• Tag Archives Ledenon
  • Return to Ledenon

    After 13 years I was finally returning to the French circuit of Ledenon, the scene of my very first ever track day back in 1999, back then I was riding a very road biased VFR800, this time I’m on a very track focussed Yamaha R1.

    Andy arrived with the trailer and his Fireblade and half an hour later we’re loaded up and ready to go

    Motorway takes us 95% of the way there, down past Valence and Orange before turning off towards the town of Remoulins, over the bridge  and along tree lined roads before entering into  open countryside and the small roads which mark the climb up towards the circuit.

    Just outside the circuit is this 11/12th century ruined castle, which certainly adds character to the location.

    Finally, after some 4 ½ hours of driving we’re almost there.

    First job of the evening is to unload the bikes and erect the awning. Tonight it’s just a cover, tomorrow it will be populated with chairs, clocks, kettles, tyre warmers, tools, and no end of trackday paraphanelia.

     

    Here’s a real hardcore pair of bikers!

     

    With the bikes unloaded, we head back down the hill towards Remoulins and tonight’s hotel.

     

    We got lucky with our choice, as not only is it a recently refurbished hotel, it is ideally located next to a river. The restaurant and food are good, and there are lots of the owners artwork items dotted about.

     

    First things first, it’s now circa 19.00 and the first beer of the evening goes down a treat

     

    Ideal setting to sit outside and chill.

     

    Later on at night everything is illuminated.

     

    Inside, impressive wine rack whilst diners are accompanied by musical piano (no-one playing it!)

    After an excellent meal, time to sleep and prepare for the next two days riding.

    DAY 1

    We had managed to “persuade” the owners to provide breakfast at the unearthly hour (for them) of 7.30, to allow us time to eat, get to the circuit, and register in plenty of time.

    Breakfast over we get to the circuit and unpack a few things before heading off to register. The process seems a little disorganised and takes the best part of half an hour to get through, which means we don’t have quite as much time as we would like to get ready for our first session at 09.20.

     

    The first session at any track always seems difficult, at least for me, either it’s renewing your circuit knowledge and remembering which way the track goes, or in this case, learning it again after a 13 year gap since I was last there. Andy had done an instructed course with Jacques Cornu here the previous year and knew his way round, so I followed him round for a while, but even so, the twists and technicality of the circuit left me sat on my bike for a full minute after we had returned to the paddock area, just trying to soak in all that I’d just experienced. New bike, first time on slicks, and a track even French superbike riders rate as the most difficult in France, was meaning information overload for my poor brain cell.

    Next session was completely different. Knowing which way the track went meant it was a lot easier this time, and listening to Andy telling me to accelerate harder on the climb up the main straight saw the bars waggling in my hands and the wheel lifting in two consecutive gears as I tried to power up the hill. Also my foot was flung off the peg as I landed a wheelie slightly out of line, apparently it looked “interesting” from Andys view behind.

    Here’s the climb up and over the hill and the main straight

    Cresting the hill you’re doing around 200kph before shifting down to the enter the triple left sequence of bends

    Here you get an idea of the massive undulations of the track

     

    As the last morning session passed it seemed I was learning some parts but messing up others. Andy in the meantime was having a blast, and being much faster than I was, passed me     (see blog post and pics “Close Proximity” ) and cleared off.

    After the last morning session with yet another failure from my iphone laptimer app, we had a two hour break for lunch before the afternoon sessions. The rain forecast at 13.00 arrived but wasn’t heavy and with the day and track having been so warm, we were able to do the first session without problems, but the second starting to get wetter and wetter, and when the slippery surface flags started to be waved and we both had minor tyre slips, we pitted, and that was it for the day.

    Day 2

    We skipped breakfast today and got to the track hoping todays registration would be quicker, but it still took half an hour! With a new iphone app downloaded, at least todays laps could be accurately timed with section splits, max speeds and best theoretical time calculated. Now I knew the track I was also able to use the onboard laptimer and found it to be ultra accurate too.

    6 sessions today, with my best time of the day coming on the sixth lap of the second session. My best theoretical lap was only 0.4 seconds better than my actual, so it seems I was riding at about my limit, but bizarrely this best lap was achieved with a max speed which was 19kph slower than I had managed on other laps!?

