Thursday, March 3, 2016

Queensland Raceway with Champions Ride Days — 28/2/2016

Hot day at QR.
Considering I wasn't that bothered in going to this one, and only made my mind up at 4.00am on the day, it was a cracker! Good old Bry picked me up and we stopped for the obligatory Wild Bean coffee on the way. All signed in and even scrutineered before 7.30, much to the dismay of one of the guys checking the bikes. Never mind, a bit of cheek from Bryan about doing some work soon had him smiling, or grimacing — it's a wonder it passed! 
Will and Leigh, of Billeigh Photography, were already here and set up with a table, chairs and various other luxuries. It seemed rude not to make use of the facilities.

The car crew were all out on track doing laps and then... well, looking under bonnets. I took some pics of the bikes in the meantime while we waited for Dave to arrive.

Maybe because it was the opening round of WSBK at Phillip Island, but it was pretty quiet today so all groups had plenty of room on the track. Its been a while since I've been here so the first few sessions were basically spent getting to grips with the track again. You think you're doing well, but look like you're cruising.

Here's Will about to get his bike checked while testing out his new speed thongs. With GoPro mounted front and rear, he got some great footage out on track too.

Dialling in the new quick shifter on his FZ8 with an app on his phone. Yes, they have apps on phones now. We'll have internet next.

First session in and rear brake starts to bind and lock up for Will. A quick adjustment of the pedal and all was well.

Put a nice pattern on the disc though.

Me getting to grips before taking the Katoom for a blast. I had a few people fly past me on this, including Bryan, and it certainly takes a bit of practise to get right. The brakes are amazing though and, coupled with the massive dose of engine braking, pulling up at the end of the straight was easy. Turning it was another matter!
I kept running wide on turns three and six, which probably comes down to needing more practise on it and a bit of set up time. Maybe the front needs to be lowered a little. She also wallowed a bit between turns one and two which could probably be dialled out with a few clicks here and there. It was still a good laugh, although there was probably some swearing from some of quicker boys when I was in their way.

The Suzuki GSXR750 L2 at QR
I've mentioned this little beauty before, and I think I've just found one of the most perfectly balanced bikes ever... for me anyway. Now shod with the confidence-inspiring Dunlop Q3's, this bike was completely unflustered around QR. 

For those who haven't been around the Queensland Raceway, it's a lot of fun, but very complex. I've heard people putting it down because it's boring, with not enough bends, but those people must either be incredibly talented... or a bit stupid. Because to get this track "right" requires a few things:

  • Bravery, courage, balls of steel, or just big bollocks... call it what you will.
  •  The ability to think ahead and take the best position on such a wide track.
  • Absolute precision.
  • Did I mention big bollocks?

Then you need to string everything together perfectly, lap after lap on this
simple "paperclip" track, and it's hard. This is my very basic take on it, after riding it a few times... mainly slowly:

1) Turns one and two seem vast, and are taken at very high speed. Working out exactly where you need to be is hard because of track width. Enter turn one early and you're too slow, enter it late and you're in the gravel. This becomes crystal clear after your very first lap.

2) Exiting onto the back straight you try to hold as much pace as possible from turn two, and squeeze out everything the bike can muster. However, the short gravel trap at the end will make you question the braking markers, your abilities, definitely your braking system and, finally, your sanity. Hey ho.

3) Turn three is basically a hairpin, so a big, fat transition between hyper-speed and a walk in the park. Getting on the power is a delicate process, and a great place to lose ground on faster riders. Anyone with ability, or traction control, will leave you standing. If they have both, race someone else.

4) With the throttle wound right back for a couple of moments on your way into turn four, the first of the two left-handers, it's time to shut down and try to link these two corners — much like a miniature version of turns one and two, but in reverse. Again, in early and too slow, in late and in the grass. Warm tyres are a must before exploiting these two — ask me how I know.

5) Another short straight after turn five, and it will feel absolutely awesome for a split second if you've got the two left-handers right. It's easy during this elation to forget what's going on around you so concentrate because then it's "Holy mother of God!" and grab the brakes as hard as possible again for the other hairpin that is turn six. 

The bike will very likely get out of shape on the brakes here, and the slipper clutch will explode into a million pieces as you downshift like you're stamping out a fire. If all goes tits up, there's another gravel trap to sit you on your ass.

6) The start/finish straight is simple enough. Delicate to start with, but once on the power, hold the power, wish for more power, change up as fast as you can and get ready for the entry into turn one. Bottle it and brake way too early, tip it in and swear profusely because you're in completely the wrong position. Now go back to point one and read through again.

My experience.

Where the K6 thou protests slightly through turns one and two, and the Superduke was completely loose, the 750 made you feel like you could take it full throttle. I didn't, but the confidence it instills was amazing. 
Down the back straight, it loses out to the bigger bikes but then it stops so easily. The Brembo brakes hauling you up quickly, and allowing you to catch up with the bikes that just blitzed you on the power.

Then there's turn three!

This one blew me away on the 750! Every time I hit this corner on the thou I'm tense. Not comfortable leaning, unable to tap on the power ('cause I'm scared), and watching bigger and bigger gaps being pulled on me. The 750 is a revelation. With knee and toes dragging, you can apply power and it just drives out comfortably. It feels like you could just snap the throttle back to the stop and hang on until the next bend.

Yes it has big piston forks, is lighter and newer than my K6, but the way it flew around QR was just amazing. With one session on this I was equalling my best time so far on the thou. This is a bike that fills you with confidence. Out of turn six, I found you could tighten your corner with ease and still get on the power early. The KTM just sent me wide each time and I found it hard to get it over enough. 
On the K6 I lost the rear coming out of here in second during a morning session. I put it down to tyre pressures. When I came back in it was at 36psi hot, I dropped it to 32psi and all was well. Again, with the thou you're trying to tap on the power gently, but the middleweight just disappears (until you reel it in on the power).

All in it was one of the best track days I've done. It's good to be able to try different bikes too. Take a look at some of Will's GoPro footage. Here's me following him out of pitlane on Bryan's 750.