My first track day… (Eastern Creek Raceway)

Filed in Riding by on August 15, 2010 0 Comments

It started with a friend casually mentioning he was thinking of doing a track day on the 14th of August. For some reason this got to me, I jumped on RATS and saw a thread up with a proposed TD on the 14th. So in wondering whether I do it or not, I put up a thread debating between this and CSS (California Superbike School). Ended up choosing this as it was sooner plus cheaper too.

After that decision was made, I started getting my bike ready, new oil + filter, coolant and just a general tidy up from a mechanic and also installing frame sliders and bar ends I had bought a while back in case of the worst.

So the night before I packed a box with the little tools, fluids and assorted bits I had with the idea of getting everything ready and getting a good nights sleep after a long week at work… That didn’t work out, got to bed late and then all I remember is numerous dreams about being on the track and being utterly terrified.

Woke up the next morning feeling a bit tired but still managed to get ready, geared up and out into the cold morning. On the way there I was freezing as my leathers are all vented, I hindsight, more clothes underneath and a balaclava would’ve been wise.

My excitement was getting more as I saw bikes being trailered on the way there. After being signed in through the security gates got told that I had to take the bike to scrutineering then registration before I could go to the garage. Got through scrutineering just fine aside from having my mirrors taped up since I didn’t know how to remove them (integrated blinker in Gixxer mirror). I was then told to take my bike to the garage and then come back to register.

Once I wheeled over to the RATS garage and introduced myself to James (SP1) I set about attempting to get the mirrors off as they looked plain ugly and was assisted by Bruce (blackzook) who along with Heidi helped me throughout the day with my many questions. Which I must note, is very comforting to have someone who knows what’s going on around you.

However, rejoicing in my new found ability to remove my mirrors I forgot to go to registration and when the briefing call came out I ran over to the registration garage to be told I was too late and to get to the briefing. My first thought was sheer panic at the thought of losing my whole day but then realized I could do it after. So after the rider briefing and the first timers talk from Al, I went over to do my paperwork. At which point I was panicking about missing out on the orientation lap. So ran back to my bike, and got out there just behind the last bike.

What I didn’t realize is that the orientation lap was a part of my first session, so I didn’t overtake and just sat back quietly. After 3 laps I realized my stupidity and started going for it.

My impressions of my first session – Well, I nearly ran up the ass of one guy, in general everyone was just braking so hard for corners. And when they’d brake I’d panic and focus on their rear wheel. And when I did pass, it was a bit too shaky for my liking. So I came in from my first session and when anyone asked how I went my answer was ‘messy’. I just found the concept of so many bikes around me taking whatever line they wanted without being able to monitor what’s around me a bit daunting. Given that Ive only ridden on the road where its one bike in my immediate space this was a real shock.

So I went and spoke to Al who gave me the simplest yet most useful piece of advice; “Don’t worry about them, pick your line and stick to it’. I’m so glad I asked him as I took on that advice and after the 2nd session I came back grinning like an idiot. I had gotten my head around the concept of not worrying about whats behind me and started focusing on learning the turns and starting to improve my body positioning and vision. At the end of the 2nd session I proceeded to grab a pen and piece of paper (JPM flyer lol) and made notes on my thoughts and concerns of each turn and again took these to Al for review. So below I’ll write out what I thought of each turn initially and if applicable how I dealt with it in an effort to improve based on advice I received from Al and other riders.

Turn 1 – I started off taking this quite slowly which meant it was more of a straight to me rather than a turn, but then I started building up my speed on the straight and carrying more and more speed into T1. By session 5 I was taking it at about 150km and loving it and it was being treated as a turn. I shared this with a RAT and he advised me to not get too cocky. And lo and behold, in session 6 I came flying down the straight and didn’t wipe off enough speed and carried about 170kmh into the turn and started panicking and my vision started hunting towards the place I thought I was going to wipe out. Managed to get through that by forcing myself to keep looking left and then took the rest of the lap easy and proceeded to be more sensible for the rest of the session. I didn’t really have a good line for this turn as I was just going quick and making a rough line so will improve on this next time.

Turn 2 – Started off as my favourite as it was a nice left, but found everyone braking way too hard in here. This is the one where I nearly kissed someone elses rear tyre and also saw a guy sliding his rear from hard braking which made me wipe off speed a bit too rapidly too. I was starting too close in for this turn and then attempting to overtake which all added together gave me a poor setup for T3. By the end of the day I took Al’s advice, took a very wide start and late entry and held back so I could get a good setup for T3 and power through. This was a tricky one as the ripple strip just keeps going even when I think the turn is almost over.

Turn 3 – Didn’t get much form this initially but after I adjusted my T2 this became much more fun.

T4 – Always conservative on this one and usually hung to the left and a bit slow for a bit longer as I found a lot of people going in tight and let them pass if they wanted to. Had to get used to looking past the edge of the ripple strip here and I found myself focusing on it a couple of times and then finishing too tight

T5 – Fun, didn’t really pay much attention to this one even though it was good but I always found my exit to be in a variety of different places, so need to work on this one.

T6 – didn’t treat this as a turn, just moved out to the right after T5, went over the concrete patch on T6 and setup for T7

T7 – Didn’t start off as much but found I could carry some great speed through here and was a great opportunity to pass and speed down towards the bridge. And as I overheard from Al, aim for the D in SYDNEY to ensure a good setup for T8

T8 – Again conservative and more focused on my setup for T9

T9 – The one I found the most challenging. Aside from 6th gear down the straight and 5th in T1, I did the rest of the track in 4th. But I found myself literally rolling through T9 and horrible lines. I got advised that I should turn in where the access road starts so this helped my line but then I decided I must have 3rd at least so once I shifted down to 3rd found this turn much more fun ! A mental note is to try 3rd for T2 next time.

T10 – Taken conservatively as a setup for T11

T11 – Taken well but mainly to setup wide for T12

T12 – My favourite ! Just loved this one for some reason although in the afternoon the sun really hit me dead on so I had to guess where I was looking to exit. And even though they say on your last lap you should go easy on T12 so you can come into pits. I couldn’t help myself !

I don’t really know what else to write other than that it was a great day made good by good company and I can’t wait to do my next track day for which I am looking at dates for late next month. I found that when I panic I bring my knee back in and often don’t hang off enough. I’ll need to work on this and also my toes being too far forward which resulted in scrapage at T2 and a bit of a wobble of the bike.

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I take GSXRs to inappropriate places