Tag Archives: silverstone GP

Silverstone GP 29 September 2014

warmtyresThis three group track day costing £159 (US$ 255) and organised by Focus Events on Silverstone’s GP circuit was to be the last bike track day here in 2014. I was joined by Matt, the master mechanic from Oval Motorcycle Centre and an ex-racer on his Honda VFR400. The plan was that he would try to help me by following me for a few sessions and giving me feedback which I could hopefully put into practice.

Although the forecast in the preceeding days had threatened some rain showers, we arrived at the circuit to find it completely dry. After unpacking the van, setting up the bikes, signing on and collecting a race transponder we headed over to the briefing. This consisted of the usual spiel about flags, overtaking and an explanation of how this “Chrono” day would run. Basically the first session would comprise three sighting laps for each of the three groups, followed by two normal (and timed) sessions before lunch. At lunch time, the lap times from the transponders would be used to re-group the riders in order to reduce the speed differential within the groups.

Unusually for Silverstone, a great deal of emphasis was made of noise levels at the end of the briefing. There is no mandatory noise testing but Silverstone operates a “one strike and you’re out” policy if you are caught by the mobile noise detectors. Matt was worried about his exhaust, although I thought it sounded no louder than many of the Ducati’s you hear thundering around the track. So to avoid being kicked off the circuit, he decided to go for a voluntary noise test… which he promptly failed… with a reading of 109dB! Luckily someone was able to supply generic baffles for £40 a pair which Matt then fitted. On re-test, he just passed with a reading close to 105dB; the static test limit for the circuit. However, in all the to-ing and fro-ing Matt had managed to miss the sighting laps.

pairbikesIn my previous Chrono day on the same circuit, I got bumped down from the Inters to the Novice group. The prospect of that happening again and the fact that I was going to be followed by Matt meant that I was determined to give a good account of myself in the first timed session. I knew my Daytona 675 was going to be a lot faster down the straights than Matt’s VFR400, but that he would also catch up with me again in the corners because of his skill and race experience. With that thought in mind, I determined to go for it from the start.

RossoCorsaRearThe week before I had just switched from a set of Michelin Power Pilot 3s to a set of Pirelli Rosso Corsa tyres. As we were both using tyre warmers my tyres felt really sticky as we headed out onto the track. My progess that session was a revelation. The new Pirelli tyres felt amazing, giving so much more confidence in corners than my Michelin Power Pilot 3 which I had been running all year.

By the second half of the session, I felt as though I was beginng to carve my way through the field, which is not something that I normally do in the Inters group! As the session came to an end on the in lap, I looked behind me expecting to see Matt on my tail, but he wasn’t there. I immediately thought that he must have either broken down or crashed. Thankfully he was parked up safely in the garage when I got back although didn’t look too happy. I asked him how long he was with me for, and he said something about how he’d try to keep up but that I’d “disappered off into the distance” leaving him for dust. I actually posted my fastest time ever on the circuit with a 2:52 – a full 5 seconds faster than my quickest time here a month earlier!

I think we both suddenly realised that there was a chance that Matt might get bumped down a group while I remained in the Inters group. Oh, the irony! Anyway, it turns out that Matt had inadvertantly overgeared his bike with the result that it wouldn’t pull in top gear down the straights. This massively limited his top speed so that he was never in a position to catch me during the lap. Changing his rear sprocket for one with three more teeth would fix the problem he reckoned. That and the fact that this was pretty much the first time Matt had been on track for nearly 6 years combined with no experience on Silverstone’s GP circuit meant that he had been at a significant disadvantage that first session.

For the next session, we agreed that I would go as fast as I could everywhere except on the three long straights (Wellington, Hanger and the old National) for the first couple of laps in order to give him a chance to learn the circuit. The lap times for that session varied between 2:57 and 3:00 (excluding the out and in laps). This time he had no trouble staying with me although I would pull away down the long straights with my higher top speed of 134mph compared to his 120mph but that didn’t matter too much as he would quickly catch me though the next corner anyway.

