The mandatory briefing was at 08.30, a time which always seems unnecessarily late given that the first group is due out at 09,00, and never leaves them much time to get ready, nevertheless. the days riders crowded into the pitlane to listen to the briefing notes which were given in 4 languages, French, English, German and Flemish, to accomodate the multi national riders.
The head honcho giving the briefing was known to Andy who warned me that it may be a protracted meeting, and we soon found out why. “Normally” the trackday organisers representative welcomes you to the track, gives you a pep talk on how we’re there to enjoy ourselves not race, and to take care as they’d like us all to go home in one piece. I say normally, because that didn’t happen today. As he talked, if he didn’t have 100% of the attendees attention and he heard anyone talking whilst he was, he would just stop talking. After a few stoppages he pointed to the watch on his wrist and told us he had plenty of time even if we didn’t!
Not a great way to endear yourself to people whose money you’ve taken and who want to hear the briefing and get on with it. When he stopped and directly addressed a guy on crutches who he claimed wasn’t listening, the guy had a great put down line, saying he wasn’t riding (check out the crutches) and that he should get on with it!
After the ultra officious briefing which probably alienated a great number of the riders and certainly didn’t win him any friends, finally it was over and the day was able to commence with the first group at 09.00.
The format of the day was a bit different from that we’d expected. Originally when we’d signed up the schedule showed there would be four groups each with 6×20 minute sessions, but there turned out to be five groups, with the format being one initial 20 minute session followed by 4x 25 minute sessions. All were chrono laps so groups would be revised after the timings from the first two sessions, revised during the lunchtime break, with the final 3 sessions run in the newly revised groups. The groups would also be revised at the end of the day for the following, and we’d need to get a new group sticker regardless of whether we stayed in the same group or not.
Andy was due out in the first session but decided not to ride as he felt the track would still be a bit cold and didn’t want to risk his R6 which he is hoping to sell shortly.
Mark and I are in Group D which means we have over an hour to wait before going on track for the first time. With Mark not having ridden his new RR, and with only two sessions in which to put in a good time if we want to move up a group, we need to ride well from the off. When our turn came to go out, we quickly found the huge disparity in skill levels the beginners group always brings ( we only booked in this group as it was the only one left with two spaces when we booked). There was such diversity of lines and variation in speeds we soon began worrying how safe it was. Panigale riders who rode like demons in a straight line and then literally parked it every time they came to a bend, riders who braked at the most inopportune time, 3 or 4 really very quick riders clearly in completely the wrong group, and young kids and women on smaller capacity bikes looked a recipe for disaster, especially given the chrono times were showing 30 seconds between the fastest and slowest, which on a 2 minute something lap is a a massive discrepancy.
Checking the laptimer at the end of the first session revealed a not too impressive fastest lap of 2.26, but we were requainting ourselves with the track and I was having some small issues with the new quickshifter, I needed to adjust the kill times and readjust the rearset which seemed to be trying to dismantle itself!
Session two and it’s Andy’s turn to go out first, and despite “only” being on a 600 he quickly made us look stupid by turning in a rapid 2.05 lap.
Next up we’re out again, here are some shots of Mark from session 2.
Leaving the paddock
Passing me towards the end of the straight
Being chased by one of the faster guys in our group
Laptimes came down to 2.20, so a 6 second improvement, but still a long way to go to the 2.14 I’d done back in 2014 and Marks previous best of 2.04.
During the 3rd session the organisers were changing the groups, so at 13.00 we checked to see if we’d done enough to improve but no joy, we hadn’t been quick enough, but were holding 22nd and 23rd positions of the 43 in our group, with the quickest having gone 2.08 and the slowest around 2.52!
With the lunchbreak groups sorted and Andy (below) still having only done one session, we decided to go and watch him in action.
I was still sorting my rearset when Mark set off for the grandstand nearby, so Sue and I told him we’d be along shortly but we didn’t find him up there! Seems he’d found a good spot to take these photos from track level whilst we watched Andy hassling the bigger bikes from above in the grandstand. Clearly quicker in the bends it must have been frustrating for him watching the 1000’s clear off as soon as the track straightened out, but nevertheless he was riding fast and well and keeping them honest.
Here are some pics of other riders in Andys group
Session 3 and I managed to knock my time down to 2.18, so another two seconds off, but I was still being hampered by a finicky gear change caused by the self destructing rearset which seemed determined to dismantle itself.
