Last week Jon introduced us to the concept of participating in a ‘track days’ event, this week we’ll peek over his shoulder as he navigates the technical road race circuit at Calabogie.
Turn 2 is a 113 degree right hander with a 3% slope towards the apex. On the brakes while downshifting in to turn 2, I can feel the back end wiggling around and sliding which can make hitting the apex a little tough. (watch that curb!)
Turn 3 is tough. It is blind and you crest a hill just as you enter which can make the rear tire spin and slide, so you have to be very gentle on the throttle. But if I get it even half right, I can shift from 2nd to 3rd gear going in to turn 4.
In 3rd gear I can get a lot of drive out of turn 4. I want to pin it right through 4, but the R1 scares me a little…OK maybe a lot! There’s so much power you can spin the rear tire almost at will. Even as I exit turn 4 in 3rd gear, once I open the throttle all the way, the front wheel starts to come up. Crazy, crazy, crazy!
The back straight going in to turn 5 is a bit down hill, so you pick up a lot of speed quickly. And you can’t really see turn 5 until you’re until you’re right on top of it. 5 & 6 are both medium radius right-handers, with 6 being at the bottom of a hill, so you can actually see the whole corner.
Turn 7 is to the left and not so tight… but it is completely blind. I never did get this corner nailed. Sometimes I’d go in wide and other times too tight. Once I even hit the curb. It wasn’t until the end of the day that my buddy Paul (very fast guy) told me to look out for the tall tree on the horizon as you enter 7. Huh? That tree he tells me, is the marker he uses to figure out where the bloody apex of the corner is!!! Here’s a link to a video on the Calabogie web site of a Porsche911 GT3 running a lap. At 47 seconds in to the video you can see this tall tree Paul uses as a marker. Now I know why he goes around me in 3rd gear like I’m parked! BTW, Paul’s lap times were typically in the 2-minute 9-second range, but he did dip in to the ’s on his ’06 R1 LE! That’s about 10 seconds faster than the Porsche in the video. Amazing what a modern sport bike is capable of.
Turn 8 is called “Temptation” and is probably the hardest corner to figure out, especially on a bike. It is a 219-degree multi-radius left-hander, which gets very tight at the end. You have to try to stay to the outside edge of the track, all the way around the first tworadii. If you don’t stay wide, you will have to slow down even more for the final part of the turn. But you are near maximum lean for the entire corner, so applying the brakes towards the end is not so easy. You can trail brake up to the final apex but that is quite tricky. If you don’t get your initial entry speed right, you could tuck the front end or run wide. Needless to say, I am slow through this corner!
Turn 9a is another semi-blind corner at the crest of a small hill. As you lean over and crest the hill, if you don’t back off the throttle a little, the back tire will spin and the rear end will slide. Can be scary at 150 km/h!
Turn 10 and 11 are very nice medium radius right handers that you can see. But 12 is a tight right-hand hairpin, that goes in to a down hill right-left ess bend.
Turn 14, called “The Hook” is also tricky. The fastest line is a late apex, but I always find myself getting dragged in early.
Turn 15 known as “The Spoon” is both the fastest corner and scariest to enter. The entrance to the Spoon is over a hill at the highest point on the track where you can easily be going over 100 km/h… but you can’t see the track in front of you. The entrance to the Spoon is completely blind, and I still haven’t figured out which damn tree to look at! But once you crest the hill, you can accelerate downhill all the way to the apex where the compression forces press you against your tank as you blast through at well over 160 km/h.
Turn 16 is also blind, but not as scary as The Spoon, and then you head down in to the final 4-turn sequence. You can almost combine turns 17, 18 and 19 in to one long corner. But your line will go from the outside edge of the track to the inside curb and back, three times. And you have to be careful not to go too wide in 19 or you won’t have room to set up for “Wilson’s”, the final tight left-hander that leads on to the front straight.
Getting back on the throttle around Wilson’s is tricky. The tires are hot and want to spin. And it’s easy to wheelie too, which can slow you down. But getting a good drive out of Wilson’s is key to better lap times.
The next thing you know, you’re back at turn 1. Seven laps later and I’m so tired I’m praying for the checkered flag. Can you say, out of shape?lol
By the end of the day I am wiped out. I’m tired but the weary feeling from adrenaline and exercise feels good. And I’m already planning for the next track day, which will be at Mosport… my absolute favorite track.
