Friday, 23 May 2014

“What do you mean, you’ve done race training?”

Come in number 12 your time is up!

“Like I said, I did race training at the Ron Haslam Race School

“Why the hell would you want to go and do that? Do you want to be Valentino Rossi?”

“No. Marc Marquez if you don’t mind” I replied laughing at Chris from Hopp Rider Training

“So did you enjoy it?” he replied quizzically 

“No I was shocking, I left feeling absolutely useless and wishing I’d bought a Goldwing instead of the Blade!”

Pulling out of the pit lane, the instructor stood up on the pegs and had a good look back up Wheatcroft Straight to check all was clear before the four of us, two students sandwiched between the two instructors, pulled out keeping well to the left of the track.

We steadily rode around the outside of Redgate right hander, picking up a bit of speed we  drifted across the track onto the “race line” ready to take Holllywood, a nice steady right hand curve.

Picking up a little more pace I tucked in and followed the lead instructor down through Craner Curves into Old Hairpin a right hander heading down into Starkeys Bridge, left curve before climbing up through Schwantze Curve left towards McLeans sharp right-hander. I was buzzing, full on the gas and right behind the instructor along the straight towards Coppice a twin apexed right hander. I tucked in and followed the instructor as close as I dare and as he wound her on I gave the Honda 600 a fist full heading down the straight in 3rd with the engine singing sweetly at the top of it’s voice. 

Then it was quickly full on the anchors into Fogarty Esses a quick left right chicane, I loved it sliding first one side then the other, it felt amazing. A quick slight left curve followed straight into Melbourne Hairpin a first gear right-hand hairpin that climbed up past the pit lane entrance on the left.

Rounding Goddards left hander It was full on the gas and straight down Wheatcroft Straight passing the pit lane on your left and into Redgate right-hander. Then your off around again.

The 15 minute first session flew by with myself and the other student changing lead just once half way through. What a morning this was turning out to be, even if I had had to get up at 0500 hours to ride the 2 hours down to Donnington. If this is what it was gong to be like I was going to be a very happy man indeed by the time I rode home after lunch.

Sadly that was the high point of my day, after that I had what can only be described as 

‘a major brain to limb movement malfunction of epic proportions!’ 

The rest of the morning just fell apart for me.

All the gear & no idea, Selfie!

The Eagle has landed

On arrival at 0800 hours there must have been in excess of 50 people already there. The booking in and collection of bike gear, if required that is, was running like a well oiled machine. Donnington Park is an awesome place and I was blown away with the professionalism of everyone involved. 

From the ladies on the check in desk, booking in the groups at exactly the specified time, my time slot was 0835 hours on the dot, to the ladies issuing full leathers, gloves, boots & helmets. If you use your own kit everything is checked with particular attention being given to ensure your helmet is of race standard carrying the Gold Kit Stamp, if it’s not you need to borrow one of the schools. You can even leave your belongings in the yellow plastic box for safe keeping. I chose to hang on to my mobile so I could snap a few photo’s in the pit lane but handed in my rucksack.

Reception working like a well oiled machine

Waiting area with kit store in the background

Shortly after signing in, time being allowed for the folks borrowing kit to get changed, our group of 12 was called forward. We were the second group of the day on the Premier (insert beginners or first timers here). There was a group of ‘Elite Riders’ to our right as we went through to the briefing room, one of which I’d been chatting to earlier. “You’ll love it mate, this is my 5th time on the Elite course and I learn something new every time I come” he’d enthused earlier in the waiting area.

The briefing was well presented and clear. All safety issues were discussed thoroughly and the break down of two students to one instructor. As it happened we had two instructs with myself and my ridding buddy. You get 3 x 15 minute riding sessions with a de-brief after each session. After about 15 minutes we were lead through to the pit lane to meet both our instructors and our Honda CBR600’s which the school provides in the fee of £295. (£245 if you book well in advance which I had done back in December of last year).

"There are many like it...

... but this one is mine, ish!"

Meet the guy's
Lead instructor on the right

The first session over we were taken into the garage area where another CBR600 on rear paddock stand is sat and the instructor then critiques your ride. The bike you had just been riding doesn’t just sit there waiting for your return its off out with the next group, instantly! I was amazed how slick the change overs were.

Sadly for me this is where I realised my 34 years of road riding were to have a devastating effect on what was to come next.

My first session critique was very positive, great on the acceleration and breaking, good lines but I needed to sit back further and not change gear so much and let the engine work more. All great advice which I totally understood but never having ‘rung a bikes neck’ that I have owned it all felt very alien.

Then the bomb shell was dropped which totally blew me apart.

“Right Raymondo sit on the bike. Now lean as if your going around a corner. WRONG!”


“Slide to the back of the seat, bend your arms, and slide you bum off the seat and stick your knee out at a right angle to the bike. Align your head with the break or clutch lever depending on which way your turning. How does that feel?”

“Odd!” came my somewhat confused reply

Having sent the last 34 years learning to hang onto some amazingly quick bikes like my CBR1000 back in the 80’s, ZXR750 in the 90’s my 675 in 09 and now my glorious CBR1000RR I was being asked to “Hang-Off” the seat. Now I understand the idea that it allows you to corner at much greater speeds and keep far more rubber on the track but my brain just would not ‘re-boot’ at all.