    Throughout the morning it seemed a few people were getting too excited, and rounding one bend with yellow flags being waved I saw a Ducati had run way off into the gravel, unfortunately, the guy I was following got target fixated, and almost followed him in there too, only just avoiding an off.

    The last session saw another Ducati off, having spread lots of gravel onto the track. I thought the session would have been stopped to clear it, but no, and after another lap of arriving there to find gravel on the racing line, I started to get worried, and as everyone now seemed to be in maximum attack mode with some very hairy passes being made, I decided to call it a day and stopped the session early.

    Andy came in later confirming that peoples adrenaline seemed to have ramped up a notch and that passes had become a bit marginal at times. I’m slightly disappointed in the times I turned in, especially as Andy ended up being 8 seconds faster than me, but it had been good to return here after so long, the bike had been great after it’s previous TPS faults, and the slicks were excellent. Andy was great company as ever, so thanks to him and the transporting of the R1, and roll on Hockenheim next month.

     



  • Circuit Ledenon

    One of my earliest posts on my blog was about the first track day I ever did, at Ledenon in France. This track was a real baptism of fire for a first timer, and is still testing for experienced riders too, due to the technical nature and constant rise and fall of the track.

    Here is an aerial shot which shows the woodland setting and great number of twists and bends.

    circuit-ledenon

    The start finish point is actually at the top of one of the highest points on the circuit, and can be seen on the left hand edge of the picture.

    Starting from pit lane you arrive at the first of a triple set of left hand bends, first time out and at pit lane exit speed this is nothing special, but when you are arriving over the crest of the brow and knocking it down from 120/130mph, it takes on a different complexion. Initial turn in will set you up for the second tricky left, leading into the third consecutive left before dropping downhill and a double right to climb back up again.

    Next up comes a tight left, before dropping downhill again to a tricky right hander, where it’s all too easy to go in too fast; drop a little further to a right hander, before starting to climb round a nice left and then a sweeping right hander, with a fast downhill through kinks to arrive at the lowest end of the circuit, and a couple of lefts, before blasting up the hill to the start finish line again.

    Giving the bike full gas out of this final bend and up the hill makes the front go light, and you drift to the outside of the track, trying to get it back straight and stay to the edge and out of the wind, to get maximum speed past the start/finish line, before that important peel in point and the triple left sequence. This sequence of lefts was the scene of many a crashed bike as riders arrived way too fast and misjudged the peel in point !

    This picture is looking across the start finish straight and shows the rise and fall nature of Ledenon.

    scan0002

    This next picture gives you an idea of the climb up to this point, but if you look at the rider at the back of the bunch, he has only just crested the brow of the steepest part of the climb!

    scan0001

    This is a great track and I’d really like to go back again.  We camped but it was so windy we ended up spending the night sleeping outside next to the perimeter wall, as the tent was in danger of being blown away! The area is blessed with good weather and gets very hot, but is also susceptible to winds strong enough to blow a lightweight bike off line.

    ALPINEBIKER RATING-  8/10.      Something for everyone.  Thoroughly recommended track to visit!


  • First ever track day-Ledenon (France)

    It was May 1999, I’d only recently moved to Switzerland from the UK, when a friend of a colleague at work called to ask if I fancied a weekend down at the circuit of Ledenon in the South of France. I’d never ridden on any track before and the offer, whilst welcome, was totally unexpected, and led to my asking myself all manner of questions. Was I good enough to ride and not crash? Was the bike itself suitable for such use, after all, a VFR is not the first bike you would consider taking on a track! Guy needed a quick answer though as places were limited, so after discussions with Sue, I decided to give it a go.

    I arrived at his local bike garage in Aubonne, where he had arranged to borrow the shop owner’s trailer to transport the two bikes to the circuit. Arriving shortly after, on the garages Ducati, as they had been doing work on his Triumph to prepare it for the track, we set about loading the two bikes. After what seemed an eternity, we hitched the trailer to his Range Rover and set off. Ledenon is at least a 5 hour drive from Geneva, so we had plenty of time to get to know each other better.