Jon Blaicher is the product manager for ATV and Snowmobiles here at Yamaha Canada but his passion for motorsports goes beyond snow and mud. He is also an avid sport bike rider (after graduating from the cruiser ranks). Following is the first installment of Jon’s experience during several ‘tack days’ aboard his R1.
- a Calabogie track day.
So you have a sport bike, been riding awhile and might be wondering… now what?
You may want to go faster, lean over further, brake harder, get your knee down, etc… but that really isn’t safe on the street.
Well… if you haven’t already, you MUST try a track day. But I’ll warn you. It can be addictive!
You just can’t beat a track day for sheer thrills, especially on a modern sport bike. But one of the best things about a track day are the people. Everyone there is a motorcycle enthusiast. I have several friends that I only see at track days. We usually pit together and share stories, food, tools, advice, and even some spare parts.
I try to do 3 or 4 track days every summer, and my first one in 2008 happened to be hosted by Pro 6 Cycleat the relatively newCalabogie Motorsports Park. What an amazing place! With 20 turns in just over 5 km, it is a fairly long track that can take awhile to learn. I had been there once in 2007, but a year later couldn’t remember much except where the pits were.
Now before jumping in the car and heading over, a little bike preparation is required. Not much, but there are a few things that need to be done.
Safety wire oil drain bolt and brake caliper bolts
I will post another article with more detail on the above items, but for now we’ll talk about the track day itself.
Even though I’ve been to a bunch of track days, I always get a little nervous unloading the bike. Calabogie is far enough away for me to stay over night, and when I initially arrived (the day before) it started to pour rain!A storm blew in fast and strong, taking a few tents with it! But by the next morning it was 17 degrees, the sun was shining and all of the water had dried up. Perfect start!
First thing you have to do is sign-in and get a tech inspection done on your bike. This does take a few minutes, and it’s best to pre-register and get there early to avoid line-ups. This is when you pick your riding class, of which there are three: Green, Yellow and Red… or as Sandy would say; “Fast, Faster, and Fastest… because we’re all fast.”
At Calabogie you also have to pass a sound test. Easy if your bike is stock, but can be more difficult if you have an aftermarket exhaust system or silencer. Last year I passed… barely. But this year the limits became more strict and my bike (with the same modified exhaust as last year) failed the sound test this year. Thankfully Pro6 Cycle carries a supply of “dB Dawg” silencer inserts. My R1 went from 113 decibels(dB) down to 97dB. That’s a huge difference! Cost about $80.00 for two dB Dawgs but worth every penny to keep tracks like Calabogie open for track days. And with an R1, I’m certainly not worried about missing a few HP.
Once through tech there’s a riders meeting to review the rules, flags and etiquette. Sandy and his crew run very professional track days, and are always working hard to keep them as safe as possible. Of course you must be willing to accept some risk, even though a track day is the safest place to push your limits and those of your bike. But it is still only a track day… not a race. As Sandy is fond of reminding us, “We’re all here to have fun. Please respect others out on the track.”
After the riders meeting, it’s time to suit up. Each session is approximately 20 minutes. So you usually get one session per hour, with 40 minutes in between to rest. With tire pressures set, it’s time to go.
Since it’s been a year from my last Calabogie day, I try to take it easy for the first few sessions. This is one long and technical track with many multi-radius corners, some of them blind. So the first few laps are spent learning which way to turn… left or right. By the end of the first session I’ve got the direction changes figured out, and I’m starting to work onlines while picking up the pace. This is where it really starts to get fun.
The pavement at Calabogie is beautiful. A special polymer modified asphalt, it is not the same stuff you find on the street. It is super smooth yet still abrasive, and while there’s lots of traction it is predictable. This translates in to confidence, and as the tires heat up you can lean the bike over further and further.
By the third session I’m starting to use 100% of the throttle on corner exits. With the gearing change (-2 teeth on the front), the R1 accelerates so fast it can be hard for the brain to keep up. Gear changes happen fast, and the speed is incredible.
With most of my lines figured out, I’m starting to feel more confident. Down the front straight speeds can exceed 200 km/h. Turn 1 is very fast. You don’t have to brake super hard going in, and you can skim the curb at 140 while accelerating towards turn 2….
Next week Jon will give you the blow by blow cornering technique as he learns the intricacies of the demanding Calabogie circuit