A day at Rocket Ron’s race school
The Ron Haslam Race School has become synonymous for motorcyclists who want to better their riding without speed limits and in a safe environment. It’s an experience that benefits both road craft and track riding. That’s surely a win win, right? I went to find out.
It would seem that the weather gods wouldn’t shine on me when it comes to riding Motorcycles at Donington. The forecast had predicted it to be bad, but that still wasn’t going to quash my hopes that someway, somehow it might be dry at the very least. It wasn’t. At all.
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I was signed on to the Premier experience, which meant I was going to be riding the CBR600RR and not the Fireblade, something I was quietly pleased about given the conditions on track.
I’ve only really been on track a few times and circuit riding is something I desperately want to improve, especially given that I’ve got a few track days planned a little later on with my Kawasaki Ninja 650 long termer, so any extra tuition is especially helpful.
The day started with a briefing, with an introduction as to what to expect from the day and a look at what each of the flags means. It gave us a clearer idea as to what the track conditions will be like and also what we would be doing during the course of the morning.
From there, we were paired up with our instructors. Today we were quite lucky and had an instructor each for the Premier experience, normally you are paired up with two riders per instructor on the 600cc machines, with the one-to-one tuition reserved for the Elite experience on the Blades.
My first session of three was met with some trepidation, it’s been a good while since I’ve been on track and the soaking conditions weren’t exactly settling my worry of slinging the bike down the road.
My instructor, Mick made sure I kept things tidy though and kept me in focussed while I found my feet again. Following him was a real help; he kept me from being too eager on the throttle and showed me the best lines to take around the circuit for the conditions.
It definitely kept me in shape as I was reminded of the limit of adhesion on the circuit, seeing the waved yellows for a rider who had binned it at the old hairpin on one of the Blades, his day was already over, just two laps in.
The session was red flagged and we regrouped in the pits while the blade was recovered from the track. It was quite helpful in a way, I’d bumbled around the track and got a little time to feel what was happening underneath me without using the whole session to get used to it. It meant that by the time I went back out I was that little more confident.
After the first session we returned to the pits again, it was soaking. I could wring my gloves out and the dark visor I had left on my lid had become a hindrance as the gloomy weather made it harder to see, I opted to change to a clear visor with a Pinlock before the next session.
Mick went over a map of the circuit with me, explaining the best gearing to use through each section of the track and also helped me to tweak my riding position aboard a static bike. It was good to learn more about what I could be doing better in my everyday riding and the small changes I could make to my everyday riding position will make a big difference to me in the long run.
After, it was time for the second session, in the 20 minutes or so that we’d been in the pits, the track had somehow managed to get even wetter and now resembled a river more than a track.
Back out we went in the same fashion as before. There was even less grip than before and I felt the bike starting to get a little squirrely in the conditions. I’d like to point out that the bikes weren’t fitted with wet tyres; it doesn’t make sense to when there are so many bikes on the fleet; by the time the school would be able to change all the wheels on the bikes the day would already be over.
Instead they have opted to fit the bikes with Dunlop Roadsmart III’s and they performed admirably given what they were being asked to do.
I felt my confidence grow further and by the time we came in from the second session I already felt that I was riding much better and so much smoother than I had at the beginning of the day, despite the track conditions being worse.
Between the second and third sessions we collectively gathered in one of the garages where we were able to identify problems that we might be having in certain parts of the track as a group, which helps to give you an idea of what the other riders are thinking about and can help you address something that you may not have already thought about before.
The third and final session let me take on board the things I had learnt during the first two sessions and put them into practice. I was feeling my confidence soar and the bike coming to me much more than I thought it would have done first thing. The wet no longer bothered me; it simply became an obstacle that I was able to overcome.
From the final session, where I was literally able to wring my leathers and gloves out, we were to have our final debrief. Where we would be marked on our improvement from the start of the day and given an overall percentage score. I managed to pull out an improvement of 92.5%, which I was pretty stoked with.
Overall I couldn’t recommend the day highly enough, it’s given me extra confidence in all areas of my riding and given me plenty to take away from the circuit that will apply to my road riding too.
If you’re looking for an introduction to track riding and even for those who are experienced then I couldn’t recommend the Ron Haslam Race School highly enough. It gives you an excellent way to get on track and teaches you far more than you would otherwise get on just a novice track day. Excellent instructors leave you safe in the knowledge that they’re going to look out for you and bring you on in a way that would otherwise take a very long time, guide you around.
Thanks to The Ron Haslam Race School, Carole Nash