Mallory Park Track Day 27 April 2012
To get my eye in and more importantly bum on the seat of my GSXR I decided to do a track day on the Friday before the races on Sunday. This marked a number of firsts: First time out on the Gixxer this year, the first time with it’s new fairing, first time with the van… and as it would happen the first time I have ridden in monsoon conditions.
I set off late down to some friends that live literally on Mallory’s doorstep on the Thursday night in conditions that would be best described as mixed. As I pulled up I thought to myself “this doesn’t look too bad, we might get a couple of dry-ish sessions tomorrow”. Boy was I wrong.
Up early doors and too the circuit for about 07:00 and park up next to Jo #52 in the Mini Twins. Run the bike out and decide that swapping the wheels to wets would be a good call, sign on and wait for Doog to make an appearance. He does and the briefing is called. All the standard stuff and we are told our group is out first.
Some how along the way time disappears and as the fast group roll out I am still faffing getting into leathers and so miss the 3 sighting laps. I am held at the pit lane and told that I have missed them and “do I mind”, no I am sensible enough to know it’s wet and to take it easy. I filter out into an area with no bikes and around Gerrard’s. It’s wet, not too wet but raining and I am being careful. Out of Gerrard’s and into Edwinia’s all tentative, as I have seen too many people on the floor here. Out on to Lakeside Esses and up the gears… and out comes the back. That’s a warning not to take liberties. Nothing to drastic and I quickly put it in the folder in my head marked “cold tyres, slippy conditions, don’t be stupid” and continue on. I get about 5 laps in with no real drama before my fuel light comes on, I hadn’t filled up before going out as I just wanted a good shakedown and check over. I do another lap or 2 with no real dramas and head in. It’s odd that Suzuki make the light flash to start with and then make it constant when you are REALLY out of fuel, the other way round would be more sensible in my world.
Back in the pit it starts to rain a bit heavier as I check over the bike. Nothing leaking, falling off, burning so all good. I am not enjoying the wet but it is something I will have to get used too. I am not feeling at one with the bike and it just isn’t gelling together, later on looking at the photos taken by the track day organisers photographer I can see I am riding very stiff all day, which isn’t a good sign.
The next session the rain is heavier still. There is nothing to say really about this session. I don’t seem to be confident and I am not going to push the point. Today is all about seat time and getting used to everything. I am slow and I know it, I am just feeling my way in and stay out of the way when I can. I don’t do the full session as my fingers are very cold and I decide to pull in as I am loosing feeling on my right hand, not something you want.
Back in the pits and off to cafe for a nice warming cup of coffee. In the the down time I am trying to in my mind dissect my ridding and it’s not looking good. I just have no feeling from the bike. I was going to have the GSXR’s suspension set by Colin at 100% Suspension, who where at the track day, but I decided not to, as it’s more the dry I want set up for… this may be a mistake but I feel that all I would be doing would be throwing money away at this point.
Next session is more of the same. The situation is the same, heavy rain and standing water is now forming. I am tentative and get passed by what feels like everyone out there. I let the tyres heat up a bit and then start to push a bit more after a few laps. I start feeling a bit better, not a massive amount, but a bit. I head into the Lakeside Esses and as I switch from right to left I have a massive slide. This is the biggest slide I have ever had. My left boot touches down on the ground and my calf gets a smack from the foot peg. It all comes straight and I continue on my way. I force another couple of laps to make sure I don’t get a mental block. The rest of the session goes with out any incident, well for me at any rate.
The next session is the worst of the weather. Doog decides not to go out, nothing to do with the weather but with a slight issue with his bike. I head out, with a very small number of others. There is standing water in Gerrard’s which is very disconcerting and a full on river running through the Devil’s Elbow. No hero moments this session, it really was a case of survival. I simply go through the motions, slow it down and make it smooth. I try to figure out what is wrong with me and work on throttle control, which is tricky with the conditions being so bad… trying to keep a positive throttle through standing water and running rivers is very hard. I am thankful to see the flag out to end the session.
Around the paddock I chat about, trying to put my problems with the conditions and getting use to the bike in perspective and getting any advice I can.
The weather improves marginally for the next session. It’s not good by any means but it’s not as bad as it has been. I am slow again and trying to find some sort of comfort level. I am not worried I get passed by virtually everyone, I manage to get ahead of an R6 and CBR but I am being left standing by Doog and Jo on their SV Mini Twins. Then I see a bike on the deck at Edwina’s, and it’s Jo. Damn it, she was really on it and was showing me how it was done. She has her hand up, so not too bad then I though and with the red flag out we filter in to the pits. I speak with Gary and tell him she looked fine to me and had her hand up.
An announcement comes across that “That’s your lot for the day” as there is no more ambulances at track side. I can’t say I am overly concerned as the condition are taking away from the fun. Myself and Doog go for another coffee in the cafe and a chat with the person that runs it. It’s a long chat…. a very long chat. Then we notice that there are bikes out again. So much for that being that. We get called up again and we are back out. With people packing up and leaving they add the inters into the fast group and we are warned that they have done that. The track is the best it has been all day, with a drying line appearing during the session. I am still riding too stiff and I am starting to think this track day has done more harm than good to my riding. I am upping the tempo a bit lap after lap but still using my very wet braking points, turning in too early to Gerrard’s to stay on the drier part of the track and riding like a pansy. Still this is a track day and not a race so there are no points for lobbing it down the track. The flag comes out and that’s it for the day.