In at the deep end

Af­ter many years away from sports­bikes, PB’s we­b­cam-tot­ing Peep­ing Tom takes to Sil­ver­stone’s GP cir­cuit like a duck to wa­ter

Performance Bikes (UK) - - LONG-TERMERS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Pic­man

I’M NOT WET be­hind the ears when it comes to sports­bikes. I’ve owned my fair share, and I’ve got the shred­ded slid­ers to prove it. How­ever, I’ve never con­sid­ered my­self in pos­ses­sion of any­thing ap­proach­ing god­like sta­tus when it comes to track riding.

So, on ar­rival at Sil­ver­stone for Suzuki’s re­cent own­ers-only track­day, I was straight off to the paddock bogs when I re­alised some­one had booked me on to the Ad­vanced group (noth­ing to do with me, hon­est... CN), where I’d be mix­ing it with cir­cuit-hard­ened, sea­soned track hooli­gans and BSB rid­ers.

It was my first visit to the Northants cir­cuit, and my ini­tial im­pres­sion was of just how wide and quick the track is. Me and my GSX-R1000R were shar­ing the hal­lowed tar­mac with ex­pe­ri­enced track an­i­mals on ded­i­cated race ma­chin­ery, equipped with slicks, tyre warm­ers, and top-notch cir­cuit knowl­edge. Time to leave a few more skid marks in trap two...

I have been su­per im­pressed with the GSX-R so far as a road bike. Be­fore I took over stew­ard­ship of this bike, I’d imag­ined my head-down, arse-up days were over, but this lit­tle blue mis­sile con­tin­ues to con­vince me oth­er­wise. I al­ready knew the bike was great on the street; now I was ex­cited to see how it han­dled the track en­vi­ron­ment.

Lin­ing up on pit­lane for the first ses­sion, I have to ad­mit I was ner­vous. I tried to calm my­self as best I could, re­peat­ing a per­sonal check­list in my mind: ‘Take your time, learn the track, don’t do any­thing silly, know your lim­its.’ But, deep down, I knew the GSX-R had my back (*in­creases trac­tion con­trol to level four... no, bet­ter make it five...).

The first ses­sion was all a bit of a blur; two sight­ing laps com­pleted and I was pleased I had man­aged to keep up with the rider in front of me (that was some­thing at least). I had al­ready put the front Bridge­stone S21 through its paces whilst brak­ing into Vale. Thank­fully, they are bloody fan­tas­tic tyres so load­ing the front up in this man­ner didn’t cause too much of a brown pants mo­ment. For the re­main­der of the ses­sion I over­took one per­son but was pretty sure I was passed by everyone else. It’s hard to be as quick as you used to be at the same time as learn­ing a tech­ni­cal cir­cuit like the Sil­ver­stone GP lay­out. Eigh­teen cor­ners take a bit of string­ing to­gether for a man of my ad­vanc­ing years.

Af­ter the ses­sion I ad­mit­ted de­feat and de­cided to drop down into the In­ters group, I per­haps could have kept pace with most of the slower rid­ers of the Ad­vanced group but de­cided it would be more fun if I could ac­tu­ally over­take some­body. I didn’t want to be

that guy who thinks he’s much faster than he ac­tu­ally is, holds peo­ple up and ba­si­cally be­comes a leather-clad rolling chi­cane.

A few ses­sions later and I was re­ally gelling with the bike and track. I had taken my R&G SpeedAn­gle GPS lap timer along with me out of cu­rios­ity. I wasn’t so much con­cerned with ac­tual lap times, but my in­ner geek was ex­cited about the abil­ity to over­lay info like lean an­gle, speed and g-force on the video I was record­ing. (OK, it was also grat­i­fy­ing to see just how my lap times were drop­ping through­out the day...)

For my first track­day on the GP cir­cuit I don’t think I dis­graced my­self. The bike, of course, was flat­ter­ing me, but I’m go­ing to take some of the credit.

Given that Suzuki had ar­ranged for some of their Bri­tish Su­per­bike rid­ers to be present for the day, along with their ma­chin­ery, I made sure that I spent some time look­ing over their bikes to see if I could get some in­spi­ra­tion for fu­ture mods.

All in all, it was a very de­cent day, and I learnt a lot. Spare a thought, how­ever, for the chap who was test riding a 2018 GSX-R1000R and man­aged to de­stroy it. His £1000 lost de­posit and sub­se­quent hos­pi­tal check-up prob­a­bly put a slight damp­ener on his day...

My bike has now been taken away by Suzuki for its out­stand­ing ECU re­call work, which is a bit of a pain in the arse as it means the bike’s go­ing to need remap­ping. More on that next month, though.

‘It was grat­i­fy­ing to see how my lap times dropped through­out the day’

Ben­nett’s knee brushes Sil­ver­stone’s his­toric tar­mac. Sportsbike pas­sion re-born...

Af­ter shed­ding 3kg in the paddock loo, John was ready for ac­tion

Every­thing was there, from Busas to BSB bikes

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