Mike Hoppitt- Track day review

October 24, 2011

CIA Insurance General Blog

One of our own motorcycle insurance telesales advisors took to the race track for the first time last week. Here in his own words, Mike Hoppitt, has given us his own account of his day on the track.

Mike Hoppitt

On a windy September day I had my first introduction to track days at Donington Park, preceded by at least a week of worrying about my riding skills, what the weather would be, and if my bike and myself would end the day in one piece.  

Having booked the track day with Focused Events the week before, we turned up early and got settled into one of the many garages lining the pit lane – the very same garages used by all the top racing teams that frequent Donington. A quick walk down the pit lane to attend the safety brief gave me a great chance to see all the biking exotica lined up in the other garages. There was a mix of street bikes and track bikes alike, with everything from the latest Ducatis, Aprilias and BMWs, to a couple of 10 year old Triumph Sprint 955’s.

We were split into 3 groups depending on experience, and by 9a.m my group was taken out by the team of instructors for 3 slow laps to get a feel of the track, then straight onto our first 20 minute session. Blasting out of the pit lane straight into the first corner on my K1 Suzuki GSXR-600 was a surreal experience, having seen it so many times on the television or from the grandstands it felt great to finally be out there myself.

Mike With his K1 Suzuki GSXR-600

I started out slow for the first few laps to get my tyres warm, gradually getting the corner speed up and braking a bit less each lap. I started out fairly nervous, but quickly became more and more confident as I realized there was bags of grip and lean angle to be had, and if all else failed, plenty of run off room into the gravel traps, where at least a couple of people a session ended up.

Each session was enough for about 8 laps, with a total of 6 sessions throughout the day. The 40 minutes between sessions was the perfect amount of time to get yourself rested and grab a cup of coffee ready for the next session, and to let you go watch the bikes in the faster groups blast down the start / finish straight by the garages. The sight and sound of the bikes flying past you at full throttle was worth the track day fee alone, where else could you see Ducatis, Aprilias and KTM v-twins being chased down by Japanese fours at speeds that you would lose your license for?

There were many instructors on hand, as well as lots of other riders eager to share their expertise and advice. I went out with an instructor for a few laps so he could show me the best lines and speed through each corner, which was a massive help for the rest of the day.  Spending a day on the track taught me a lot of things about riding – mainly that a bike is often a lot more capable than its rider, you can brake later, steer quicker, and carry a lot more corner speed than you are used to doing on the road. It really helps you become a lot smoother as a rider, being able to concentrate on your riding and not having to look out for everyday hazards like when out on the road. The next day when I went out on the road, my cornering was a lot smoother and my lines more precise, but more importantly I had a lot more confidence in myself and my bike having seen what it was capable of doing.

Riding on the track is a great way to give you a good thrill and to ride how you’ve always wanted to in relative safety, there’s lots of grip, lots of room and you’re surrounded by lots of like minded people. It’s a completely different feeling to riding on the road, you’re constantly at full throttle with your eyes on stalks at maximum concentration, all you’re thinking about is the next corner, your track position, and where everyone else is around you. The only real drawbacks compared to road riding is the lack of changing scenery and different roads – you quickly learn every corner, bumpy bit and layout of the track, after 2 hours of riding it can feel a tiny bit repetitive, and you obviously don’t have the freedom to ride off to wherever you want to!  

The whole experience was extremely enjoyable, something everyone who owns a bike needs to do it at some point, it doesn’t cost a huge amount of money and is a lot easier to arrange and to do than I ever imagined. Its great to get a small taste of what bike racers experience, and to be able to stretch the legs of your bike a bit more than you usually would. I was able to hire an on-board camera with GPS telemetry showing track position and speed, this was a great souvenir for the day, but you don’t realise until you watch it back at home just how many times you get overtaken!

Mike at the track day, Donington Park

We hope you found this information useful. Please remember to use CIA Insurance when you or your family and friends need motorcycle insurance, landlords insurance or commercial insurance.

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