Thursday, 12 June 2014

"Yee Ha, I've Found my Mojo"

"Have It!"

Pulling back into the pit lane my heart was pounding, my right hand buzzing, due to over tightening my glove  as much as the adrenalin pumping through my veins like a tidal wave of excitement.

Lifting my visor I found Lefty on my right, Lee ‘The Racing Snake’ was 6 places ahead. 

“Did you see the bike on the grass” Lefty asked

“Ye, what an odd place to bin it, just after the chicane at Brittens”

“No idea but do you realise it was the Ducati that was in front of you at noise testing”

“Really, the exhaust that felt like it was punching me in the face when he started his bike up”

“Yes that’ll be the one”

“He’d actually cheered me up as well because I knew if his exhaust passed the noise check, then I’d have no problems!” 

“Right lad’s we will be doing one more Sighting Lap when we go back out then away you go” we were informed by one of the smartly attired No-Limits Staff in his full leathers with the bright green No-Limits insignia blazoned across his back, as he walked between the two rows of riders. All eagerly awaiting the return to the track.

Well it can’t be every novice group that gets Red then Black Flagged (slow down followed by return to pit lane) on their third and almost final ‘Sighting Lap’ now can it?

Big Grin's are Us!

Looking round I counted about 30 riders parked side by side in pairs waiting to head back out. Seeing the car with the box trailer finally return to the pit lane after what felt like, the longest three minutes ever, everyone started there engines. The Oulton Park Marshals in their bright orange cover-alls started waving everyone forward allowing just  six riders out at a time. As soon as those six rounded the first pit lane right-hander passing the green light they then allowed the next six out. All in rapid but safe and controlled succession, two by two they set off in first gear.

Eventually we were at the front, Lefty led the way with me tucked in behind. Rounding the pit lane right-hander we headed straight out onto the track and off across ‘The Avenue’ moving over to the left hand side of the track in a huge snake formation, passing ‘Denton’s’ turn 2, a slight right hand curve over the crest of the first hill. Then it’s off down hill into my favourite turn ‘Cascades’ turn 3 a sweeping left-handed. I tucked in and slid round as smooth as you like using all the track on the exit.

Lefty leads the way

Giving the Blade a good fist full of  gas, we were off up ‘Lakeside’ a very nice straight leading into my second favourite turn ‘Island Bend’ turn 4. Another superb left-hander which I took at a fair pace using all my concentration to not to head over too far to the left heading down into ‘Shell Oil’s Corner’ turn 5 a massive U turn that takes you back up hill and through turn 6 a slight right, then into ‘Britten’s’ turns 7,8 & 9 a left, right, left chicane.

It’s up and over ‘Hilltop’ then back down hill and full on the anchors for turn 10 a sharp right into ‘Hislops’ turn 11 sharp left chicane which flows so smoothly into ‘Knickerbrook’ turn 12 a great right-hander which has you climbing back up ‘Clay Hill’ turn 13 a blind left hand curve under the bridge. Using the full width of the track its into ‘Water Tower’ turn 14 a long left hander leading into ‘Druids Corner’ turn 15 a huge right hand turn on to ‘Warwick Bridge’ straight.

Finally you’re into ‘Lodge Corner’ turn 16 a cheeky right hand turn that drops away on exit into a deep dip and climb up and over and through ‘Deer Leap’ turn 17 a nice left hand curve that takes you under a bridge and back onto the start finish straight and past the pit lane on your right all the way down to ‘Old Hall Corner’ turn 1 a great right hander , if you can judge the entry just right.

Once the No-Limits Staff rolled on, the gloves were off and the speed increased. I’ve never felt so alive as I did at that very second. 

Full chat in third I realised I’d just hit the rev limiter heading up Lakeside after rounding Cascades with my knee millimetres from the tarmac! "In my mind".

 “One of these days Raymondo, one of these days”
Thanks to PE Photography

Back in garage one, Lefty and Lee where just de-bagging as I rolled back and parked up at the side of them. The grin on everyones faces told a thousand stories. 

“So, what do you think Raymondo?” Lefty eagerly enquired

“I f****ing Love it!” came my no holds barred response! 

“I told you, you would”, and he was right. 

After building up my last outing at Donnington Park in my mind I’d totally and utterly lost sight of what I was after and that was having some serious ‘FUN’ on my bike. 

Here we were at 10.00 hours in the morning having just finished our first of 4, 20 minute morning sessions and I was already buzzing. The intermediates had already headed out as soon as all the Novices had been checked back into the pit lane and the Fast Group were already getting their gear back on.

20 minutes flies by when you riding around this amazing circuit called Oulton Park. The fact I’d woken up in pure shock at 04.30 hours due to dreaming some one had banged on the window was long forgotten, as was the steady ride down to Oulton from Rochdale setting off at 06.00. I was absolutely buzzing with excitement and could not wait to get back out there.

Discussions of what we’d seen on the first couple of Sighting Laps, the first one of the the day being in such a strange place the speed at which some of the ‘Novices” were flying around the circuit left a little to be desired but at no point did I ever feel threatened or uncomfortable. It was simply brilliant.

Lad's Day Out
Lee 'The Racing Snake', Lefty & Yours Truly

The briefing in the restaurant had been clear, precise and very informative. Having attend the Ron Haslam Race School and given me a good understanding of the flag system so hearing it again was a nice refresher. The way the ‘Novice’ groups stayed behind and were given further instruction/guidance, I felt was brilliant.

The bacon, sausage and egg butty with a nice black coffee just finished the introduction off perfectly. Sharing the experience with my good friend Lefty and my Twitter mate of a while now, Lee ‘The Racing Snake’ just made the whole experience outstanding.

