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
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’
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After shedding 3kg in the paddock loo, John was ready for action
Everything was there, from Busas to BSB bikes