Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lakeside 14/12/2013 - Trackday with Champion's Ride Days.

Don't let 'em scare ya!
I'd heard plenty of people say that Lakeside was for the experienced track-dayer only. No run-off, combined with plenty of armco, and varying elevations meant death was inevitable for all but the very best... hmm, gotta be worth a dabble.

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The Magnificent Seven.
Seven booked, and seven came away... alive (amazing). A variety of experience and machinery between us, we booked up with Champion's Ride Days to pit the wits, and see who'd come out top.

  1. Dave - 2012 KTM Superduke R. Good road experience and likes to mix it up with anyone who comes along. Three previous track days. Green group.
  2. Will - 2012 Yamaha FZ8. A few years road riding and quick on the right day. One previous track day. Red group.
  3. Pat - 2011 Suzuki GSXR1000. Years of motocross/enduro racing, couple of years on the road and getting faster by the day. One previous track day. Green group.
  4. Bryan - 2006 Honda CBR600RR. A few years on the road, and more than capable of a quick blast (when he isn't flinging the bike off the side of a mountain). First track day. Green group.
  5. Mike - 2012 Aprilia RSV4 Tuono. Years of track and road experience. Very fast on any bike. Good enough to pull monster wheelies on the straights just to let you catch up. Yellow group.
  6. Paul - 1999 Kawasaki ZX9R. Years of fast road work with a few track days thrown in. Quick lad. Green group.
  7. And me - 2006 Suzuki GSXR1000. Riding for years, still as slow as ever. One previous track day. Green group.
A good group usually involves a lot of piss-taking, and Pat was on fine form. He was giving grief from the moment we met at the services, and carried on as we unloaded in pit lane. It was hot and humid so leathers were left to the last minute.

Get there early!
Bryan and I were travelling up together, and we loaded the bikes up the night before to save time and grief. With a 5.30am start, we wanted to have as little to do in the morning as possible. By 6.00am we were at the Coomera BP station to meet with the others. Be at the track as early as possible, there's a bit to do.

Bags your place in the pits.
The pits at Lakeside are great; loads of room and our little spot remained in shade all day. It was a hot day, but the breeze through here was just right.

Before you're allowed out on track, your bike is checked for basic safety items such as tyres, oil leaks, loose bolts/plugs/fillers and brakes - don't forget your brakes (surely you wouldn't forget your brakes).
So, as we all rode back to the pits, Bryan walks back in shame with his helmet as they relieve him of hundred and sixty of the hard-earned to stick a set of fronts pads in. No one laughed, honest.

Next up is the rider's briefing, and then the yellow group goes out. These are the racers, and all round fast bastards. Most will have tyre warmers, and a few will be on slicks. To mix it with these guys on a standard bike and tyres, you have to be quick (top work Mike).

The brief.
The guys that run the days give you all the information you need to get the most out of the day. A lot of it won't click into place until you've been around the track for yourself, such as where to enter the pits or what to watch out for going through the bus stop, but listen up and it'll all come good. 
Pay particular attention to hydration during your day. They supply all the water you need (along with biscuits, whoop) so make full use of it because you're gonna sweat buckets, and then you'll get tired. That's the danger point of the day, and where mistakes will get made.
For red and green groups, the instructors will also lead for a couple of laps to enable you to build up your speed, and heat in the tyres, safely. Don't overtake them!

Five minutes to launch.
When you hear your group called on the PA, I personally find it best to get up to the front and get ready to be let out on track. If there's faster riders behind, they'll soon get past and it gives you something to try and hang onto. We watch as the yellow group start hammering down the start/finish straight, banging in the 1.06's. Bryan looks concerned at the pace. Don't worry chap, that's why we're going out in green.

And we're off!
With the first of the yellow and blue sessions complete, we're ready. Pat's in front as we follow the pace bike down the straight. The red mist is already abundant as I go past him at the first chance. It's all a bit hit-and-miss to be fair because none of us know which way the track goes, but I'm loving it already. A couple of laps in and there's a yellow BMW R1200RS lying on its side with a snapped swingarm - day over for that guy. Red flags out and back to the pits!
We're soon let out to have another go and this time I get around Paul coming into the bus-stop chicane. But then, as before, there must be another faller as we're red-flagged again!
Back to the pits and we're all jabbering on about the last ten minutes. It takes a while to realise Pat hasn't come back yet. Oh well, must have been out on one last lap and missed the pits? No such luck. As we sit there, a white Hiace pulls up alongside our humble abode and the side door flies open to reveal the dishevelled Pat and his busted-up Gixer. Bollocks!