Knee out, arm bent, bum.... not moving an inch....

Heading out onto the second 15 minute session I was thinking about what I’d just been very clearly instructed to do. This is what was going on in my head…..

“Right Raymondo, you can do this you old fart”

“Think, right hander, knee out, body over or was that bum over, no, no body over”

“Left, turn left, slide back left knee out, body back, slide over so body in line with clutch, shit forgot to stick my arse out”

“Come on you dozy old git! Right-hander coming up, what’s it called again? Who gives a shit what its called concentrate, right knee out, bum out, body over the brake lever, bend elbows, now we’re …. Oh Bloody hell!!!!”

“Shit what happened there, bloody hell I forgot to break and nearly rammed the instructor up the back end going into Old Hairpin, this is not good, not good at all!”

“Your not having a good time Raymondo, this is not what I expected to happen at all. Well you wanted to ride around a bloody race track you gormless old fart, hey less of the old, gormless maybe!”

“CONCENTRATE, right, you can do this, like hell I can, no you can here we go, wind it on up the left hander with left knee out and body back bum off the seat, thats it now where should my body be, oh bollocks”

Pulling into the pit lane I was shattered both physically but more mentally. Sweating profusely and so confused I could not believe how much over thinking I was doing! 

“How did that feel Raymondo”

“Shocking!” (I may have swore but I think I managed to refrain).

The whole session had passed in a frenzy of mixed up thoughts and manoeuvres that I was just glad to be dismounting.

We we’re all lead back into a pit lain briefing room and given the option of a bottle of water or an  energy drink. I opted for water because if I’d have had anymore adrenaline buzzing through my body my heart would have given me a nudge and said “Your 52, do you want to see 53 lad?”.

More yet boy, more yet!

The briefing was about 10 - 15 minutes long in which time the instructors also had a meeting about us! 

I was so hacked off at this point that I cannot remember a single thing that was said in the briefing.

Returning to the track side the instructor informed me that the student I’d been riding with would have the last session with another instructor. He was apparently training to race in some 250cc tournament and was getting some one on one. What my dysfunctional brain told me was……

“Raymondo you’re shit and the poor sod is fed up of watching you ride like a prat!”

The last session was taken back to basics for the first lap then the second was mainly spent off the racing line allowing the “Elite” class to fly past on the 1000RR’s I began to hate every inch of the track.

What made it worse was my lack of mind to limb control!

In a vain attempt to sort out my massively malfunctioning brain to limb disorder the instructed had come up with a plan prior to heading out on the last session.

“When we go around a corner I’ll be watching your body and if your not in the right position I’ll tap the rear of my bike for you to put your knee out and my shoulder to put your body over the clutch or brake. Do you get it?”

“Yes” I replied with the interest of a Mc Donald's drive through assistant 

“Right come on this is the last session lets make it count” he replied trying to bring my disinterested soul back to life.

“Riding around following an instructor doing what I can only describe as a deranged version of the ‘Birdy Dance’ just added insult to injury’

“Raymondo you need to sort your shit out lad OK!, YES here we go, left-hander slide back, knee out, elbows bent, body over clutch, whys my bum sliding back onto the seat every time he pats his seat?”

“Tap seat, slide bum out, right no left no right OH Shit!”  At which point I just cracked up laughing and rode the last lap in hysterics. 

“Shoulder, body over why does he keep tapping his seat my bums off the seat or is it no its back on the seat again, OH just take me to the pit lane NOW!”

And to my relief thats exactly what happen and my “Birdy Dancing” instructor happily told me I’d done alright which again my brain translated to,

“Thank the Lord that is over my bloody arms and shoulders are killing me from all that dancing’ please don’t book again for a while Raymondo!”

We were then instructed to return to the original briefing room for a final de-brief and to receive our certificate of attendance. To be honest at that moment I could have just rode home but thought better of it.

The de-brief was interesting and we all receive said certificate with a separate sheet with our feedback on it. Mine was a little hard to read but I put that down to the aching arms after all the ‘Birdy Dancing’ my instructor had just been doing. 

75% was not great but far better than I’d expected to be honest. Braking and accelerating were top makes with corner exit coming a close second! That was probably down to the fact that I’d naffed the entry up so often I just wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible!

I rode back through my beloved Derbyshire in a thunder storm thinking about buying a Honda Goldwing. Feeling so dejected and depressed its taken me 3 weeks to put pen to paper, or fingers to keypad to be exact. Only recently enjoying what can best be described as a ‘spirited ride home’ which without even thinking about it had me “hanging off like a pro” ‘In my mind’ that is.

So what happens now, well I’ve signed up for more training of a different kind at Cadwell Park next month with Hopp Rider Training which I’m really looking forward to. Oh and to ensure I don’t get rusty I’m doing a NoLimits Track Day at Oulton Park on the 10th of June with my good mate Lefty! 

Bloody NoLimits Track Day, I can’t wait!

Best shot of the day thanks to 
Ron Haslam Race School Photographs

Just remember folk’s “Ride well & stay safe, It’s a jungle out there” 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. Good on you Raymondo, I've never had the urge to get on the track but the thought terrifies me, follow your dreams!

  4. Why was my comment removed ?. It didn't have anything controversial in it. I'm a tad confused.