Novice trackdays from Carnell-City

Published: 02 September 2001

Never mind the rows and rows of bikes sat in the Mallory Park pitlane, my mind is on one thing.

Kneesliders.

There are 98 other riders milling around, all of them trackday virgins. At least, that’s what Carnell-Motorcycle City promised when I booked on.

I want to be sure they were telling the truth. So the key question I’m asking myself is: "How many of this lot have worn the top surface of their sliders, then?" The merest hint of scraped plastic and I will be taking apprehension to new heights. After all, it’s only two months since I binned my L-plates. I’m not convinced I should be here.

Thankfully, very few knees look as though they’ve been in contact with Tarmac. That could mean everyone has fitted fresh sliders especially for today, but I’m happy to cling to any comfort I can get.

After squeezing my sizeable frame into the Dannisport leathers I’ve hired from organisers Track Time Promotions, my bike for the day – an Aprilia RS250 hired from Moto Hire UK – arrives.

I have two minutes to study the bike before my group of 33 goes out for an 18-minute sighting session, strictly controlled by the six instructors on hand for the day. After that I’m free to go as fast or slow as I like in the six other stints throughout the day.

And for the first three, that’s pretty slow. Then instructor Roger Kettle gets hold of me for some one-to-one advice. I’m used to learning from fluorescent-jacketed road instructors and examiners, so Roger’s approach is a surprise.

He doesn’t want more lifesavers and mirror checks, Roger wants me hanging off the side of the bike, carrying as much corner speed as I can handle and changing up without the aid of the clutch.

Roger shows me how I should be getting round, urging me to keep up with his CBR600. Exactly 18 minutes later I stumble from the Aprilia and fall to my knees, knackered. We’d been warned that we’d feel like vomiting in our helmets and now I know why.

May lap times are hardly likely to worry even the most lowly club racer, but all I’m thinking about is getting back out there and trying to improve my line into the Esses and the Bus Stop. I’m free from muppet car drivers, diesel spills and overbanding. The only speed limit is in my own head.

This morning, I thought I’d be a throttle-shy wobbler cruising round at the bike. Eight hours later, I have a different concern as the Mallory Park grass looms.

I’ve followed Roger’s advice and thrown my lightweight stroker into the Esses with the engine screaming at 10,000rpm. But I get it into my head that I’m not going to make it round the corner. I start looking at the green stuff on the outside of the circuit. Now I can testify personally to the existence of target fixation.

I get the bike upright as I roll onto the grass, made slippery by the rain which is steadily sprinkling the track, and don’t touch either brake. A little right-hand steering gets me past the gravel trap and I rejoin the circuit just before the hairpin.

The scare puts me in my place, but within a lap I’m going at it again, trying to conquer that turn into the Esses as I finish my final session. I’ve messed up, but got away with it, and I’m left contemplating one of the best ways I have ever found of spending a day.

Now the continuing rain is too much for some riders, who are waiting to cross the circuit on their way home as my group is called in for the final time. The wet stuff doesn’t spoil it for everyone, though.

Adam Barnes, whose Kawasaki ZX-6R has surprised a few owners of big bikes, doesn’t want the day to end. As he takes off his Shoei for the final time, he breathlessly mutters: "I’ll have to make sure I’ve wiped this smile off my face by the time I get home.

The girlfriend will think I’ve got myself another woman!"

There are two more first-timers trackdays this year – at Rockingham on September 7 and Brands (Indy) on November 5. Each trackday costs £99 and it’s another £175 if you fancy hiring an RS250 for the day from Moto-Hire UK (call 0161-337-8881).

You can hire leathers for £40 and a back protector for another fiver, both available on the day from Track Time Promotions. If you can’t get to one of this year's dates, Track Time and Carnell-Motorcycle City are intending to take the concept to twice as many circuits next year.

Call them on: 01386-423222.