First trackday of the year 2015
In previous years when I lived in France, I’ve had the benefit of starting my track riding season earlier than I’m currently able to. Imagine being able to nip down to Spain for a few days at Aragon in March and have a 90% chance of good weather! Now contrast that with options in the UK, where now I have to wait until June/July in the hope of getting good weather, since not having wets and a spare set of wheels means that a wet UK trackday will mean no riding and a waste of my hard earned.
Since last years August crash at Donington I’ve been rebuilding the R1, and it’s been waiting for the past couple of months to be unleashed back on track. June 18th was the designated date for it’s first outing in full track bike format, so here’s how it went, but first, a list of the changes:
Fairings- OE replaced by track only meaning seat position changed, low foam no comfy padded seat!
Handlebars- OE ditched and replaced by Renthal clip-ons- another positional change
Forks- serviced and stock springs replaced with linear K-Tech springs correct for my weight
Tyres- Superbike Pros replaced by even stickier Pirelli SC2’s
Throttle- shorter throw R6 throttle gave a cheap QA option.
The sum total of all these things should theoretically give big improvements everywhere, after all, a QA throttle should cure my wimpiness getting to full gas, the forks and tyres should give better control and feel, and the seating and bar positions should make for a better track riding position than the comfy road biased settings it originally had, SO, how did it all work out?
I have to say that for the first time in a long time I was nervous going back on track. The 3 sighting laps didn’t help much either and Coppice seemed menacing as I remembered my off there, and the bike just didn’t do what I expected of it. It certainly felt fast with the new throttle action, but modulating it in the slow corner of the Melbourne loop proved tricky sometimes, although more likely this was caused by the chain having a couple of tight spots? The forks dived too much even with the improved springs which I found was because they’d been returned to me with mid point settings which I very quickly had to change.
First session saw me reacquainting myself with the track and trying to figure out what was happening with the handling, but with two red flags disrupting the session, it wasn’t the best of starts to the day. The first was the result of a ZXR750 running off track, the second after a spectacular ZX6 blow up three bikes in front of me going down Craner Curves, leaving the rider tumbling off track whilst his bike disintegrated into pieces leaving an oil trail which was to cause a 15 minute delay while the debris and oil was cleared. After this much interrupted session I’d only managed a 2.12 lap, showing how rusty and off the pace I was, with last years 1.57 seeming miles away.
Session two and I’d changed the suspension, stiffening the compression and rebound further, and this clearly did some good as I dropped 9 seconds straight away, and ended with two consecutive 2.03 laps , the better of the two a 2.03.51. The organisers, Focused Events run chrono days but now with a changed format, instead of switching groups after 3 sessions (based on times), they now do it after two. I really wasn’t sure my time was good enough to stay in the inters group, but the posted lists with new groups showed it had been, so I now had 4 sessions in the afternoon to improve in the relative safety of the inters again.
Session 3 after lunch saw a minute improvement with a drop down to 2.03.45 but only the last of the 7 laps was down at this level, work to do then. With last years 1.57 still miles away and not looking achievable I decided something had to change.
Session 4, and having now got used to all the changes, and with the handling closer to what I wanted with the firmed up settings, I decided most of the problems must be in my head, so I had to stop thinking about it and just ride. This proved to be a turning point as my second lap in was my lowest so far at 2.03.02, and every lap in the session was either a 2.03 or 2.04, so now I’d gained some consistency.
I was having a problem though, the brakes. Sometimes I’d get a firm lever, the next it would come back a little further than expected. I’m hoping that it’s just the pads wearing and the fluid level dropping and can be cured by a bleed through, but will have to keep an eye on it.
When I got back into our garage, I got taking to one of the guys on a very nice Aprilia Biaggi rep, who told me he had run on at Redgate as his brake fluid had disappeared along with his brakes, two in the same garage with braking issues??!
Session 5, and I decided to make one change to the suspension, at the rear this time. Feeling the bike pumping under hard acceleration coming our of Redgate, I decided to increase the preload, a tiny change but one which led to me being able to hold a tighter line everywhere, and when after 4 laps we were back in pitlane after another red flag, I was amazed to see my lap timer showing my first two laps had been a 2.02.07 and a 2.02.09, how’s that for consistency!! Back out and the last two laps of the session were 2.00.92 and 2.00.30, so consistent, and with a best time again!
Final session and with only .30 seconds stopping me from breaking under the 2 minute time I hoped I could get an even better time but it wasn’t to be. Three consecutive 2.03 laps, a 2.04 and a final 2.01 .11 was how the day ended, but at least the bike was intact, I knew the areas I need to improve on, and I’d got my first trackday of the year under my belt.