Initial Briefing, restaurant rammed!

"Novice briefing, some what depleted! 

A quick mooch around the pit lane just flagged up how many people absolutely adore track-day riding. There were around 50 riders in both the Inter’s and Fast groups with I would guess 85 to 90% of all attending being on race prepped track-day bikes.

Before long we were seeing the Inter’s coming back in and hearing the roar of the Fast group heading back out, not saying the Inter’s were any slower than the fast lads but watching them all going at it was awesome. 

The second session I followed Lefty again with Lee pretty much doing his own thing. I vaguely remember following them both then there was a bit of traffic on a few of the chicanes and we all did our own thing. One thing I was determined not to do is get sucked into a ‘race me, race me’ situation which sadly I failed to do just twice in all four sessions. 

Lee ‘The Racing Snake’ had apparently been struggling to get past me but managed it as we came up and over ‘The Avenue’ and in my eagerness to regain the lead I almost slid out the back end going through Cascades. It was exhilarating and nerve racking at the same time. Knowing that this is my bike and that I would be riding it home after the session really does keep the mind focused.

Lefty had his revenge after a few sessions, and again managed to take me just where I can’t remember, but both kindly commented on the fact that although they could catch me in the corners there was not a cat in hell’s chance of the passing me out of the bends and off up the straights as the Blade just flew away. Nothing to  do with my riding skill obviously (he says grinning from ear to ear as he types this, as I know I’ve got none!). 

Lefty in full flow
Thanks to PE Photography

The main part I struggled with in the first two sessions was Shell Oils Corner and so me being me asking one of the No-Limits Staff if he’d take me round and point me in the right direction. Mike was a great guy and true to his word, spent the third session first off leading me and showing me the lines he would take. I was amazed at how many riders we passed going into and around Shell Oils Corner taking the middle line, so I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.

After 2 laps following Mike he waved me past and followed me swapping twice more resulting in me being in front for the last lap. Pulling into the pit lane I pulled up and Mike came along side. His critique was spot on and went something like this (not word perfect as I my mind was still pulsing with adrenaline)

“Well Raymondo you doing great, I was impressed with you riding no end. I can tell you do a lot of road riding as your not using all of the track but that said you cornering is spot on. Quite a few novice riders tend to 50 pence one or two of the corners at the back of the circuit but there was none of that with you. I can tell you riding well within you capabilities and not pushing it too much. There’s loads more to come from you once you’ve settled into the track a bit more. No, all in all your doing OK for some one who’s never been around the track before. Well done!”

We then went on to discuss what sort of riding I normally do and and had a good friendly chat. Mike if your reading this can I say, thank you for taking the time to point me in the right direction and for the massive boost in confidence your critique gave me. It was very much appreciated and welcomed.

The fourth session came around so quickly it was frightening. One thing I did notice as we lined up was I was starting to feel it. My forearms were throbbing, my fingers were buzzing and I knew I needed to steady it off a little. Don’t get me wrong I didn't slow down that much but I just found myself winding off in places that I’d been keeping the throttle open for longer, Lakeside into Island Bend felt  smooth. Hitting the breaks for Hislop I felt the back end lock up a couple of times. Then just winding off over Clay Hill and not wheeling so much. Oh, I forgot to mention that, I’ve never wheelied a bike purposefully in my life but found the front end coming up on more than one occasion every lap and I was absolutely ecstatic! 

Come on Grandad

It's this way, I think!

Lunch came and went with a great lasagne and salad with black coffee which was delicious. Lefty, Lee and I all sat outside in the glorious sunshine as we had been fortunate enough to have had all morning. 

Returning to the pits we called in the on site shop and I bought an Oulton Park Baseball Cap for my collection before nipping over to refuel something Lefty had had to do at the end of session number 3! One of the other riders came over and complimented my Blade and advised me to get a Brembo Master Cylinder on the front brake which I appreciated, sadly I can’t remember the numbers he mentioned so if your reading this please feel free to leave a comment at the end. 

Sexy Blade, very nice indeed!

Back in the garages it all of a sudden changed. The clouds came over, thunder and lightning struck and within half an hour the place was tipping it down. We pondered long and hard about what to do but I was the first to say “we’ve had a brilliant morning but there's no point in getting soaked to the bone, especially as I’ve an hours ride back to Rochdale’

Lee was a little more reticent being “The Racing Snake” that he is. OK explanation time! It turns out over lunch that Lee the ‘novice’ has done a few track-days here there and everywhere and so ‘The Racing Snake’ was born, with Lee’s approval of course. 

Lee 'The Racing Snake' In full flow
Thanks to PE Photography

So with soggy leathers and happy heart I de-taped my Blade, screwed the number plate back on and said my farewell’s to Lefty & Lee ‘The Racing Snake’. I arrived back in Rochdale just in time to attend Lilie Roses’s ‘Parents Evening” as the worst dressed attendee ever, which should make for interesting conversations and the next ‘Full Governors’ Meeting on Monday!

So there you have it, one of the best experiences I have ever had on a motorcycle in 34 years bar non. Am I sad that I left it so long? No not really it just makes me feel a whole lot younger every day.

'Happy Days"

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

I would like to pass on my thanks to Pete of PE Photography for taking the day off to come over to Oulton Park and take some stunning photo's of Lefty, Lee & myself. Cheers Pete we really appreciated you being there mate. 

A final thank you goes to the professional photographer Peter Wileman Photography for the amazing photos he took which I have purchased today.  

1 comment:

  1. Great day out , I loved every minute of it lads.I've purchased a disc of the day off Peter Wileman photography so I'm looking forwards to getting that in the post.
    Great read Raymondo as ever.
    Cheers Lefty ��
    Cheers Lefty.