My trackday report from yesterday.

Brands Hatch Indy Track Day 21st Jan 2006

Well I have only ridden a bike 3 times since my big off last September. The day was scheduled for decent weather. There were lots of people scheduled to go, most were racers getting in some pre season shakedown and testing, I suppose I can add myself to that list.

The day started at 6am for me, up shaved, showered, dressed etc. The van was already packed with everything I would need (well I hoped so). 06:45 and I was out of the door and on my way to the track.

I needed to stop for a few cans of fuel on the way, it just so happened that Jason was already at the garage I stopped in. He had just ridden down and was freezing cold already. I did feel sorry for him, there is nothing like a nice bit of warmth produced from the van heater on a cold morning.

Off up to Brands I went. About 7:15 and the gate keeper was letting us straight in. We usually have to queue up!

Into the centre of the track and I grabbed a garage, the first 17 were already occupied by now. I unloaded all the stuff, tools, chairs, bike, tyre warmers, petrol, fuel fillers, battery charger etc etc. Jason joined me in the garage and we put his bike up on my spare paddock stands and shoved the spare set of tyre warmers on. The tyre warmers are for much bigger wheels than he has on the TZR but they would be better than nothing. Time ticked on and I saw and chatted to a few other people that I knew.

Off to sign in. I had booked the fast group but landed up in the intermediates. There were so many race people there that they ran two fast groups really. It was not a problem, I was there to shakedown and see how the bike went. I wanted to test out the race gear shift which will go against everything that I have been doing for the last 10 years.

We had the usual briefing, safety aspects and flags etc. I reckon about 80% of attendees were racers, we were told that this was not a race, it was a track day! There was no run through of the circuit though and I was very surprised when the Novices went out on track first. Three sighting laps and then you had to come in and get another sticker on the bike to show that you had done the 3 sighting laps, this is apparently a new requirement for insurance purposes. Wandering along the garages there was some serious kit out to play. I landed up sharing my garage with a ZX10 that is going to run in British Superstocks for the coming season.

As Jason came in I was going out but managed to find out from him that some parts of the circuit were a little damp. Its nice to get the warning. Off I went, brain trying to go 1 up and 5 down. Boy were those sighting laps slow, as we got to Druids you had to slip the clutch in 1st to actually keep moving! In I came, got my little sticker and then off and unleashed. Well I just went through the motions on that first session. The track was slightly slippery in places but overall not bad. Working with the new gear change was requiring a lot of concentration but I did much better than I thought I would.

I am sure we were not out for 20 minutes but when I came in I was reasonably confident about myself and the bike and was itching to get out and go that little bit harder next time.

Session two came. No warm up lap, hell for leather straight from pit lane. Was having a great time, confidence rising all the time. Knees were starting to brush the tarmac. Out came the red flags and lights, bugger it, just when I was starting to get on the plot. Someone had binned it going into Druids, bike was pointing down the track and on the left hand edge of the grass. There were a few bits of fairing etc lying around. Behind this one there was another bike lying on its side, I presumed that they had touched. As I went round Druids on the apex I found some numpty on a Ducatti stopped and looking at the fallen bikes. I had room to get down the inside so that was the move I decided on, he started pulling off just as I got there, bit of a close call but we did not collide. It turns out that one guy crashed going into Druids and when the reds came out there was a collision between two other bikes which resulted in the second one being on the deck, presumably someone was not paying much attention.

Well we stood around for about ten mins while the debris was removed, back out on track on freezing cold tyres. Three laps of taking it steadyish and then it was up the pace again. I was just getting back into the rhythm when the chequered flag came out and ruined it all. Back to the garage, up on stands, tyre warmers on and some fuel put in the tank.

Session three, confidence still rising, went much harder this time and had a real ball. Stuffing it round the outside and inside of many bikes. Learning to deviate from my chosen line due to someone else being on it, so that I could make a pass. This session proved to myself that I had not lost it, well that’s if I ever had it. Passing large capacity and large horsepower bikes on my SV produces such a grin, I was very happy by the time the chequered flag came out this time.

Over the tannoy came the announcement that we were stopping for lunch break, there were no ambulances left at the circuit! There had been way to many crashes already, all groups had people going off and the resulting red flags and stoppages were becoming very annoying for all and sundry.

After lunch I was the first group out, I met B out on the circuit and we had a rumble of sorts. Not sure if I was put off by him but I just could not get on the plot this time. I tried a few different gear selections at different corners, they didn’t work particularly well though. I just seemed so tense and could not relax into it. The session came to an end and I was quite glad. 40 minutes of mentally beating myself up ready for the next run.

Off we go again, straight of pit lane, round three bikes on Paddock Hill bend and off into a rhythm I go. This was much better, now relaxed, well feeling it anyway. Having a good old time, practicing some overtaking, getting used to this upside down gear change. B was out again, we had a rumble, but, the SV is no match for him on that 750, way not enough HP. I came in extremely happy but really starting to get tired. This lack of training or riding since last September has not done me any good whatsoever. I had been in pain all day and it was getting worse by the minute. I got the bike ready and contemplated whether or not to do the next session. I was upright, had a good shakedown and was there any point in continuing?

Having thought good and hard, I decided to give the last run a go. Was going well but my aches and pains were not helping, they started to play on my mind. I decided to pull off and wait for another day, just as this went through my head, out came the reds and that was it, in I came and called it a day.

There were a few people from my chosen class (mini twins) at Brands. Some I knew but many I didn’t. It was good to get the taste of the track again. I could judge myself slightly against the others, I came away very positive.

Jason did superbly well, full credit to him and LB. B did a sterling job out there and I am grateful for his words of encouragement and wisdom, another shining example of LB.

While at the track, I met a fair few people I knew. I ran into the guy I bought my SV from, he won the Bemsee Championship for mini twins last season. He was not riding, just watching and helping some others. The guy who actually rode the bike before I owned it was there, running in a Gixxer Thou for someone. He won the big thumper class last season at the MRO on a Ducatti. Had a small chat with him and he said I was going well. Roll on my next time out there, in the meantime, plenty of gym work required. Bring on my first race season, itching to get out there now.