Over-confidence is an occasional issue of mine and, two weeks after passing my bike test I booked myself on the Ron Haslam Race School. I’d scraped the pegs of my first bike (a CBR600) on a roundabout and decided I was ready to go on track but in hindsight, I didn’t have enough experience to get the most from the day. This was clear by the fact that I low-sided at Donington’s Melbourne Loop on lap 3 which marked the end of my day and a waste of £250. (We all make mistakes, right?!) I think I have pictures of my pathetic off somewhere so I’ll stick them up when I dig them out.
Fast-forward a few years and I had another go, now on the Silverstone International circuit. This was my second time on track, having recently done Level 1 of the California Superbike School. This time it was much more successful although I was paired with someone who was a fair bit slower than me (not that I was amazingly fast or anything, but I was faster than the other guy) so the first session, when I was at the back, I found a bit boring and I didn’t feel I got anything from it as I was cruising around.
After the second classroom briefing, I went out first and within half a lap the other guy was trailing behind so we left him to be mopped up by one of the spare instructors and carried on at my pace. This was much better and I even got my knee down for the first time ever at Copse. I was absolutely buzzing (despite a “what-the-hell-is-that-noise-oh-my-god-I’m-crashing!” moment when my slider first made contact with the tarmac) and was then getting my knee down at most right-handers (my left took a while longer).
The final session was just me and the instructor, Mick, and afterwards we had a debrief where he told me I was a very nice and smooth rider, and fairly talented at hustling a bike round a track given my low experience so I should take it up and get a trackbike. I was over the moon with this feedback and immediately went out and bought a CBR600 trackbike (which, incidentally, I never got to ride on track before I sold it thanks to the complete incompetence of a major trackday company, but that’s another story!).
All in all, it’s a good course, although fairly expensive in terms of track time compared to a trackday – the Premier course, which is two students to one instructor on CBR600s, is usually 3 x 15min sessions but what you also have to factor in is the fact that they provide the bikes and, if required, full gear. So you can just turn up in jeans and a t-shirt (or a tutu, lacy knickers, snorkel and fairy wings if you prefer) and they’ll kit you out in leathers, boots and helmet. If you do stack it, as I did first time round, it’s the end of your day regardless of how little damage is caused.
The Elite course can be anything from 60-90 minutes on track (so 4, 5 or 6 x 15 minute sessions) and you need to have done the Premier course within the last 2 years before you can do the Elite. I haven’t done the Elite course yet so will have to do the Premier one again as my Premier course was about 6 years ago. I know the Fireblade group on Facebook has done a number of Elite sessions there and everyone has always had a fantastic day. Since I did my course, the level of technical feedback has improved massively with telemetry so I believe you now get your data traces so you can see where you’re braking and getting on the power and compare this to the ideal lap to see where you can improve.