Progress: Caddy & Donny

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My 'how to get your knee down' articles are doing really well, so I'm going to change the style of these blog like progress updates. Starting with this one, I'll be writing more about what I'm working on, and more interestingly, the thought process/reasoning involved in choosing an area of improvement.

Cadwell Park

This was one of my usual evening-sleep-day-ers at Cadwell - and my first trackday in a while. I love doing an evening and a day for a few reasons: they're great value, you get loads of track time and (on this occasion, most importantly) you can get your mistakes out of the way on the evening, sleep on it and nail the next day.

Needless to say, I made a complete hash of the evening thanks to: not eaten properly all day, over-riding the bike and not relaxing. I cream crackered myself in one session, and didn't even get a decent lap time in.

Whoops.

Fast forward to the next day and I had a plan: take a step back and focus solely on relaxing. I'd re-read some of my 'knee down' articles the night before (yes, I do that) and picked some things out to focus on at certain areas of the track.

For example, on the evening session I noticed I would stiffen up in the areas hard braking, especially on entry into Park corner. I found this in a previous article:

Just before you arrive at your braking marker, prepare your lower body. Use your legs (while leaving your ass where it is) and core muscles to hold as much of your weight back as possible. Use both legs if you have to - your knee slider isn't going to touch the tarmac until the bike is leant over, so you might as well put it to work stabilising your body for now.

Body position(s): Transitions and movement.

I wasn't using both my legs going into Park, but, It's never been a problem before.

Why is it a problem now? What's changed?

I'm braking a lot harder into Park now, since I worked on it a lot at Oulton Park. However, I'm still stabilising myself with one leg - which isn't enough anymore.

What's the fix?

Focus solely on stabilising myself with both legs under hard braking for a full session - really drill the new entry plan it into my brain.

Repeat

I made a plan like that for every session - something to focus on to help me relax - and it worked like a treat. I shaved a second or two every session, before eventually plateauing after dinner.

A best lap for the day, and a new personal best, of 1:42.920 is an improvement of just under 6 seconds on my previous personal best.

Cracking day.

Analysis

It was a pretty good lap, but, there's always room to improve:

  • Coppice to Charlies 1: I could go faster, which is evident by the slow transition from left to right.
  • Park Straight: I'm not getting close enough to the service road on the right, and I'm moving over to the left of the track too early. This is forcing me to brake with a small angle of lean going into Park.
  • Chris Curve: I'm not picking the throttle up quickly enough, especially on the approach to the Gooseneck where there's a fairly straight bit of track I'm under utilising.
  • Mansfield: What a mess - I apexed and picked the throttle up way too early, forcing me to carry lean angle for longer than necessary and delaying my ability to get on full throttle on the run to the chicane.
  • The Mountain: I'm slow. Need bigger testicles.
  • Barn: I'm not using all of the track on exit, so I could run through it faster for a better drive onto the Pit Straight.

Donington Park

If you like my Facebook page you will already know that my trackday at Donington wasn't great:

  • There were lots of lack of adhesion flags. There was cement dust everywhere before we turned a wheel - and only got worse as the day progressed.
  • There were lots of black flags. Focused Events did a terrible job of informing everyone before hand that a baffle (or road can) is required on a quiet day.
  • There were lots of red flags. It was a crash fest, averaging two red-flag-causing-crashes per session. I did two full (10ish lap/each) sessions, and a mere 13 more for the rest of the day.

It wasn't all bad, though.

A few days before I'd been talking to my friend about finding the limit of traction. We both had the knowledge that under acceleration the rear tyre breaking traction is the limit, and under braking its the rear wheel lifting - but neither of us had experienced what those feel like.

Since the day consisted of little more than a couple of laps between red flags, it was impossible to get into a rhythm, so I figured I'd stop aiming for a 'perfect lap' and take it corner by corner - not caring so much about missing markers and apexes, instead focusing more of my attention on simply feeling the bike.

On corner entry, by focusing almost entirely on feeling the front through the brake lever, I gradually increased brake pressure until - eureka - the rear started to lift. I'd found the limit.

On corner exit, by focusing almost entirely on feeling the rear through my butt and feet, I gradually increased the rate of which I opened the throttle until - eureka - the rear wheel broke traction. I'd found the limit.

Both cases were very minor - but that was the point. I wanted the understanding of what each limit feels like, without going ass over elbow into the gravel trap - all I sacrificed were lap times.

Oh, and despite feeling like I hadn't hit an apex all day - I set a new personal best of 1:46.835 on a lap with traffic. An improvement of just under 4 seconds.

Analysis

This was my second time at Donington, so there's lots of areas to improve, but the stand out ones are:

  • Redgate: I'm not using all of the track on entry, turning in too early and apexing a too early.
  • Craners to Old Hairpin: My turn in is too quick on entry into Craners, which is having a knock on effect and messing up my line down the rest - but honestly I'm not sure, I need to do more research/experimentation.
  • Coppice to Starkey's Straight: I'm having to correct apexing too early. I could run through with more speed.
  • The Esses: I should be transitioning from left to right and picking up the throttle earlier - this'll clean up and speed up the exit.
  • Melbourne Loop: I run a little too deep and mess up the exit.
  • Goddards: I run a little too deep, compromising mid corner and exit speed. I should aim to be exiting by drifting out towards the curb, running over the end of the yellow line in the middle of the track on the way.

Conclusion

What do you think to these new style blog entries? Are they interesting?

Comments much appreciated below.