Why Back to Basics? you may ask, well being frank, it was just a matter of money. After falling at Silverstone a few years back and in affect, being stranded at the circuit, taking a bike to the trackday in a van, is by far, the most sensible choice. If the circuit is more than a few hours away, its also wise to throw a nights stay at a hotel into the mix as well. Now this all starts to add up and can, in certain circumstances, make trackdays either un-accessable or a rare treat due to these cost implications.
I've been lucky enough to share a van with mates in the past, most recently with Dean when we went to Rockingham. When I lived in London, I had easy access to several circuits, reducing the risk of being stranded as help, was a lot closer. Now living by the South Coast, a trackday requires a serious investment in both time and money and it was from here that my Back to Basics plan started to take shape.
My plan was to go old school. Wake up early and take everything I needed, from tools to water, in either a tail pack or a rucksack. Having prepped the bike in the days prior, the alarm went off at 04:00. Now, I won't lie. At that moment I seriously questioned what in the world I was doing.
Stumbling downstairs I had some breakfast with a mandatory coffee and eventually got in my kit, hi viz and all, headed to the garage and wheeled the bike out into the darkness. It was 04:55.
Despite being a bit damp and overcast, the journey went well and with a minor stop at Fleet Services (I always seem to stop there) the only 'problem' was the remains of a accident on the slip road from the Northbound M3 to the anticlockwise M25 involving a few lorries. Riding past the massive fuel spillage, the stench of diesel, even through my Buff, was nauseating.
Making great progress and having started with a full tank of fuel, the warning light pinged on at just shy of 130miles as I was near Toddington Services. After a quick calculation I worked out I was getting nearly 10 miles a litre and with about 4 litres left, it should be just enough to get me close or if not, to the circuit or at the very worst, the nearest petrol station.
It turns out that on the route I'd planned, which utilised a series of bypass roads, the nearest petrol station was on the A421 at Marston Moretaine, about 3 miles from Bedford and about 14 miles from the Autodrome. I of course, rode straight past this theorising there would be another petrol station on the way. There wasn't.
Taking off the mirrors and dropping the tyre pressures down, I got noise tested (93db - thank you very much) listened to the briefing and the warnings regarding the sound meters on the circuit. It turns out that two black flags for noise and you are on your way home.
Being in the intermediate group, I had enough time to ride over to the fuel stop and brim up with their expensive fuel. Its worth noting here that fuel at racetracks is notoriously expensive, but at Bedford, it was still cheaper than at the motorway services along the way. Anyway, I digress. Bedford, being an old airforce base, is as flat as a pancake, but the layout was fast and technical in places. During the sighting laps it was clearly evident that the circuit was still damp in a few places, but with the FireBlade wearing Pirelli GT Angel touring tyres, this wasn't dreadful. Still, even with the Pirellis, the circuit was clearly greasy in places and I took it nice and steady. As the day progressed and the track heated and dried, the tyres really held me back, but in no way detracted from my enjoyment of being back out on track.
As it always the way on tracks with damp patches, a few riders were caught out. This seems to happen mostly in the chicanes, but one fast rider on his BMW S1000RR lost it coming onto the straight past the pit and I watched as his beautiful bike cartwheeled into the grass. Sadly, I didn't see him on track during the rest of the day. He'd had less than 30mins track time and ruined his bike.
After lunch I did one final session and pushed a little harder through the turns. The FireBlade is no longer a really fast bike so I was loosing a lot of ground to the newer litre bikes out on track, but I was pleased with my speed through the corners, even with touring tyres on. I did get mugged beautifully by a rider on a Ducati Scambler which made me smile. Given a severe increase in funds, I'd have no problem running my FireBlade as a track bike. Plans for the future maybe?
Getting the bike back to road trim didn't take long and after thanking the staff for a well run and enjoyable day, I said goodbye to the riders I'd been chatting to and headed off in readiness for the long ride home. It was 15:30.
My body was already aching, but knowing that it would all be dual carriageway and motorway, I knew it would be manageable. Once on the motorway, the traffic was a whole lot worse and I my shoulders started to scream out when I had to filter down to the M25 exit. When you're tired its all too easy to make a poor judgement or a silly error that could have serious consequences. Knowing this, I planned every move really carefully and didn't take anything resembling a risk.
I broke up the journey home with my second stop of the day to Fleet Services for a coffee and a muffin. See, I told you I always stop there. My right hand had gone numb due to the vibration of the bike and following more filtering on the M25 and start of the M3, my shoulders, hands and legs were all politely requesting a little rest. It was 16:40.
In the queue at the Starbucks, a gentleman came up to me and praised me for the condition of my FireBlade, which started off a little conversation. Turns out he had a two year old BMW GS Adventure and was planning on going touring on it next year. One thing's for certain, that BMW would be a whole lot more comfortable over distance compared to my FireBlade.
So finally, 13hrs and 17minutes after leaving the house in the morning I rolling into my garage. The exhaust fault had made my bike sound much gruffer, but she performed well and kept me safe. My Back to Basics trackday had been a success and was everything I was hoping it would be. It was fun and I got both myself and the bike back in one piece. I staggered upstairs removed my kit and sat down on the sofa. I was shattered and it was 18:12.