With the bikes loaded up on the Friday afternoon, we were set to leave at 6.00am on the Saturday. Leathers, helmets, boots, food and a few tools for good measure, and straight up to the Coomera BP garage for a brew and meet the others. By 7.30am we were rolling into the massive complex that is QR to find a load of cars racing round the track, and a dose of bikes already unloaded.
Over to the control tower to get registered and we were soon ready for scrutineering and the rider's brief. The weather was perfect, not too hot and just slight cloud in the sky.
The new Dunlop Q3's with a couple of hundred k's on them. Fork seals have been perfect since the rebuild and the bike is feeling great.
Mike's 2009 big-bang R1, with Ohlins TTX shock and fork internals. Serious piece of kit, and looking mean.
First session complete and the bike is feeling pretty good. Still trying to learn the track and work out what i can get away with where. The back straight can be a little daunting, one minute thinking the bike is too slow and then "Shit, I've gotta stop!". I continually back off before the 200m marker before applying the brakes at around the 150m board. I know I need to keep the throttle nailed until I grab the brakes, but the safety parameters borne into my brain keep taking over. Practice makes perfect I suppose.
Mike stays behind Pat and I for a couple of laps and then cracks on through to do his own thing. Pat's trying to build confidence after his off at Lakeside so I set off to keep up with Mike (for a few bends at least)... never mind, it was still a cracking start to the day.
Team blue returns to the pits, and Dave and Bryan head out in green group.
Standing on the pit wall, watching avidly as the CBR and Superduke do battle, we expected to see the CBR nail the KTM on the long straight, but there doesn't seem to be too much of an advantage. With it being Bryan's first time on this track, Dave starts to edge away.
The Gixer's back tyre is looking pretty good, and working well after this session.
Session two goes well and I'm really enjoying myself. Dave, the unofficial time keeper using an iPhone, has logged me at 1.27, 1.26 and then a 1.25 lap time. Quite happy with that as I know where I can improve (pretty much everywhere).
Session three begins and Mike, who's using tyre warmers, horses past me on the straight like I'm stood still.
Damn he must have've had good grip and drive out of turn two!
Pulling it all back on the brakes into turn three I'm closing it up, but he's off like a shot again on the way out. But hang on, I'm still on cold tyres... and this proved to be the undoing of the Gixer. Out of turn three (all right-handers so far) we head towards the left turn of numero four. All was well until the front relented and gave in. Suddenly I'm sliding across the track with the Gixer, and it's only then that I realise I can't save this! Bollocks.
Off the track and into the dirt and I'm still bloody sliding, but jump up as soon as we come to a stop. The red flags are out and I'm trying to lift the bike. Two guys pull up on the Champion's Hondas and check I'm ok. No oil leaks, not really much damage, I start the bike and they tell me to keep to the outside of the track as I go back to the pits. I give a little bow to the marshall at turn six, and retire to the pits to lick my wounds.
Incredibly the mirrors are still attached, it didn't even touch the bar end! The gear lever pin snapped off so changing gear was going to be awkward, but she came away relatively unscathed.
|Ouch! Poor Gixer bike!|
Back in the pits, Bryan wanted me to use the CBR to see how it would compare so I thought I'd give it a whirl. A faller in yellow group delayed our start for session five and we had to wait in pit lane. Then it began to rain slightly. Pat decided it was all over for him and headed back round to the pits. I gave it a few moments as it got heavier, and followed him back. Then it bastard emptied down!
Dave, Mike and I were the only ones still game to go out if it stopped. And mine needed a wash so this should help. Eventually it slowed and the organisers went out on track with a blower to try and clear some of the corners. Then race teams were allowed out on cut slicks only, no road tyres. Only two tried their luck, both having a few near misses.
When we were called to join them, Dave and I were first out on track and boy was it ever wet! The first couple of laps were a little edgy to say the least. Corners taken uber slow because of the amount of standing water, but the straights could be nailed. Grip heading into the bends was amazing, no sign of the front sliding, the Q3's doing a great job. But every time I exited turn six, the back would light up on the wet track. Back off, hit third and open throttle again. Great fun!
All in all it was a great day. Yes, it would've been good to have stayed on, but the minimal damage, and to be able to continue riding, was pretty lucky. It also hit home how far you slide at relatively slow speeds... on the roads, with the various fixtures and furniture, it would've hurt!
Dunlop Q3's - Verdict?
They felt superb! Forget about the stupidity regarding the warming up of the tyres - that was my fault, these things are great. Running on the track at 30psi rear and 32psi front cold, as per Dunlop tyre technician, they performed well in the wet too. I'll definitely buy another pair next time unless there's something new to try out.
We were lucky enough to have Will, from Billeigh Photography, on hand to take hundreds of photos too. Check out some of these fabulous shots, and just click on pic to enlarge.
Here's Mike posing behind me, coming out of pit lane.
Out in the wet.
Pat on the L1 Gixer1000.