Serious-Racing One Year Anniversary

One year ago today, the first code for Serious-Racing was written. But really, things started a few months before that…

In November of 2012, I went to Almeria, in Spain for a four day track holiday. It was an eventful week for a lot of reasons (first time on track with my new bike and more rain than there should be in Spain’s driest area), but it was mostly eventful because it was the first time I tried out RaceChrono.

My friend Tony had suggested we give it a try, and it instantly appealed to my technical side. We were both blown away by the data available to us through RaceChrono – being able to see your speed at any point on the track was a revelation. 12 months before I’d gladly paid £10 for just the lap times from another trip to Almeria, and now with a free Android app we were getting full GPS lap times.

But the thing we found ourselves doing the most with this data, was comparing with each other. We’d hold our phones side by side and look at fastest points on the straights and slowest points on the corners. We learned a lot about our different riding techniques from this, and I’m sorry to say we learned that Tony was actually quicker through the corners on his GSX-R 750 than I was on my RSV4, and it was only because I was obviously faster on the straights that I had a faster lap time than him.

We didn’t have a very good Internet connection out there in Spain, but we naturally thought “wouldn’t it be great to be able to compare these on a big screen when we get home?” However, after quite a lot of searching once we were back in the UK, I wasn’t able to find a website that did this. So I had a thought. And that thought is what eventually became

Fast forward to July 23rd 2013, and the site is now up and running, but in closed beta. Up until this point, it’s just been myself and my trackday friends that have been testing the site. It’s time to see what the wider world thinks of it. I placed a post on the Trackday Riders forum calling out for beta testers, and got an overwhelming response. The guys were fantastically patient, enthusiastic, and helpful in bringing the site along, and getting us to the stage of being able to open the site up for public use, with support for not just RaceChrono, but AIM, QStarz and Harry’s Laptimer as well.

On September 8th the site was opened up for anyone to sign up, and since then we’ve grown to have users from 19 countries and we now have 6.5k laps in the system.

So what’s next? We’re really excited about where the site goes from here. We have big plans for how we can make Serious-Racing more involving, more useful and more fun. We hope you’ll stick with us to find out how far we can go, and bring some more friends along for the ride.

Risk vs. Reward?

This week I had a rare treat – a sunny day at Brands Hatch GP for a trackday at the tail end of summer. Bike Magazine were running a “Road Bike only” trackday with MSVT, and we were blessed with one of the best days imaginable. We woke up to a heavy dew with foggy visors obscuring our vision on the way down to the track, but as we came up the hill towards the entrance to the track on the A20 suddenly hints of blue sky were visible above our heads, and a yellow disk hung partially visible in the mist. It was going to be a good day.

And so it was. There was some standing water on Graham Hill Bend for the first two sessions of the day, but by the third it was perfect conditions. I was there with friends, and although two of the six of us crashed (not seriously) everyone was okay, and all in all it was a great day. For me personally I was able to improve my laptime by 1.7 seconds while adjusting to new tyres (Pirelli Supercorsa BSBs from Dunlop GP Racers) which was great. It’s kept my record of improving my laptime every time I go back to a track I’ve been to (and kept
times for) before. But it left me wondering – am I improving times because I’m getting better, or because I’m taking more risks?

Am I drifting closer and closer to the likelihood of crashing as I get faster and faster, and am I only getting faster because I’m more familiar with the experience of speed, or am I actually improving my technique? Unfortunately risk and technique are very hard things to measure – certainly harder than laptimes.

Almeria Insights

Would be better punch out of the corners esp on to the long straight, but would benefit coming out of all corners; would give more engine braking into corners – less braking needed to apply manually.

OK, rather than watch Downton Abby on  Christmas Day, I watched my on-boards from the recent trip to Almeria, and compared them to Crafar’s Almeria vid to see where I was going wroing/could improve – here’s the findings.

1. Observation: I am in too high a gear in the infield – coming out of many of the corners I am in 6-8K rpm i.e. I am in 2nd or 3rd when I should be in 1st or 2nd (esp at the end of the long straight). Looking at Race-Chrono my speed on at the end of the long straight, through the chicane and on to the long straight warrants only being in first (40-50 mph). Maybe also the left turn onto the long up hill left hander.
What does Crafar do: He’s in high revs all the time, He comes down 4? gears at the end of the long straight.
Benefit: Would be better punch out of the corners esp on to the long straight, but would benefit coming out of all corners; would give more engine braking into corners – less braking needed to apply manually.
Plan: Try and use lower gears. Find out the top speed in all gears and use Race Chrono to plan the gear to use for each turn. Practice down-shifting under pressure – it has to be as second nature as up-shifting!
Danger: Going into 1st mean more chance of the rear locking up even with a slipper clutch. May have to give less throttle (or time its application better).
Wish List: A line of LEDs that indicate rpm that I could stick on my screen like a ZX-10R. Yellow 1 to 9K rpm, Green 9 to 12K rpm and red above. Down blipper ? :)

2. Observation: using too much engine braking it seems. The time spent decelerating (all be it at a very slow rate seems to long).
What does Crafar do: You can hear when he’s off the throttle but its for shorter periods.
Benefit: Longer spent on the throttle would mean higher speeds on all the straights.
Plan: If not accelerating, brake. Work with braking markers. Brake into turn in.
Danger: Too busy at turn in time; harder to judge speed; miss turn in point; run wide due to excess speed.
Wishlist: Data acquisition would show how much brakes I’m applying and for how long. How about a light that shows brake application on my screen?