Session 4 and another drop in times down to my best of the day, a 2.17.95, whilst Mark was now at 2.16.13. They say Lorenzo is metronomic, but I was amazed to find on the fourth and fifth laps I’d put in two consecutive times of 2.21.84 and 2.21.85, how’s that for consistency?!
One of the things we all enjoy at these events is the chill out time afterwards. It’s traditional for us to all chip in and buy ham, cheese, meat, crisps, beer and wine, and sit around together and tell tall tales and recount the events of the days riding. Sue and Sev decided to go and do the supermarket run for the food but seemed to be gone ages. I joked that they could have gone to Andorra the amount of time that had passed before eventually they returned, but it seemed there had been a lot of one way streets they couldn’t enter and they’d ended up doing detours. Still, mission accomplished, we’d now got tonights repas..
I almost didn’t make the last session as the damn rearset had decided to pull a bearing through one of the moving arms and I was struggling to find a way to keep it in place. Eventually after dismantling most of the rearset and finding a big enough washer, I was able to bodge a repair which held, allowing me to get back out for the last 25 minutes, and I’m glad I did, as no-one overtook me and I was able to ride my own rhythm and pace. I didn’t improve my times but posted two very close laps at 2.19.72 and 2.19.75, split by a 2.20.30. The lap charts posted at the end of the day showed we had now moved up to 6th and 8th overall, which looked to be enough to have us moved a group for tomorrow.
With the day over after 36 laps, 218kms, and with the benefit of sun all day, we were tired but very happy to have had some great riding, next we looked forward to enjoying our evening supper.
You’ll have seen in the pictures from our arrival day that there was a lovely sunset over the paddock. I’d asked Mark to take some pictures but he’d decided to hold off until tonight to take them, so later on he disappeared off to take these pictures of the track.
After a few beers and finishing off a couple of bottles of wine it was time to turn in for the night, but we were all a bit worried that Sues online forecast of rain for the whole of the following day starting at 04.00 might be correct, hopefully not!
Day 2 –
The rain had started at around 05.00 and kept going and going and going. We got up at around 06.35 and in between the downpours started to unpack the stuff we’d been smart enough to put in the car overnight to keep dry, to repack it again for the return home. There looked to be little hope of the rain abating as the weather window my forecast had given of being clear from 09.00 to 11.00 never happened. Realising we were going to wet at some time, there was little option other than to continue packing and take down the tents in the rain. Getting wet doesn’t cover it, we were sodden, shoes swimming in water, my showerproof jacket gave up the ghost and turned into a damp sack, and hair and body got colder as we hurried to pack.
Mark and Sev were first to finish packing and leave after returning his transponder. Saying their farewells and leaving me to get his photos, they departed leaving Sue and I under the cover of Andy’s tent attached to his van, staying as dry as we could. Eventually he too had to capitulate, and after helping him pack and getting even wetter (if that were possible) we eventually left at 11.55 for the return journey.
Twenty minutes away from the circuit it was a bit galling to find that the weather was not only sunny but that it was dry, and there didn’t seem to have been any rain at all! Andy passed us after 35 minutes, and two hours into the journey we stopped to change into some drier clothes. The towels on the seats were now extremely damp, and I resorted to driving in socks as my shoes were so cold and wet.
At one of the peage toll stations, two cars and a van rushed through the telepeage automated barrier in quick succession, but the van hadn’t waited quite long enough for the car in front to pass, and we watched in amazement as the barrier lowered and then bounced back up off it’s roof! Later on we got stuck in a toll lane when the payment machine gave up working, as did another car and hapless motorist in the adjacent lane.
Snow on the mountains
Tired after a poor nights sleep in the tent again, I stopped for an hours power nap, and later on for this picture of Carcassone
An early evening petrol and snack stop plus a final comfort break completed our stop start journey, and saw us finally back home at 21.30. Only 7 hours 5 minutes of actual driving time, but a lot of stops.
Back at home and waiting to be unloaded the following day
It’s a shame we didn’t get the second day, as having identified where I could gain time, I’m sure I could have gone much quicker, but it had been safe and the most fun and satisfaction I’ve had on track for some considerable time. The change of gearing to 16/45 worked a treat and the bike had handled like a dream, so all in all a great result.
I’m looking forward to the next track outing with Andy and Mark which is likely to be at Aragon, probably my favourite track. We’ve had some fantastic rides there before and I’m sure we’ll have some great ones next time.