Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The chaos of starting afresh here in the UK has not yet ceased. From when we collected our van, it has been a mad-house trying to get it kitted out for racing, along with preparing for our first trackday thrown in to the equation; it was a relief to get to Brands Hatch and put some laps in!

We collected our new Triumph Daytona 675 TTC race bike from T3 racing in our new van on Wednesday, and a day later we were on our way to the legendary Brands Hatch. When we drove into the circuit, it was immediate that we were on a truly world class stage for our opening round of the championship. I have never seen a neater and well-maintained circuit, with its massive media centres and World Superbike spec pits, it makes you fully aware of the fact that this is what racing is about at the highest level.

We got the bike out, gave it a ‘once-over’, and I got out for the first session. My first greeting came from Paddock Hill bend – a corner that no simulator, TV footage, or any description can do justice for what it is actually like to ride it. You enter on a completely blind rise, onto a plateau which curves gradually, and then drop down, blind again, into the dip at the bottom of the hill. The G-forces are incredible as you start accelerating up the other side towards Druids with the back tyre squirming under the weight of the G-forces and the compressed suspension.

Druids is a tight hairpin that leads you into another rapid downhill acceleration towards Graeme Hill bend. Graeme Hill is left hander at the bottom of the hill that starts as an off-camber, and becomes an on-camber mid corner, the flattens out on the exit – This track is amazing with it’s undulations.

Since we’re racing the Indy(shorter) circuit, you then accelerate down Copper straight, pitch in to a left hand sweep, and then flick right into McLaren – a 90deg right which leads into another drop down to the bottom of Clearways. Clearways then changes from an off-camber to an on-camber, and you can open up the throttle through this long right hand sweep which gradually opens up to the start/finish straight.

It’s a short lap, but what a lap! With over 100 laps completed, we came within reach of competitive times by the end of the day, but still had more to learn.

We returned to Brands the next Monday (26 March) for our second outing. With some base lines to work off, we had a much better understanding of what we needed to work on and achieve. Every lap of the circuit is awesome, but I needed to make up some time to get into top 10 pace, so lines and gearing became top priority. With some local knowledge coming my way from one of the instructors, and a few small adjustments to suspension, I really got to grips with the bike’s handling. After another 100 lap day, we dropped another second off our time, which around that short circuit, is a lot! We missed our goal lap time by 0.1s, but we were happy with what we’d achieved.

The Triumph has a beautifully balanced chassis that is very forgiving through the undulations, and the smooth, torquey engine is a very easy to ride hard. Around Brands Indy, it was great fun to ride and push hard!

This was our last outing until the first race, back at Brands Hatch, for round one of the BSB series on Easter weekend (6-9 April). We will, however, be at Thruxton this weekend in a rental car, aka Rent-a-racer, for a few laps around the circuit as they don’t have public track days for motorbikes. This will be used so that I can get an idea of the layout for round 2, the weekend after Brands.

We spent today finishing off preparations on the bike for round 1, but without our equipped garage at home. We set up Egan Tuning Roadside Race-Bike Maintenance and got on with the job! The bike is now ready for action, come Brands Hatch.
We are now settled in our new flat in Colchester with fellow SA racer Bjorn Estment. It has been another big learning curve for all of us in house training! Confusion and guessing have been the main ingredients… But we’re finding our feet in the kitchen slowly. We need Roxanne to play minister of health!

It’s a beautiful little city where we are, buzzing with activity in High Street, and picturesque and serene on the outskirts in the parks and rivers. I’m enjoying it here so far, and with Britain’s hottest day of the year yesterday so far, (23deg) the weather is certainly good! But it’s still early days.


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