I was happy sailing along through life without a care in the world, and then I dropped my guard momentarily and my life changed. This is how it began, I was a 34 years old well-balanced guy with a passion for motorbikes which has been overwhelmingly strong since watching the legendary street hawk back in the 80s.
I was always building bigger and better ramps as a kid trying to lose my front teeth in a never-ending battle with milk crates and plywood. You’re only the winner until the first time you lose then second place involves you picking hardcore from your bleeding lips with your mum’s tweezers.
That said I was the local hero because I could sail through the air oblivious to the obvious dangers and land clear of 10 long and 3 high milk crates. The plastic surgeon repairing me thought I was fantastic, well at least that’s what I told myself. So then my dad bought me a Honda cr80 for Christmas this was just what I needed something I could jump higher and further on, the only person happier was the plastic surgeon who was over the moon knowing his job would never be made redundant.
After many months scrambling through deep mud with short legs, I decided that racing motocross was not for the vertically challenged. I went with a motorcycling sport that didn’t discriminate against us shorties out there trials riding. A slow test of balance skill and throttle control, after many years competing at the regional and national level the trials bike had to go to fund the first car. So back to the track day.
My friends have been racing and enjoying track days for many years and they try and persuade me on a weekly basis that it’s the best thing since alcohol. My friends have a mixed ability from an ex British superbike rider to an idiot with a licence (Sean). I eventually succumbed and gave in just to stop them ranting and raving about it. So five minutes after I agreed they kindly told me they had booked a Donnington Park track day. Oh dear, it seems real now but I do love a challenge so I embraced it with both arms.
A slight problem
There was a slight problem well two really I had never ridden a sports bike and I didn’t have a sports bike. Problem two was an easy resolve I will buy a little cheapy service it and I’m ready to roll. Problem one was not such an easy fix because as we all know you cannot buy time or experience.
After many hours on YouTube going round Donnington on somebody’s bike cam I felt confident that I was a bloody idiot for agreeing to do this. I can’t back out now so I bought the first cheap bike that came along a Suzuki gsxr 600 I bought this bike from webuyanybike.com the bike had done 31000 miles and was perfect for me to do my first track day on. I had the brakes checked and it was ready to go, I bought some second-hand leathers gloves and boots and ordered some bravery pills extra strong off of eBay.
You won’t see me for dust
There was a lot of man banter on the run-up to the day, ill beat you and you won’t see me for dust etc etc, it was playground banter but even so I spent more time glued to the iPad doing lap after lap trying to learn the circuit so I wasn’t the slowest there. The big day came and we agreed to meet early in the morning and get all gear loaded into the van. The last time I saw this much stuff I was moving house there was tool boxes, tyres, generators, fuel cans, tyre warmers, stands clothing it was epic.
It seemed like a lot of hassle for a few laps round a track but many hands made light work and we chipped in and we were off. I was nervous and soon needed the dreaded competition wee, after ten toilet stops we arrived at our track day or was it a British Superbike meeting there was race trucks awnings and a serious amount testosterone. My friends were well connected and well respected in the garages and lots of handshaking and high fives were secondary to stories of big crashes and back shifting, backshifting you may ask what that is? I was bollocksed if I knew I just nodded a lot and pretended to be injured (everyone else seemed to have one so I didn’t want to be left out) biking terminology was completely alien to me and sounded a little weird that grown men were talking about backing in and pulling it in tighter.
Everybody falls off
We got all the gear set up and it was time for the toilet again not the cleanest by the way. Then it was signing on time and confirming that if you do crash you are solely to blame and will not get paid when you are off work. My friend was very reassuring and told me straight everybody falls off sooner or later; I was wondering if my old friend the plastic surgeon was still around. So I went to the safety meeting and I was nervous. I didn’t hear a thing being said. I just saw a guy waving a flag about I nearly surrounded at that point.
The next thing I knew it was the slow groups call to pit lane. So I wobbled down pit lane like a rank amateur. I lined up behind a mixed bunch of bikes and riders. But directly in front of me there was a Honda Fireblade. No more than a couple of months old in Repsol replica colours. I wondered if Danni Pedrosa was hiding under the helmet. If I overtake him I will tell all my non-biking friends that it probably was Moto GP star Danni Pedrosa testing the new blade for the Honda factory. I overtook him back shifting or some other track day description that would make me sound fast.
I was still in this daydream when the Yamaha R1 next to me set off. Away I went 3 three slow laps behind the instructor. I blinked and they were gone oh-oh I’m way out of my depth here. So I dug deep twisted my right wrist and made some progress I was getting to grips with the bike the track and leaning off at speed.
My heart was pumping
Then it was time to come in my heart was pumping. All of a sudden I understood the pit lane lingo. I was a biker albeit a bad one but a biker none the less. I was waiting in anticipation for my next go. Three trips to the toilet and I was lined up next to a Yamaha Fjr 1300 with luggage on. Now, this was my challenge to beat an old man on a fully lugged touring bike. I blasted him straight away. Could I have missed my calling could I be a superbike rider?… wake up there’s a corner coming.
My next victim was an old guy on a Yamaha Fazer 1000. He was overtaking people so I stayed with him and followed his lines for a couple of laps. Before taking him on the brakes into a sharp right-hander. I headed back into the pits complaining of brake fade. Only to find my fork seals leaking oil onto my front discs.
So, I cleaned the best possible and was ready for the next session. This is where it got interesting my friend Kyle was out within this session. This being his first track day as well on a 2002 Aprilia Rsv. 1000 mile so he had the better bike with more power. Kyle is a natural on a bike having grown up with them all his life. He is the local wheely king at a mere 21 years old. He is also very brave and a little stupid.
Kyle was immediately fast very fast
We set off together with me letting him go in front Kyle was immediately fast very fast. I had to up my game just to keep the pace after a few laps. I knew I was faster and could overtake at will. But I followed and watched his line then picked my time. Kyle was a lot slower than me around the last left hander. Before the start-finish straight so I made my move. I ran in slower and got on the gas faster and overtook him in a straight line. Past the pit lane with the crowds cheering and chanting (slight exaggeration) I pulled away and showed the wheely kind, a clean pair of heels.
After lunch, Kyle and I were destroying the slow group. So we requested a move into the intermediate group. This was much closer to our level and creating some good close battles. After the sessions were over, it was time to pack up the kit. We had our journey home to reflect on one of the best days ever.
The feeling of adrenaline was incredible
The rush of speed and intense braking. That was something you just don’t get from going slowly over rocks on a trials bike. The small white lies about having my knee down were just a man thing. Everybody on the day was describing the feeling of being so low that the knee is literally touching the ground. Going around corners (I’m not sure this is a good thing). My excuse is my legs are shorter so I have to lean over further. My day will come and I came away safe with the bike intact. All my limbs pointing in the right direction oh and just a side note.
I BEAT KYLE!!
To be continued on a 2006 Yamaha R6 at Cadwell Park…