954 Fire­blade

Fire­blade proves per­fect part­ner for bor­na­gain track rider’s star-stud­ded come­back

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage - ped.baker@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

On track with MCN’S ag­ing leg­end

When we pur­chased the 954 Fire­blade for the long-ter­mer fleet back in March I promised my­self I’d steer clear of track­days. You’ve prob­a­bly heard the ex­pres­sion ‘the older I get, the faster I was’? Well it’s been 15 years since I last rolled down a pit­lane, and I was in for a shock.

Miche­lin of­fered us the track­day place for just £49 on their Power Day at Brands Hatch (see sep­a­rate story. be­low right) as we’d fit­ted a set of Power RS tyres to the Blade the month be­fore. The chance to ride the Brands GP cir­cuit with its fast and flow­ing wood­land sec­tion was just too tempt­ing to pass up.

I rode down to Brands Hatch from Peter­bor­ough tak­ing the A1, M11, M25 and M20. Not the most in­spir­ing two-hour jour­ney on a bike that’s loved for its abil­ity to turn quickly! Un­like many newer sports­bikes, the Blade isn’t too cramped, and with a stan­dard screen the wind­blast on your chest keeps all the weight off your wrists, at least it does if you’re over six foot tall. Vi­bra­tion isn’t a prob­lem at con­stant speeds ei­ther, as it can be when rid­ing fast and twisty roads. Higher revs in­tro­duces vibes through the bars lead­ing to pins and nee­dles af­ter an hour or so of rid­ing.

Su­per­bike and en­durance rac­ing leg­end Terry Rymer is a re­ally nice guy. Along with the Guild­ford Tyre Com­pany (GTC) Terry runs the Power Days on be­half of Miche­lin, and was avail­able through­out the day to talk about the tyres, give track tu­ition or just talk about his vast and var­ied rac­ing past. GTC also bring a stack of spare Miche­lin tyres and tyre-chang­ing equip­ment, should you need it.

Track time is shared be­tween other groups but we were only out on track with the Miche­lin group. As you need to buy a tyre from Miche­lin’s Power range to qual­ify for the day the level of the rid­ing abil­ity is pre­dictably high with many track-only ma­chines, tyre-warm­ers and sea­soned rid­ers.

The sight­ing laps seemed pretty fast to me. I’d rid­den the Brands Indy cir­cuit be­fore but the GP cir­cuit and it’s fast wood­land sec­tion was all-new. I wob­bled round the first ses­sion and breathed a huge sigh of re­lief when the che­quered flag ap­peared.

But the Fire­blade is a great bike for novice track­day rid­ers, with nim­ble, con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing han­dling, de­cent brakes and a broad spread of power that means you don’t al­ways have to in the right gear. It just works.

Af­ter a chat with Terry in the pad­dock he gave me some use­ful ad­vice on the cir­cuit and for the rest of the ses­sions my learn­ing curve was steep but by the end I could just about re­mem­ber where I was sup­posed to be!

The ma­jor­ity of the other rid­ers clearly knew where they were go­ing, buzzing past me and clear­ing off into the dis­tance at a rapid pace. It was all well-man­nered though and no-one came too close or forced me off line.

The most use­ful part of any track­day is learn­ing more about your bike and I learnt more about the Blade in a day than I’d learn in six months on the road. Not just in per­for­mance terms but also how the bike feels and re­sponds to lean an­gles and speeds that you rarely see on the road. It was a to­tal rev­e­la­tion and a fur­ther in­sight into just how blind­ingly bril­liant the 954 Fire­blade is as a used buy. Find a good one and you won’t re­gret it.

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