It was with some trepidation that I left home at 6.30am. The weather was promising to be clear and warm and the traffic reports were good, but the butterflies in my belly were entirely related to the thought of riding on a racetrack, only a year after doing my CBT and just 8 months after getting my full licence and first ‘big’ bike.
Briefing over, it was time to get into groups. I wasn’t alone in placing myself way down at the bottom of the ‘C’ group (beginners, inexperienced and less confident riders), which meant that a degree of reluctant shuffling ensued to try to make sure each instructor had an equal number of trainees. As a consequence, I ended up near the top of the ‘Cs’... I needn’t have worried; assigned to Mark Jaffe’s group, I was quietly confident I was in good hands. Arriving just in time after having to make a fuel detour, I was pleased to see a few familiar faces (including a great number of other GLAMs!) at the briefing, and the wide variety of bikes that would be joining me on the rack; this was very emphatically not a ‘track day’, but a skills day on a track.
A chance to learn and practice skills in a safe environment without having to consider the usual hazards that present themselves on the road.
The format of the day meant that each group would rotate between 20 minute classroom theory sessions (covering line planning and positioning, braking, gears, acceleration (sound familiar?) and overtaking), time out on the track and breaks. As the ‘Cs’ were due to be last on track, we started out doing some braking and slow chicane practice; something I was quite confident with having not long passed my Mod 1 with flying colours, but it was useful to practice this on my own bike instead of a riding school’s. After this we had a short break before our first theory session explaining how to ride the best lines on the track, then it was out onto the track with us!
Each track session started with the group following the instructor for a lap to demonstrate the lines to take (aim for the cones!), then opportunity for each of us to lead a lap with the instructor following us so he was able to give feedback. As the day progressed and we were becoming smoother and more confident practicing what we’d learnt in the classroom, the speed increased and the laps became even more fun. By the last session, the track became more of a ‘free-for-all’ and a serious adrenaline rush as we were overtaking each other at speed.
I can clearly recall one person telling me ‘You’re brave; signing up for today as an Associate!’. Quite honestly though, I wouldn’t have considered NOT doing it! Following on the back of what I’d learnt during the Norfolk weekend, the Thruxton Skills Day was a great, complimentary training session that helped nail my cornering anxiety and gave me the opportunity to practice hard braking without worrying about other road users. At Thruxton I fell a lot more in love with my bike, riding and the opportunities they presented; isn’t that part of what being an advanced rider is about?
Roll on test day!
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