3. Observation: Head too far away from inside bar – can look crossed up. No knee down so no I’m getting no indication of lean.
What does Crafar do: Sits high but looks good.
Benefit: Better weight distribution; less lean required; looks better in pictures 😛
Plan: Drop inside shoulder; put head closer to inside clip on, splay legs!
Danger: I’m not used to this, try clinging onto bike rather than sit on it, physically to hard.
Wishlist: Could rearsets make a difference? How about a higher seat?

4. Observation: Front forks don’t have the range of adjustment required. Although the shock seemed OK, everything on forks was wound up to about max. Bumps at Almeria were making the whole of the front end shake.
Plan: Upgrade springs, fork cartridges and oil to give the adjustment I need.
Danger:  Can’t get the bike to work on the road anymore.

A Seriously New Year

It’s that time of year when I feel the need to sit down, put my feet up, grab a snifter of whisky, and look with a whistful eye to the year gone by, and the year to come. In a biking sense obviously.

The highlight (with some tribulations of its own) of the unaccounted for year on the Serious Racing blog was the Almeria trip. It was mixed in a lot of ways – partly because two of the three of us had gear nicked and are currently trying to work with the insurance people to get compensated for it, partly because the weather was so poor, for Almeria, which meant not so much dry track time, and partly because I felt like although I improved relative to my pace last year on the Daytona, I didn’t feel like I improved as much as I was hoping I was. The reason for this was mostly because I’m comparing myself to Tea Monster who was officially “on it” in Almeria, and posted better sector times (more on that later) in the first two sectors than me. Made me come away feeling like I didn’t really get the most out of the RSV4.

But it was still a cracking trip. Good laugh as always, the rain wasn’t entirely dampening in respect of our spirits (we did quite a good job polishing off a litre of whisky to dampen with spirits ourselves), and four days on track can really never be bad, however bad it is.

Here are a few videos to amuse you…

Just left me with some things to focus on for next year, which brings me to… my resolutions for 2013
– Focus on corner entry speed. I feel like I’m very slow coming into corners, from a combination of the bike being so fast that I’m getting freaked out and slowing too much, and that I’m also aware that I can just fire it down the straights and catch up, and this seems to sit like a bug in my head, slowing me down.
– Don’t focus on knee down. I can get my knee down pretty much any time I want if the conditions are right. But I find I slow down slightly to do so, oddly. Slow down and increase the lean. Don’t do either – carry more corner speed, don’t focus on knee down, and wait for it to come again as a result of going faster rather than “because I want to”.
– Learn how to take off the wheels and change brake pads. I’m tired of paying for someone else to do these basic things that I could (and should) do myself. It stops here.

Brands GP

A week ago today, myself and Tea Monster headed to Brands Hatch (GP circuit) for what may (for me at least) end up being the last UK trackday of the 2012 season. I guess technically three trackdays doesn’t qualify as a “season”, but who’s counting? Anyway, being the middle of September there was the inevitable worries about the weather, but as it turned out it was pretty much perfect. Sunny skies and although the temperature wasn’t blisteringly hot, it was as good as could have been expected for that time of year.

For me, the goal of the day was to just get more comfortable with the RSV4. As only my second trackday on the bike, it was important to just be progressive and grow in confidence on the machine. At Rockingham I’d felt no faster overall than on the Daytona 675, and especially slower and less confident in the corners. I guess that was the inevitable side effect of a different bike, and a shiny one at that. I think this time around I was still slower in the corners than I was on the 675, but overall I was way faster (or so it felt) thanks to what can only be described as the awesome power of the RSV4. It really is a missile. On pretty much every lap it was wheelie-ing out of two particular corners, such that it prompted me to check the wheelie control settings and discover they were off (!). With that fixed, I’d get a bit of head shake, but still keep the front mostly down, and drive nicely out of the corners. I can safely say I’ve never experienced speed like that before. Now I understand…

So overall, it was an entirely incident free and “moment” free day from my perspective, I grew in confidence on the bike, and there were moments where I could begin to see the potential of my riding on the bike. Got my knee down just the once, but that’s honestly not a priority at the moment. I know that when we go to Almeria in November, I’ll be wanting corner speed and knee down to be the order of the days, but for the moment I’m happy with the confidence building and bike familiarisation that’s happening. Bring on Almeria!

Mallory – 16/6/12

Nearly two weeks after my visit to Snetterton I have a trackday at Mallory. Unfortunately the Summer of 2012 is the wettest for 100 years (we now know) and so I get to do my first wet trackday. The rain in the morning wasn’t to bad in the morning but by lunchtime it was full on deluge. Since I was on my Hornet I felt I had an advantage with ABS, and the grip wasn’t as bad I thought – it felt surprising going round the outside of people on Gerrards without falling off.

My thanks to Ryan Clare (a friend of Serious-Racing) for keeping me a space in the cow shed and providing the coffee. In return I was his pit bitch and helped fit the wets to the RSV4. No pictures of riding as there was probably not enough light or something. On the whole I think I prefer a dry track…

Things are Warming Up

Had my first trackday on the RSV4 last weekend. All in all went well – I don’t think I was actually any faster (yet) than on the 675, but was cautious and progressive, and definitely had a lot of room for improvement.

And then the day after, I picked up a set of replacement RSV4 Factory fairings from your good friend and mine, Mr. Ryan Clare. Take a look at these beauties:

Snetterton – 13/5/12 – Group 1 (Novice).

Time for the second trackday of the year. This is back at Snetterton with Focused Events and it’s going to be popular as it’s one of the few available at the weekend. And thank the stars the suns’ out for my journey up and will be for the rest of the day, but boy is it cold to begin with. My first stop is for petrol at Newmarket but the main purpose is too put on two sets of petrol pump gloves under my Alpinestar gauntlets. This means I can concentrate on riding for the rest of the journey.