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.
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.
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.