The day itself started the evening before. I was hugely stressed as I left work really late and still had jobs to do on the bike to get it ready. The FireBlade recently developed a fault, so I had no option but to take the Ducati.
Dean had never done a trackday before so he was a mixture of nervous and excited and although Rockingham isn't the best track in the world, its not too fast and fairly easy to learn, but difficult to master.
The safety briefing was late and in my opinion, incomplete. Pete Boast and Mike Armitage from the magazine took the briefing and went through the basics, which would have been fine if most of the crowd had done trackdays before, but they hadn't. They covered the basics, such as flags etc, but didn't set out clear rules for the day regarding positioning, overtaking, etiquette on track and around the paddock, what to do if you come off (although they did mention what to do if you see a rider come off - which was slow down and ride past) and they glossed over what the opening session would be like and how you should ride it.
I was out in the Inters/Advanced and followed a rider who had clearly never been on track before. I was in the second wave, which was lead off far to quickly from the start. The guy in front lost ground almost immediately and then, by the time the third lap came around, the one where you have to return to the pits, he had no clue. He moved himself into one of the two novice groups and I never saw him again.
In my group there were some genuinely fast guys, but also some inconsiderate assholes, who were reasonably fast in places, but certainly not the best riders. During the day these clowns thought it a good idea to try and do stoppies in the paddock area, without lids on for good measure. The paddock area had people, even children, wandering around and nobody from Rockingham or the organising team seemed to notice or care. This is not the kind of event that Bike Magazine put together in previous years. The last time I was at Rockingham, the day was run by Rapid Training and as ex police riders, the day ran like clockwork and there was no confusion, nor pissing around.
My time on track itself was good though. I knew what I was looking to achieve on the day and that was build up slowly and just have an enjoyable time riding the bike as its supposed to be ridden. I tried to remember my California Superbike lessons regarding lines and braking points etc, remembering some, forgetting others. Seven sessions later the day was over. People had started to leave the circuit after lunchtime, which although very strange, is most likely a mixture of people having a long way to go or not being happy and enjoying the day.
My final session was intentionally slower than the two previous ones. On the session before and the two preceding lunch, I was getting more confident and pushing the bike harder through the corners. I was still taking it easy on the braking though as for me, I was able to maintain the level of bike control that I wanted.
Working on my technique and in a group that was been thinned down to less than half, I was enjoying the ride, but was tired. With the proper fast guys on track, I was happy to do half the session and head in.
The drive home was really long and all three of us were shattered. Stopping regularly to get food / coffee, we eventually started uploading the kit at 22:30, with my bike returning to the garage at 23:00.
In conclusion, something has clearly happened between Bike Magazine and MSV, meaning they don't run the days in collaboration anymore. Bike Magazine need to be careful here. Yesterday's event was a shadow of it former self. Paul Lang and Mike Armitage are both really nice guys, and very good riders, both of whom gave up a little of their time to speak to me and this is not a criticism of them nor the magazine itself, but this was probably the worst trackday I've been on when I didn't crash.
I hope MSV and Bike can overcome their differences and get back on track (excuse the pun) with delivering these kind of days. Bike magazine is a brand and the way that MSV run their trackdays would only support this in the eyes of the readers and riders. With Bike being arguably the best and most popular UK motorcycle magazine, you want to have an experience a day that truly reflects this. These days used to sell out in a week because they were that good, but this wasn't the case here and having experienced it here today, I can see why.