Some of you might have read my recent tale of riding in the Swan Valley on route to the Motorbike Festival at York in Western Australia.
The second tale is about the track day I signed up for while here. My son-in-law Geoff regularly does these events and asked if I’d be interested in having a go. Never having done one in my short motorbiking career, I thought it would be a great thing to try. So, I entered the event scheduled for Saturday April 23rd.
Reader Warning! This turned into a rather long tale, so this is a reader warning in case you wish to bail out now. They say life is too short to do certain things. Reading the rest of this may well be one of them!
You may recall that the bike I have here is a Yamaha FJR 1300, ex police bike, not the normal steed you find on these days here. But there was no problem getting entered and so preparations were made.
I’ve no idea what happens in these events in the UK and it may well be the same but here, for road bikes, all lights, indicators, reflectors and mirrors have to be blacked out. I never realised that track bikes don’t have all these fancy things on, so there you go, every day is a school day.
The day before the event, Geoff got my bike ready, mirrors off, not just blacked out all other stuff blacked out. Hence the bike was no longer suitable for using on the road. Geoff borrowed a trailer from Kirk, his biking mate and ex Manx TT rider so we could load the bikes to get to the track.
This was where, as they say, things went pear shaped. First cock up was that we failed to secure the trailer to Geoff’s tow hitch properly, we had the ramp onto the trailer and started to push the FJR up, next thing the trailer tipped up and down came the bike. Fortunately, it landed on it’s feet and we managed to keep it upright. Lesson learned. Well maybe?
Second cock up came quickly on the heels of the first. Having secured the tow hitch and getting the FJR on the trailer we found it was too long and the back wheel was barely on the deck. It was also now blindingly obvious that the wasn’t room for another bike to fit due to the monstrous size of the FJR.
Rethink needed! After applying Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion and the Doppler Effect, followed by the main aid to this process, head scratching, we decided that I’d have to ride the bike to the event.
This is called Back to Square One in case some readers are not familiar with the technical side of things.
As darkness fell, back to square one involved taking off all the tape and reinstalling the mirrors and asking my daughter Sian to go and buy some more black tape as we have used all the previous supply. She was not overkeen on this venture, having just a few hours getting kids to gymnastics, karate and other pursuits.
However, she kindly got the job done.
The new tape would obviously be needed now at the track the following morning. We got Geoff’s bike loaded, his rather nice and very fast Honda CBR 600RR. All strapped down and ready to go.
Part of the rest of Friday evening was spent getting butties made, water bottles filled and cooled, and all other bits and bobs needed for the adventure. Geoff, as an experienced operator here left nothing to chance, we were well prepared.
An early start Saturday morning was required, we left the house at 6.15, the track is only about 25 minutes away and I decided to fuel up on the way. Arrived at the track at around 6.40 and immediately went to the allocated car port, these are covered areas with power outlets and enough space to put all the gear riders need, chairs, cool boxes, tyre warmers, toolboxes etc. I hasten to add that I didn’t need tyre warmers, but my son-in-law Geoff had his. The set up was all very well organized. I was in the Induction Group, and we were located in adjacent carports.
Now in place I had to get the bike blacked out again. The first person we met was the Scrutineer for the Induction Group, a Brit called Shawn, he was also one of the coaches as I was to find out later. He said that I didn’t need to remove the mirrors, just get them blacked out. He checked the bike and passed it. Proof of this was a sticker he placed on the fairing along with issuing my Track Race Number, 10. See photo. The Scrutineers ticket is the small mark on the LH Fairing, RH as you look at the photo. You can also see the lights blacked out.
Bike Passed for use on track
The second photo is the carport area we used for the Induction Group. There were 18 in all, 4 of us were 1st timers the rest had done anything from 1 to 4 previous sessions. It became clear during the on-track sessions that there were some who wanted to be big fishes in small ponds in that they wanted to be the fastest in a group and coming back to the induction group gave them that buzz! Maybe I’m bitter and twisted but that’s how it looked.
After getting the bike sorted, it was time for me to get sorted. I had hired all the gear, leathers, boots, gloves, helmet, so off I went to collect the kit. It was all brand new, and I managed to get some really good kit, RST Leathers, boots, Bell helmet which was super comfortable. This was the 1st time I’ve ever worn leathers so didn’t quite know what to expect. As it turned out they were very comfortable, and I had no issues at all.
Next on the agenda was pre ride briefing with the coaches. I found this session and all the other de-briefs between rides very good and positive. The teaching was very similar to the Advanced Rider training I had with Dave Little with some adjustments for track riding. I found the advanced riding training gave me confidence to tackle this new activity and took away some nervousness.
The next illustration is a diagram of the track layout, you can see the chicane at T3, almost a 90 degree entry is needed to get it right for the exit. You can’t see here but the track has large elevation changes, staring to go up into T2, then dropping and rising until half way along the straight then dropping sharply into T7, setting up the flat finishing straight.
Next picture is an aerial photograph of the track which has some names for bends on. This does show the chicane which was added after a couple of riders were killed on there a few years ago. The track was closed to bikes for about 2 years. Car races don’t use the chicane.
Now the time came for the 1st session on the track, the Induction group were the last group out. The coaches got to the front, and we set off, following the instructions we had been given in the briefing. The 1st 3 laps were used to get to know the track a little, looking for turning in points and apexes, lining up the chicane etc. There was a rule that no overtaking could be done on these laps and after that only on the straights until later session when some other options were included.
I eventually did 5 sessions during the day, it was enough, and I started to feel the effects of hard concentration, physical handling of the bike, heat, it was 28 Deg. I found myself starting to get lines wrong, leading to poor progression and do I decided for safety’s sake I was done.
I also had to get the bike road legal again to ride home so had to have some in reserve to do that safely.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day; it was something I never imagined I’d do. It was highly beneficial in terms of getting a better understanding of the capabilities of both the bike and myself. Building trust in the grip from the tyres and what they are capable of.
There is no doubt that the bike and tyres are far more capable than I am. This is maybe true for a lot of riders, and it is a very good thing to understand I believe.
I’ll certainly do this again, maybe in the UK but more certainly when back here on my next visit. It may well be on a bike more suited to the track to see what that is like.
The final 2 photos are one’s I bought from a professional photographer who attends all these track days. If I say so myself, it almost looks like I know what I’m doing! The other one is my son-in-law, Geoff, who does know what he’s doing!
One thing I noticed when the day was done was the wear on the rear tyre, especially on the right side, this track has 5 RH bends including tipping into the chicane and 1 LH bend apart from a couple of LH drifts. The tyre certainly looked like it had done a decent shift.
The other aspect that took some getting used to was not looking behind, clearly the mirrors were unusable, and the rule was that you look forwards, it is the rider behind who is responsible for where they are. looking behind at the speeds on the track can get you into serious trouble very quickly. In fact, during the day there were about 10 red flags in various groups, we had one with a rider running off after he got a line wrong.
Joe taking a right hander
Geoff doing it right.