 2:47 for the second session, and a 2:48 for the third (which you can see below).

After the lunch break, we went to find the rider’s lists with the new groupings. I couldn’t find myself in group 1 (novice) and therefore assumed I’d survived in group 2 (inters). But then I couldn’t see my name on that list either! I finally spotted my name in the group 3 (fast) list although I was quite dubious as to whether that was correct. It turned out that the timings were completely screwed up because some really fast group riders had been moved to the novice group and slow riders to the fast group. I didn’t want to move groups and so went to find the organisers. When I got there I saw another 50 riders complaining about the new groupings and the fact that something pretty fundamental had gone wrong. As a result, Barry from Focused Events, announced that riders could stay in their original groups if they wished. The net effect of this was that many riders moved from group 1 and group 3 into our group which had the effect of making it much busier compared to the other groups. Unfortuantely, this isn’t the first time that I have experienced a mistake with the Chrono system not that it really mattered as I got to stay in group 2 anyway.

One feature of this track day was how tired I became towards the end of each session. On more than one occasion I was on the point of returning to the pits in order to avoid making a mistake due to tiredness or lack of concentration when the chequered flag magically appeared to signal the end of the session.

During the first and second session, I had been a little tentative on the new Continental RaceAttacks. However as the day wore on, I was astounded at the levels of grip that they offered. The Endurance compound gave astonishing levels of grip at both the front end and the rear. I really think that they are as good as the Pirelli Supercorsas that I had been using previously and I would have no hesitation recommending them.

As they day wore on, my lap times started to slow down through a combination of tiredness and getting caught behind slower riders in the group. So by the final session, I decided to concentrate on my lines and not worry about trying to get a fast lap time. During the day, I had met up with another member from the 675.cc forum and I offered to show him my lines as he said that he kept getting lost on the circuit.

I mentioned that I was going to reduce my pace and work on my lines; and I made a point of riding more slowly down the straights to give him a chance to catch me if he needed it. There was no way that I was going to spend any time looking behind me to see where he was! I shouldn’t have worried because he passed me after a lap and a half and I had to work really hard to keep him in view. We caught up by on the forum later and he thanked me for my effort commenting that my lines were better in a few corners. He also added that he only outbraked me when passing because “… you were smoother if I’m honest”. What’s really interesting about that session, however, is that I felt I was riding at a pretty sedate pace compared to earlier sessions especially since I was not caning the bike down the straights; yet I was only 3 seconds slower that my fastest lap earlier in the day! It just shows how paying attention to lines and maintaining corner speed really is the key to a faster lap.

There were only a few red flags and serious incidents; apart from some prize knob diving for the apex and threatening to t-bone me when I was fully committed to the corner coming onto the Wellington Straight. In taking evasive action, I was forced off the track across that grass but was thankfully able to keep the bike upright. I never found the rider but I would have given him a piece of my mind if I had managed to. You can the near miss below and although it doesn’t look that close, it was close enough!

All in all, this was a brilliant track day. Perfect weather, catching up with old friends and making new ones. Really looking forward to returning again soon.

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