“Fast group to the pitlane, last call for fast group to the pitlane.” My heart is pumping as I’m starting to question the sense of electing to run in the fast group on my first track day since my experience at Ron Haslam’s Race school in July. I had learned a huge amount about riding the track and gone away really analyzing what is going on as I try to force a high performance motorcycle to do my bidding.
Mallory Park is a cracking circuit for my slightly exotic but very out of date bike. So as I roll down the pitlane to take my position I cannot help but feel a little overwhelmed by the motorcycle exotica that surrounds me. Thumbing the start button (I didn’t want to start the bike too early for fear of aa overheat) only serves to draw attention to myself. Most of the purebread track bikes are straight four cylinder Japanese machines with a glut more power and revs than my Italian steed. Consequently the sound of a big v-twin trying to beat itself apart stands out like Berlusconi at a meeting of Monogomists are Us. As this is the first session of the day I have no idea of what I’m in for. I’m very quickly going to find out!
It doesn’t take long before everything becomes clear. From the pitlane exit the circuit goes into the longest right hand corner I have ever ridden. Bikes swarm around me with riders leaning off them like circus acrobats. Now is not the time to consider the physics behind how this moves the centre of gravity or rider’s and bike’s combined weight, allowing a more upright position for the bike. I just need to get on and do it. The exhiliration of continual acceleration up to over 100 mph whilst my knee slider deposits itself in a not so constant arc is amazing. Focusing on the exit of the corner I’m looking for the point where I can begin to feed in more of the great gulps of power without spinning up the back wheel.
It is amazing to think of the forces that the 2 small patches of rubber I have preventing a costly departure, are keeping under check. I have at least lowered the tyre pressure and tested them whilst they cosied into the tyre warmers in order to get the optimum between squatted contact patch and tyre rigidity. The whole conundrum of cornering is summed up by a balance of vectors. The further over the bike, the greater the lateral load on the tyre. If the lateral load on the contact patch outweighs the friction between tyre and tarmac, you are destined for an early departure from the track and several nights in front of ebay to rebuild your sorry ex-bike. Of course this balance of vectors can be affected by any number of factors, most notably poor throttle control. On off throttle loads rear and front wheels respectively upsetting the balance of the bike. I’m constantly reminding myself with little chats to myself to be as smooth as possible and allow the speed to come over the next six sessions.
So I burst from the corner and tuck behind the screen on my way to the next corner, a snappy left right renowned for high sides on the exit. I want to come out of the corner well prepared for the half right half left up towards the hairpin but all in good time. Suddenly I’m faced with a new scenario that I had not really planned for. I’m following my pal who knows the circuit so I expect him to be “making progress”. He, on the other hand, has decided to have a couple of warm up laps before really getting on with business. Consequently I’m learning rapidly about the forces under braking most noteable of which is the breaking strain of the material in my underpants. His smart Blue and White Suzuki is getting larger and larger in my vision and he is moving across the track to set himself up for the chicane. Now all worries about the finer points of motorcycle poise are replaced by the finer point of having enough tarmac left to ride past because I’m not going to be stopping or turning!