After those two timed sessions, we stopped for lunch and waited for the new group lists… slightly anxiously. We both breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that we had both managed to remain in the Inters group. Actually if I’m being honest, I think Matt was more relieved than I was as his friends would never let him live down being bumped into the Novice group! Luckily that didn’t happen and we had four afternoon sessions of riding to look forward to under almost perfect weather conditions.

As my fastest time the previous session had been 5 seconds slower than the first timed session of the day, Matt suggested that I try braking later at the end of the longer straights to carry more corner speed through the corner in the first session after lunch. I tried this but really didn’t enjoy that session at all because my riding felt ragged and I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t always in total control of the bike. In trying to brake later and enter the corner at a higher speed, I suspect that I was actually going around the corners more slowly than before as a result of some last minute panic braking with the corner looming. In fact this suspicion was backed up by the fact that my average lap time for those 5 laps was 3:05 which was a lot slower than the previous two sessions.

For the next (and fifth) session, I decided to ride on my own and slow things down again to try and find my own rhythm. Although my lap times weren’t really any faster than before, I felt much more relaxed on the bike and more in control. I was getting my knee down in more of the corners and thoroughly enjoying myself.

In the sixth session, I continued to enjoy myself and although I couldn’t see my lap times during the session, I knew that I had ridden both consistently and reasonably well. A fact that was confirmed when I pulled into the garage to review my times because I’d managed to post four 2:57 laps out of the six laps that session.

One thing that did puzzle me slightly was why the garage was starting to look so empty with apparantly one session still to go. It turns out that delays due to two red flag incidents earlier in the day meant that we’d just had our last session. We did feel slightly cheated! Although we were later consoled by that fact that we did manage to get 25 complete laps during the day in addition to the first three sighting laps, which was significantly more track time than I received on the last Focused Events track day at Silverstone!

These are my lap times for the day:

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 3 - 3 sighting laps
2 5 2:52.49 Under pressure! youtube
3 5 2:57.92 youtube
4 5 3:00.61
5 4 3:00.24
6 6 2:57.07 Consistent youtube

Matt did his own thing in the afternoon and was really pleased to have posted a 2:46 lap time by the end of the day. He was getting thrashed down the straights by bigger bikes which he’d then overtake again in the corners. I think he enjoyed the day almost as much as I did, although I can’t help thinking he wished he’d been able to bring his race spec Kawasaki ZX-7R instead of the VFR400. You can see some of his final session below.

One thing that I couldn’t figure out was how I’d managed to post two quicker laps of 2:52 – 2:53 but never managed to get anywhere near those times again for the rest of the day. I suspect that this was entirely down to my riding rather than any external factors like the track or my tyres but I’m still at a loss to explain the massive discrepancy in my lap times for the day.

As track days go, this was one of my favourite of the year and was a perfect end to a summer of track riding in the UK. I really feel that I’m beginning to sort my body position out more and am started to feel more relaxed on the bike. I still have plenty of work to do on my braking into corners and getting back on the gas on corner exits. Hopefully that’s something I’ll be able to work on over four days in Spain at the Monteblanco circuit in a month’s time.

Update: As promised, I’ve posted a comparison review of the Michelin Power Pilot 3 vs the Pirelli Rosso Corsa.

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!

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.


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).


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.

Silverstone GP 2 Jun 2014

SilverstoneGP-circuitI was really looking to riding Silverstone’s GP circuit again; the last time I rode the longer GP circuit was nearly a year ago. An added bonus was an email the night before from someone I met in Cartagena asking whether I would be at Silverstone too. He had traded in his Ducati 848 Streetfighter for a Panigale 899 and no doubt would be just as fast as the last time we rode together.

This track day was organised by Silverstone circuit and cost £175 (US$ 280) for the day. Although pricey, at least we would be offered free instruction, food vouchers and the use of the expansive Wing pits and facilities. The GP circuit is 3.6 miles (5.7km) long and feels like riding the International Circuit twice back to back. Newcomers are often confused about which part of the circuit that they are on as the two pit straights (Wing and National) are easy to mix up – this can lead to disastrous results if you confuse the slower and tighter Copse corner with more open and faster Abbey turn at the end of the straight! It’s definitely worth spending some time learning the track before you go balls out through some of those turns.

