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First Track Day

Wet for the first go
Giving the RS250 what for
Still wet
Post wheelie, pre telling off
Starting to dry
Almost dry
Onto Cooper Straight

I booked the track day because I was just about pissed off with everything and everyone so I thought I'd have some fun and book a track day. Phoning was the easy bit, preparing was harder. First thing to do it check out your kit. My leathers had a tear in them so I took them to Nine Lives at Guildford to be repaired. Your helmet needs to be in top condition and have an ACU gold sticker. Scruitineering didn't check my one but I'm sure they meant to! I had to buy new boots as my old Frank Thomas' weren't fit to walk in and certainly wouldn't survive a spill. So, that's the clothing bought/cleaned/repaired, onto the bike. (check out the setup.aspx page for more info.)

For the bike I fitted a track fairing as the original is super expensive, that silver sticker on the side of the standard fairing is £400 so spending £200 on a track fairing isn't so bad. I replaced the sprockets for 43/13 which is what people use for the Indy circuit. I changed the oil in the gearbox, it takes 700cc so that only cost £10, charged the battery and changed the petrol in the tank as the bike had been parked in the garage for a year (as I refuse to pay that much for insurance). Apparently the octane rating can drop when petrol is stored so I changed it for super unleaded (Optimax is supposed to be 99 octane). Putting 10 litres in the tank and taking a petrol canister with another 10 litres in it. I checked the pressures in the tyres, sticking with standard settings of 1.9 bar in the front and 2.2 in the back. Then give the bike a basic once over, lube the chain but don't go mad, check the brake pads/hoses etc etc. The only other thing I did was spray number backing plates on, just to make the bike look that part, I chose dark blue as it's the colour for Supersport 400. Oh, and I borrowed a van so I could take a load of other crap with me (chairs/food/tools/gazebo).

The Day Itself

We arrived in good time, did the rider briefing thing and had the bike scrutineered. They gave us three sighting laps before the sessions started and the bike was running really hot, over 110°C where it normally runs at 55°C so I thought I'd better take the thermostat out, that made me miss the first session which was nice and dry.

Session 2
As we lined up at pit lane exit it started to rain rally hard, like really really hard. The track was totally drenched and washed away all that lovely rubber left by the British Superbike round the previous day. I tip towed around to find my way and that turned out to be a bit of a bonus as I could take it nice and slow and learn the track. The organisers put out cones to mark the braking, entry and apex of the corner and that felt a bit weird at first bit I got the hang of it and started to over take people. There were lots of big superbikes that couldn't get the power to the ground in the wet, I was having a right laugh overtaking them all!

Times (fastest in bold):
Lap 1 - 1' 17.43"
Lap 2 - 1' 18.38"
Lap 3 - 1' 14.61"
Lap 4 - 1' 19.89"
Lap 5 - 1' 18.09"
Lap 6 - 1' 14.88"
Lap 7 - 1' 15.83"
Lap 8 - 1' 15.34"
Lap 9 - 1' 13.73"
Lap 10 - 1' 15.62"
Lap 11 - 1' 14.90"
Lap 12 - 1' 11.29"

Session 3
The track was still wet although it has stopped raining. I was very pleased with my wet times, I gave myself a target of somewhere near one minute and to be 11 seconds outside that in the wet gave me confidence. That confidence told to me brake that little bit later and test for grip. So, as I went up towards Druids I locked the front brake and had to go straight on into the gravel. The track day safety people went into overdrive and stopped the session, bought the ambulance and recovery truck along but all I needed was a push out of the gravel. I got back to the pits in time to re-join the queue to go back out.

Lap 1 - 1' 12.56"
Lap 2 - 1' 11.28"
Lap 3 - 1' 14.56"
Lap 4 - 1' 10.35"
Lap 5 - 1' 10.40"
Lap 6 - 1' 11.91"
Lap 7 - 1' 08.94"
Lap 8 - 1' 15.11"
Lap 9 - 1' 18.51"

Session 4
OK, so I'm not the wet master. Time to calm down and practice my lines more. I kept making mistakes at Paddock Hill bend so I took time to look at the cone markers. Things were going well and I felt better and less erratic. However, I forgot to switch the lap timer on - doh! I also got a warning for pulling wheelies in the paddock. What sort of track day is this?

Session 5
Track was drying nicely as during lunch there was some Ducati school and they made everything nice and dry, there was a definite dry line which would have been really good if it hadn't rained again just before we went out. Nothing much happened in this session except me running out of petrol and having to sit most of it out. Better not talk too much about that!

Lap 1 - 1' 13" 77
Lap 2 - 1' 12" 15
Lap 3 - 1' 11" 63
Lap 4 - 1' 15" 18

Egg on my face for that one, especially as my mum, dad and sister had just arrived to watch. They all got extremely worried when I stopped going around, Michele (wife) asked the organiser where I was and they all had a good laugh about it.

Session 6
The track was almost dry and it was my first chance to go for it. Nothing went wrong, the bike had fuel but was running below temperature a bit, about 40°C (it'd still been running hot, about 80°C but someone told me that was about right). This was the best session of the day, I'd worked out how to go around Paddock Hill and the Aprilia was considerably faster around there than all the big superbikes. The exit to Clearways was still wet so I took it easy there, seemed an easy place to fall off. As it was dryer I was getting over taken on the straights by the bigger bikes and they were then getting in the way for the bends, how early do they brake? I nearly rear ended a white R1 so I slowed a little around Druids and let him pull away so I could have some space.

Lap 1 - 1' 11.36"
Lap 2 - 1' 09.43"
Lap 3 - 1' 10.25"
Lap 4 - 1' 09.73"
Lap 5 - 1' 12.59"
Lap 6 - 1' 04.80"
Lap 7 - 1' 06.29"
Lap 8 - 1' 07.35"
Lap 9 - 1' 06.64"
Lap 10 - 1' 05.85"
Lap 11 - 1' 08.81"
Lap 12 - 1' 04.43"
Lap 13 - 1' 03.08"
Lap 14 - 1' 02.40"
Lap 15 - 1' 06.34"

What an excellent day. I made a mess of many things and I know better now. Just as a comparison, Aprilia RS250 Challenge guys lap Brands Indy in around 53 seconds. Club guys are about 55 so I wasn't that bad for a first attempt, having to learn the circuit. The Aprilia was absolutely brilliant in the wet, I was lapping people all over the place and only a KTM640 overtook me. The Aprilia just doesn't have enough power to worry too much about whereas the big superbikes were struggling for grip. That doesn't mean I didn't have the occasional slide, be rude not to! In the dry it was harder as the bigger bikes could easily overtake me on the straights and get in the way for the corners, in a race I could have stuffed it up the inside and get them back but this was a track day. All sensible and nice.

Fastest time in the almost dry: 1' 02.40", fastest in the wet: 1' 08.94". Sooper.

Thanks to Paul for lending me the van:

Parkside Print Finishers 

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