A Day at the Races
It started in thick fog 6:00AM Wednesday. Living in Swanage I thought the fog would only extend as far as the ridge running from Corfe to Studland but nnooo. 36 miles later, I was still wiping fog droplets from my visor with my now sodden left glove as I pulled into the meeting point at Shaftesbury. Blimey nearly everyone was there and not too bleary eyed either. Who's last? The one that lives nearest of course. Here he comes and off we go.
About an hour later we got to the circuit and it's a hive of activity already. Bikes of all shapes and sizes from RS250s, (brings a whole new meaning to being a fast lady) to a Yammy 900 Diversion (Alan Brown take note) complete with top box. I said earlier that the one nearest is the last to arrive. Now.. Alan had the good fortune of having friends who live nearby and he would stay with them the night before. Guess who was last to the circuit.
Right, first thing is to go to scrutineering. This consists of you revving the bits off your bike while some chap (language, Malcolm, language) checks how much noise it makes. Apparently the neighbours didn't notice a race circuit when they moved in and the noise makes it difficult to hear "The Archers" properly, so noise regulations are strictly adhered to. Poor Malcolm, even the addition of a mildly perforated coke can to the inside of the (standard) can didn't help. Away home and an early bath, we'll go somewhere where they don't care next time Malc'.
Sign in, show your noise test pass and our group is our own all except one stray R6 but he wasn't too quick so it didn't matter. The first session was a matter of an instructor leading everyone line astern to show you the line. It's a bit like Chinese whispers as the second man moves over slightly for the view, misses the turn in point slightly etc. so, by the time you get to the man at the back, he has no idea of the line but you do get a look a the circuit at reasonably controlled speeds.
We waited our turn nervously, we were group No. 4 and had about a 45 minute wait before our first go. Initially there was a lot of chatter but as the time approached things got quieter and quieter, then the board calling us to the pit area went up. Nigel Jones is normally a well-adjusted, thoughtful, almost steadfast sort of man…usually. If you want to see a gibbering schoolboy, running to his bike, cramming his lid on with no care for his ears and whether they stay in place or not. Loosen glove fasteners before putting them on.... no time for that. Just show Nigel an A4 sized piece of paper with the number 4 clearly printed on it. It worked every time for us.
Game on. We rolled out onto circuit and it seemed that everyone was going "hell for leather" that was just the narrow pit lane, as we ran out onto the open circuit with its vast width of tarmac, speeds seemed less somehow. Right then, a couple of calm laps to warm the tyres, end of lap one, there's a couple of slower bikes ahead, sod it the tyres are warm enough now, let's go. Out of Camp corner (a gay bloke designed it, if you were wondering!) onto the start and finish straight and full throttle, hold on, that slight kink ahead has suddenly become a bend and the faster I go the tighter it looks. Maybe I'll just shut down a tad, yes that was fine, perhaps faster next time around eh.
Up into the sweeping left, brakes, down a gear and tip it into the right-hander at Quarry, looks scary, first time round is scary but after that what a corner, if I had got my knee down it would have been here, so much grip so much space and the camber is helping too.
On into the first chicane (The Esses) careful now the exit is the first left-hander, one of only two on the whole lap, that edge of the tyre will be cold...who am I kidding, feel the grip, give it heaps and blow by the slower rider on the approach to the next fast right, short shift and power through whoo hoo I am Valentino. Mid length straight followed by a flat left (if you're feeling lucky), hard over to the left, brake and down 1 or 2 for the fast, tight and satisfying, right hand Tower bend, accelerate out, pull another gear and ooh Flip (I'm sure that's what I said) we're in the hard, hard, hard braking zone for the second chicane "Bobbies" (so named due to there being loads of coppers about here, in case you were wondering). Let it run wide, tight apex for the easy right, short shift for the next right and down to the final right good old camp corner, down shift 1 and wind it on for the next lap. Wide eyed and breathless you go for it all over again but this time just that little bit better, that little bit faster.
Nigel, Craig, Alan and myself thought we were rocking doing 1:34's, The race was won during the 2001 Aprilia RSV Challenge with a 1:11 so we thought we were doing OK on our road tyres, worrying about repair bills and getting home on it etc. but I had my bubble burst when, at the end of the day, the fast group joined ours. I won't bore you with the details, just to say that the yellow ZX6R must have been very unlucky, what with his brake failures when I needed brakes, combined with his throttle sticking open at the same time. I'm just surprised he stayed on for so many laps.
The day went on with some members just blasting away, others making good use of the instructors on hand to improve their ride. More importantly everyone had a great time at their own pace, taking part in a fun activity, which will improve their road skills as well.
One or two other "happenings" are worthy of note, so here they are:
Award for quickest improvement goes to Alan "I've never been on a track and I've only had the bike 3 weeks but your not getting past me." Edwards. Alan appeared to be happy to cruise right up to the point when he saw my front wheel alongside. I tell you I saw the little red horns come out of that shimmering chrome helmet.
Award for best-kept lawn goes to Nigel Jones and his Mountfield GSXR1000.
Award for the quickest line through the chicane goes to Nigel "what braking point" Jones for his uncanny ability to go straight on.
Award for best nutter goes to Craig Boyes and his "If you ain't used the sidewall you ain't trying" melted tyres.
Also, I was called a whatsit having waved at Fergie as I passed. He'd been to the loo and missed the start of the session and was therefore just getting up to speed.
One member was determined to ride home as upright as possible in order to preserve his melted tyre edges so he'd be able to show them off the next day.
Once again, all who attended had a great time and it was a club activity that could have been enjoyed by many more. If you fancy it let me know, we will be doing another.