Spots of rain started falling from a cloudy and grey sky just as I left London at 6am. The forecast was variable for the day and I hoped for better weather at Silverstone, 80 miles to the north. Although I do want to try my Michelin Power Pilot 3’s on track in the rain, I wanted to delay that experience for another day. Luckily as I drove on, the sun started to break through the clouds and my anticipation of a good day on track increased along with the warmer and brighter weather.

There were three groups this day; novice, intermediates and fast – I was booked into Inters group. Having been to this track quite a few times now, I know many of the instructors by sight and name and so during sign on, Neil, one of those instructors, offered to ride with me later on that day. I was quite looking forward to this because Neil’s good fun and I’ve always enjoyed riding with him on track.

Of the three groups, the inters one was the biggest with 73 (yes, you read that right!) bikes. There was a fair mix of abilities in the group ranging from some ex-racers to a few less confident riders. The first session of the day comprised three sighting laps followed by a return to the pits before heading out on track for the remainder of the session. The session started well during the sighting laps but the day soon deteriorated into carnage. This seems to be becoming a bit of a familiar story! I’ve never been on a track day with so many fed flags and hold ups. It seemed as though our sessions were almost always delayed by five minutes due to to a red flag or some other mishap in the previous fast group session, and that there would almost inevitably a red flag incident during our sessions too.

LuffieldCrashProblems was caused by several factors. Firstly the size of the group was such that you’d often come across a bunch of bikes which would take time to get through and which inevitably led to frustration and some spectacularly bad overtaking. Another factor was the mismatch in speed and agression between the slower riders (I include myself) and the faster ones. The final issue was that a minority of riders who seemed to have little regard for their own well being or anyone else’s on track. Even one of the instructors I was talking to during the day was worried about being t-boned by some idiot going into a corner.

Despite the problems, I still enjoyed the day although this was possibly the worst managed event I’ve been to at Silverstone in a while. One of the contributing factors is that Silverstone now offer paid instruction which had the effect of reducing the number of floating instructors out on track to help keep things in check. In fact one instructor even complained that he felt ever so slightly “used” because he was booked for paid instruction every session and was hardly going to get a break all day nor help anyone else on the track.

During the third session, I managed to make a 10 second improvement in my lap times compared to my last outing on the GP circuit the previous year. Part of that improvement came from my determination to try and focus on my body position and lines pretty much to the exclusion of all else in order to try and achieve higher corner speeds. This was one of the things picked up by an instructor at Brands a couple of weeks earlier.

Although Neil was too busy to ride with, I did manage to spend half a session riding with another instructor, Owen, in the first session after lunch. I followed him for a while trying to learn his lines and then he followed me for a bit. Watching the video back of that session, I can see that my lines and my consistency for keeping those lines is definitely and slowly improving.

My improvements, however were no match for Anders on his beautiful red 899 Panigale. He was devastingly fast – the result of a combination of natural ability, youth and just the right amount of aggression… oh, and horsepower. While the Panigale was fast through the corners, it was unbelievably so down the straights. However, the downside of that power was its fuel consumption because Anders was using around 5 litres of fuel per 20 minute session on track – an average consumption of around 20mpg! Frustrated by the inters group, he moved up to the fast group for the last two sessions of the day where he reported fewer bikes on track and a much better standard of riding. He also felt that the group wasn’t particaurly quicker than the many of the quicker riders in the inters group.

Here are my times for the day.

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 - - Didn’t time this session
2 5 3:06.36
3 5 3:02.12 youtube
4 - - Failed to start timer, doh!
5 5 3:07.03 Following instructor youtube
6 3 3:08.61 Red flagged
7 4 3:06.54

The problems with the number of bikes in our group and the perception of a lack of supervision marred what would have been a truly brilliant day. Despite that I did enjoy it and really felt that I’m continuing to make slow improvements in my riding. One of my big Achilles Heel’s is still a lack of corner speed and I’ll be taking a specific course in the next few weeks to try and work on that particular aspect of my riding.

How good is Silverstone’s GP circuit? Good enough that I’m booked to return in four weeks time!