The right clip-on was snapped clean off - one Gixer out!

A slightly more sombre mood took hold as we surveyed the damage. Pat was gutted, and everyone for him. Medical staff, and the Champion's guys, came over to check he was ok - he was fine. Only bike and pride dented. I can't say enough about the professionalism from the organisers. Serious where it counts, but good-humoured too, these ride days are put together incredibly well. 

Building up speed.
As I worked out which way the track went it started to get easier, and faster. From what I've been told, the outright lap record belongs to a 600 - and I could see why. I've been banging on for ages how I thought I was quicker on Bryan's CBR, today I could compare. With Pat losing the rear, and Dave mentioning the rear of the Superduke spinning up, it was always on the back of your mind how much you could get away with. Even Mike said the traction control was kicking in on the Tuono at a relatively mild setting.
On about the third session, I'd been passed by a few guys early on and settled into my own pace. Coming up to the bus-stop I decided to glance round to see if anyone was close. F#@k! Four of them mobbed me at once, including Paul, and started to make off ever so slightly into the distance. It's funny what goes on in your mind when you're giving it everything but still seeing mere inches being eked out in front of you.

Fight back? Give it up? Brake later? Accelerate harder?

All part of the learning curve. Let them go and get used to the track. Start trying to over-compensate and it'll go tits-up. The more you think, the worse it gets. Concentration is sporadic, or at least for me.

The Bridgestone S20's working very well.

Fetch the CBR.
With lunch over, the racing was about to recommence. Paul changes into the blue group because he's fed up with the crashes halting the fun in the green. For me, it's time to chuck the Honda round the track while Bryan sampled the thou. Starting out on the track with Dave and Bryan, I soon got my head down to seek out the bigger bikes. What a difference! The CBR is perfect for this track and a warped front disc does little to dampen its ability.
Where before I was trying to gently get on the power out of bends, scared of going in too fast and generally riding like a wuss, now I could exploit it a little more. Out of the bus-stop the throttle was on the stop all the way down the hill, only shutting off for the next left-hander which climbs back up into the countryside. This is seriously good fun! 

Bryan flat out on the home straight.

Dave trying to tuck in.

Video footage courtesy of Will.

Changing groups.
At any point in the day, if you feel like you want to move up or down a group, just go and see the organisers and they'll sort you out. With Paul already up a group, I chat with Mike who's sitting out one of the sessions. He's been telling me to go in blue group from the start so I decide to give it a whirl, and he drops from yellow to show me the way round. 
I follow the RSV4 from the start, but he passes another bike at the end of the straight. I'm unable to replicate the pass no matter what I try. This guy matches me everywhere on what looks like a supermoto. Never mind, I'll get down on the main straight and blitz it, then try and make a gap. Not a chance! With the CBR held open flat-chat it can't reign in this mystery bike. What supermoto has the power to match the CBR6?
Lap after lap we're pretty much neck-and-neck, but then I start to see him gain a few metres. Where I get it back into a bend, I just lose it on the way back out, and on it goes. Mike, by now, is nowhere to be seen so I just concentrate on trying to find something to close the gap. It's a great battle and we pass others on the track, but this geezer just has the edge on me. 
When I roll back into the pits to hand the bike back over to Bryan, so he can join the green group, I ask Will what the bike I was racing was? 
Ducati Hypermotard - no wonder it had grunt!

End of the day - combined groups.
The final session was going to be mixed up with red and green together, and blue and yellow. Paul was raring to get out on track, and Mike was going to let me lead this time. This should be good because then I can get a few pointers from him after the session. And then a crash right at the end of the red/green session ended our day early. A large oil spill was going to take too long to clear up so it was all over. Bollocks!

But what a day!
Apart from Pat's fall early on, the event was superb. I love the track - it makes QR seem a little boring in comparison and everyone came away wanting more. There's such a good mixture of bikes too. From an old Honda twin race bike, to a modern Triumph cafe racer twin, it's great seeing them all mixing it up. 
And that was it, now there was nothing left to do but load up, find somewhere to get a beer and talk about how fast we were... or seemed. With basic lap timing being carried out by the lads on their iPhones, I went from 1.12's on the Gixer to 1.11's on the CBR. So a 600 seems to be the way forward at Lakeside.

Thanks to Champion's Ride Days for a cracking day and I'm sure we'll all be back soon.