Hello and welcome to Alex”s Blog.
Chris from our Oakmere store went to Almeria on a track day experience. You can read how his first time on his ZX10 went here. This blog is following how he got on the next time he went to Almeria. Now over to Chris:
After my successful first Almeria mission on the ZX10, Focused Events offer you the facility of leaving your bike in their secure warehouse at the Almeria/Andalucia circuits. I decided to take that option where you only have to pay £89 insurance for the full 12 months and promptly booked a three day event starting on April the 1st. No April fool.
When I was out the first time I shared a garage with Terry (full-on) Fuller. A tattooist who has also raced in the Thundersport GB series. We both decided to do the same thing and came back on April the 1st for another track day experience. The advantage of this is we could share the hire car costs to get us to the hotel and then back to and from the track. Terry brought a friend of his, Sean, so the hire car cost was split three ways, making the event even cheaper.
Just to explain what costs are covered etc. Focused Events cover the hotel expenses and breakfast as well as transportation of your bike and the track day itself. You need to pay for your flight and the hire car, food and drinks excluding breakfast and that is pretty much it! Obviously you also need to pay for fuel, tyres etc. But compared to a UK track day that really is cheap and you get to enjoy great weather (mostly)
So as scheduled I met Terry, Sean and Laura (Terry’s Mrs) at Alicante airport on the Sunday afternoon. For the first time ever I saw rain. I had been here 6 times before and it had never rained. We were gutted! I collected the hire car, and we made our way to the hotel and chilled out.
Monday morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was out so hopefully the track would dry up. We got to the circuit bright and early to get the bikes out, get them prepped and set up the garage etc. As previously mentioned, I like to get my set-up sorted so I have a clear mind. I repeated the same set-up as last time, albeit in a different garage, and quickly got settled in with the knowledge that, after last time, I knew my suspension was right, I had two nearly new tyres on the bike, and I was nice and relaxed and comfortable – looking forward to the three days ahead!
Neil from Focused Events, called a briefing meeting and a circuit car had been out to check the conditions of the track and there were still some damp patches – therefore they wouldn’t be letting anyone out who was running slick tyres. Wets/intermediates or road tyres were permitted. I had slicks so I had to sit the first session out.
By the second session the track had dried completely and we were allowed out. I ran about half a dozen leisurely laps and then came in to check the bike. To my absolute horror my belly pan was full of coolant. I took the race fairings off and quickly found that my coolant expansion bottle had been touching my right hand down pipe and though it had survived six track days, it had eventually burnt through. Fortunately, this was not too serious, the hole was very small and the handy track repair man managed to seal the hole and reinforced it with heat shield. I re-fitted it with an extra spacer which lifted it away from the downpipe. I whipped the fairings back on and I had only missed one session.
The rest of the afternoon was great. I went out and just increased my pace steadily and by the end of the first day I was going a little bit quicker, feeling good, getting used to the new gearing and suspension setting and the bike was going quicker. By the end of day one it was time to look at tyre wear.
With most clockwise circuits there tends to be more right hand corners which means more wear on the right hand side of the tyre. Almeria is no different. Each slick has wear markers which are four small holes across the face of the tyre. That way you can monitor your tyre wear. As the holes begin to disappear or wear out this gives you an indication of how much tyre you have used. If one hole disappears all together you know the tyre needs replacing soon. You will also feel this on the circuit as you won’t be getting as much grip when you’re driving out of the corners. You may feel the tyre sliding or squirming underneath you. With a relatively new tyre, with little wear, the tyre will feel solid and planted on the track. At this stage it is up to you when you change the tyre. A lot of racers can handle this sort of slide and are quite comfortable with it, but of course, you won’t do quick lap times as you can’t put all your power down. Some guys turn tyres, only for practice, not for racing, but they may turn the tyre on the rim so that the worn side is the ride that they will use less. Brave guys. That gamble isn’t for me.
I decided to put a new rear tyre at the start of day 2. There was no gamble then, and with two days left, the rear should last the remainder of those days. I arrived at the circuit in the morning and Neil told us to look at our new groupings as we all had transponders on and he streamed us in to approproate groups according to our circuit times from the previous day. I was pleased to be moved up to group three with the quicker riders!
I got out in the first session, fuelled up, checked my tyre pressures and thought I would do a few slower laps just to wear in the new rear slick. This only takes two or three laps and the rear tyre is worn in and ready to go as hard as you like. I then had another technical hitch. At the end of the long straight you get to around 170mph and then brake hard for the right hand corner. Upon braking hard, fuel flooded out of my closed filler cap, down the front of the bike and on to my dash and screen. The first thing I imagined was the fuel running down on to the hot exhaust and the bike exploding underneath me. There was pooh in my suit. Fortunately I noticed this immediately and pulled in to the pit lane, turned the engine off and coasted down to the garage safely. For some reason, the filler cap I had fitted 6 months ago decided to lose it’s seal!? Whether it was heat, general wear, I don’t know but it didn’t seal properly and with braking hard, the fuel rose up against the non-existent seal and spilled out. This was quickly remedied by manufacturing a replacement seal made from some rubber kindly provided by our friendly local repairman (again) for the cost of 3 euros or a beer and I was back out in the next session!
The rest of the afternoon went really well, I managed to get out on all the sessions without any more disasters and the later sessions were a lot quieter so I had some great laps with consistent speeds and lap times. The bike was feeling good and I was feeling more comfortable on her the more I got to know her.
Day three was the last day and we were finishing at 4 pm and flying out from Alicante that evening so I was pacing myself and had some good steady sessions in the morning. I was making more progress and with instruction from Terry and another track-dayer Russ Clamp I was making real improvements. Another great thing about these track day experiences is the camaradarie and the friends that you meet. Guys with more knowledge and experience than you but are more than happy to impart their technique and know-how. A few days before you wouldn’t have known them from Adam, and there they are giving you great adivce. There is a great team spirit in the garages.
Unfortunately day three got cut short after lunch as a brand new R1 threw a rod on the start/finish straight and left the contents of what looked like the Exxon Valdez for about 200 yards all the way down to the first corner. The circuit staff and marshalls tried their best to clean it up as quickly as possible but with it being on the racing line only a few brave guys went out for the last half hour before the end of the day. Then it was just a case of packing up your stuff, labelling it all and taking it down to Kev for your bike to be loaded back on the truck to come back to Blighty in a week to ten days time. Easily done and all sorted and I collected my bike the Saturday before last in pristine condition with everything present and correct. I am now looking forward to my first UK track day of 2019. Will keep you guys posted.
We will release a blog of his UK track day as soon as it happens!
Until next time, stay safe,