    We arrived as dusk was falling and just before the gates were locked for the evening. Guy had been in contact during the journey with his friend Martin, who guided us into the track compound. He was already set up with an awning against the side of his van, inside which was a Ducati 916, spare wheels, and assorted goodies. We had intended sleeping in the awning next to the van, but the wind shook the canvas so violently and made so much noise, that eventually Guy took his sleeping bag, and slept outside against the perimeter wall of the camping area, to try and get some peace and quiet!

    Next morning dawned bright and sunny, and began with preparing the bikes, covering all the lights and glass with tape, and then having them scrutineered, before a riders meeting and explanations of the track rules. Since these were all in French, Guy had to constantly translate for me.

    Martin had hired a trackside garage, so we were able to use this, along with several others who appeared to be track day regulars. Martin’s Ducati was fitted with a lap timer on the tank, and he had a lad with him, who in between sessions would change the Ohlins shock for a Showa, or fit a new set of brake pads and bleed the brakes, this was serious stuff! Others in this group included a rep from Motorex Oils with a ZX9, a lad with an Aprillia RS250 who was apparently known as a serial crasher, and one guy who seemed to spend each session on a different bike.

    Tension mounted as eventually my group, debutantes, was called onto track. We followed the track leader for one or two circuits before he peeled off and we were able to make our own pace. It was quickly apparent that Guy was noticeably quicker than me,and he soon pulled away, leaning gracefully into the bends and stylishly showing how it should be done. First time out you are paranoid about keeping upright, but on the second session the nerves have died a little and it’s possible to try and pick up the pace and go faster. Each session was 20 minutes with a scheduled 5 per day. On the third of the day, I eventually twigged that if you peel in at the marker points the whole thing becomes easier, DOH! Guy had commentated that my lines and riding were nice, but I would need to lean off further for more speed.

    Over the two days I did improve, so much so that I literally ground the hero blobs off the left footrest as I was cranked over so far. I have so many memories. Racing lap after lap with another pair of riders, one on a VFR750, the other a Firestorm, and despite not understanding each others languages, in the paddock afterwards, figuring out that we were enjoying the contest (they had ridden their bikes down to the circuit, and lived at least 3 hours the other side of Geneva, so really needed to get their bikes back in one piece!);  admiring the showmanlike arrival of a pair of identical TL1000Rs, with both male and female riders in matching leathers, who then proceeded to blitz round the track in unison; the sound of another TLR with titanium cans blipping down gears for the long left hander at the end of the straight, and being amazed at the speeds the really quick guys could turn into this bend and not crash!; the strength of the wind which was so strong, that on the second gear hammer up from the bottom hairpin, and with the front end trying to lift under power, you were fighting against being blown across the track; needing to come in before the end of one or two sessions as I felt myself getting ragged and in danger of crashing. Perhaps my most embarrassing memory, was being lapped by a woman on a 916, who despite her diminutive frame, managed to lap an awful lot of our group!

    I decided to have my efforts immortalised on tape, so with a TLR camera bike following for 6 laps, I tried my best to be quick. Watching the tape a few weeks later, I ended up shouting at myself to go faster. The noise heard on the tape is that of the TLR, which is a low revving 1000cc twin, whose sound was making my all out efforts look pathetic. Despite overtaking at least 6 people, the realities of my performance were obvious, when he eventually peeled off and disappeared within a short space of time. I had a fabulous time, but at quite some cost, as sharing petrol with Guys 4 litre Range Rover was not cheap, but I’m glad I did it, and would like to go back one day to see if times have improved.

    Update 2012- I finally made it back.  Only took 13 years and I can confirm it’s still as tricky as I found it the first time!.


  • Race circuits ridden

    UK-

    Donington Park on CBR600’s and CBR1000RR Fireblades at Ron Haslam Race School. Gained 98% mark from instructor and best lap time of 1m.55sec. (anything under 2.00m is considered fast apparently!).

    Silverstone on 2010 CBR1000RR Fire Blade

     

    Germany-

    Hockenheim on Honda RC45, Suzuki GSXR1000K2, Kawasaki ZX-10R and R1

    07-24-219

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    France

    Ledenon on VFR800 and R1

    Paul Ricard (Le Castellet) on RC45

     

    Magny Cours GP and Club on RC45

    Anneau du Rhin on RC45

    Bresse on RC45

    Dijon on R1

     

    SPAIN-

    Motorland Aragon on R1