Well, the first track school is finally complete, and it was a great day all around. Up to a few days before the event, the Accuweather was predicting miserable conditions, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed. Who wants to spend the first day of the season with soggy BVDs? However, providence smiled on us, and the weather really couldn’t have been better. Temps got up into the low 60s, and we stayed bone dry all day. We even had a reasonable amount of sun. As Roy pointed out, at least partly because of the cool weather, the groups stayed full right up until 5:00. Pretty cool.
So how did the day go? Really well. In spite of the fact my hard drive decided to sleep with the fishes two weeks prior to the event, glitches were few and things flowed smoothly. One thing that pleased me to no end was the number of first timers we had. 75% of the C group had never been on a race track before, and from the looks of things they all had a great time.
So what did I learn? A lot, as a matter of fact. It was my first time trying to wring the neck of the new S1000RR. Truth be told, I’m not quite sure who wrung whose neck. First session out I did something I try to never do; I just went out without reading any of the instructions. So there I am flying down the front straight having a grand old time when this big light on top of the tachometer starts blinking at me. Not knowing any better, I assumed it was the SNYI (Shift Now You Idiot) light, so being the nearest idiot, that’s what I did. The light stopped blinking, the sun shone, and all was right with the world, at least until the SNYI light started again causing a repeat of the cycle.
Okay, so at the end of the session I pulled into the pits to gather my thoughts. While looking the bike over, I realized it actually redlined at 14,000 rpm; I had been shifting at 10,000. It turns out what I thought was the SNYI light was really the PfWS (Prepare for Warp Speed) light. Hmmmm says I, I guess I should see what lies in the scary regions beyond . . .
It turns out that what lies beyond is enough power to carry the front wheel in the air for the length of the front straight. At least it did for Robbie on the race bike. I, on the other hand, ran out of courage way before that. It was fascinating (in a terrifying sort of way) to be able to turn the bars back and forth passing the start-finish line with no impact on my trajectory. Wow.
Now to the learning part. First, the simple stuff – the new Michelins stick like glue. I was comfortable with my knee down by lap 2, and I was able to touch my toe down by the second session. I’m sure there is a limit to them, but I’m not man enough to find it. Second, the S1000RR is extremely easy to ride, especially when you stay out of the last 30 horsepower.
Third, and the most important thing I (re) learned is the closer you get to the edge of your abilities, the more critical the basics become. While trying to adjust to Ludicrous Speed, I found myself doing all the stuff I tell you guys not to do. For example, it’s hard to close the throttle smoothly when you’re screaming, “Mommy!!!!” in your helmet hoping not to die. Snapping the throttle shut leads to using the brake lever like a toggle switch. Using the brakes like a toggle switch leads to an unsettled chassis at turn-in. An unsettled chassis at turn-in leads to missed reference points. Missed reference points leads to letting my eyes focus too long on the next reference point. And letting my eyes linger leads to reactive riding and erratic inputs. And to top it all off, I had such a tight grip on the bars I needed a pair of vice grips to pry my finders off at the end of the session. Too bad we didn’t film the second session. We could have titled the film “Don’t let this happen to you!” Or maybe “Friends don’t let incompetent friends drive BMWs”.
Or maybe not . . .
Happily, by the 3rd session I was starting to settle in a bit better. I backed off the speed just a bit which allowed me to be more proactive in my approach. Definitely less scary, a lot smoother and most likely faster around the track. It’s amazing to me how the difference of just a few percent (a couple of miles per hour) can tip you over from “I’m having the time of my life” to “I hope I live through this.” Lesson learned.
All in all, it was a great way to start the season. We’re up again in a week and a half. I’m not sure what Roy ordered for the lunch menu, but I’m sure it will be good. Hope to see you there.
That’s all I know. Sad, isn’t it?