Michael Neeves MRO Powerbike blog: The new Snetterton 300
First rides & tests
29 March 2011 15:31
Bemsee had the honour of running the first ever race meeting at the newly remodelled Snetterton circuit at the weekend. It was a superb event for riders and spectators alike, as we all got familiar with our new surroundings. It’s nice to be able to say I was one of the first people to race there on my BMW Park Lane S1000RR, but it was actually the Rookie 600 guys who were the very first ever people to line up on the grid to race the 2.99-mile Snetterton 300.
Thursday 24th March
I took the day off to get to Snetterton early, find a good spot and set-up, but I was staggered to see the paddock already bursting at the seems around 2pm. There was a trackday on and people were telling me there were as many as 60 riders in each group. Wow! I managed to find a good pitch on a new piece of paddock and set the awning up. The heat of the sun was felt for the first time this year, but it was Baltic in the back of the van that night and with no electrical hook-ups at Snetterton, no chance to plug in a heater.
Friday 25th March
Taking to the new track for the first time, I’ll admit I didn’t like it at first. The new section has three hairpins in it and it’s really stop/start on a 1000. It’s not as flowing as before - it’s like going round Snetterton for a bit, being diverted into the car park for a mile, then back out on to the track again.
The new Corams is hard to master after a lifetime of being used to the old layout. It leads on to a second gear left hander called Murrays (which replaces Russells Chicane). You’re kneedown in fourth gear through Corums and you have to brake, change down two gears and flick left through Murrays – I had my heart in my mouth through there the whole weekend, especially as you’ve got so much time to think about it coming up through the seemingly never ending Corams.
The surface is really grippy and there’s lots of good places to watch the racing now without having to stray too far from the paddock, which is good.
I rode on old tyres to learn the track and generally softened off the suspension settings from Brands, which is still par for the course at Snetterton.
The temperature is up to 24 degrees today and everyone has Ribena Man faces
Saturday 26th March
Two qualifying sessions and a race today. Our race is a combination of MRO Powerbikes and Stocksport 1000s, plus a number of British Championship teams taking part, using the meeting for testing. There’s a freezing cold wind blowing today and the unsheltered Snetterton feels like what earth will be like when the sun goes out – bloody grim!
With new Dunlop slicks fitted I end up qualifying in 14th place overall and break the two minute barrier with a 1.59.2. Jimmy Hill on his Map Triumph scores pole with a 1:55.4. In our five lap sprint I finish 15th overall out of 33, but 3rd in class.
Sunday 27th March.
Two nine lap races today. I’m starting to like the track more now, but it’s not as flowing as before with the new bit, but it’s definitely a hit with spectators, especially the straight (which I’ve nicknamed ‘Wheelie Alley’) out the back of the pits where there’s a raised viewing area on a bank. You can see the first corner and the new infield section from there and it’s perfect for a cheeky celebration on the slowing down lap.
For the first race, like the sprint race the day before I forget to turn the BMW’s traction control off at the start, it pogos off the line and I get swamped to the back of the grid and beaten up for the first few turns. I end up 15th overall, 2nd in class and set a best time of 1.57.6. The winner David Gowan, on another S1000RRdoes a 1.54.3.
The last race of the weekend I remember to turn the traction off and get a better start, finishing the race in 11th and another 2nd in class.
The new track is a real mix of heart-in-the-mouth fast corners, slow hairpins and fast straights (the front straight is now longer than the back straight). It’s a test of the bike’s braking ability, cornering prowess and top speed, as well as keeping the rider on his toes physically and mentally. I’m still not sure whether I like it or not, though, as it’s a bit tight in places. The bike never missed a beat, it’s rocketship fast, I had a ball and took home some silverware. Job done!
Next stop: Cadwell 9/10 April
- BMW Park Lane:www.bmwmotorradparklane.co.uk
- Dunlop: www.dunlop.eu/dunlop_uk/mc
- Kais Performance: www.kais-performance.com/
- Aim-UK: www.aim-tec.co.uk