Trackday: Thunderhill West

Trackday at Thunderhill West, Saturday May 13th 2017.

I hooked up with Bill and Arash over ZRXOA (thread) and bought my ticket for the event. Bill came over to my place  the previous Thursday and picked up my bike and Akshay’s bike and loaded them into his van. Bill’s Chevy van is perfectly set up for carrying two bikes.

The day of the event, I got up at about 4AM after sleeping for only about 2 hours the previous night. I was excited and the adrenaline made it hard to sleep! Akshay and his Dad came over to my place at about 4:45AM and we left for the track in his SUV. The two hour drive to the track was uneventful and we got there at about 7:15AM. Bill and Arash were already there, so we parked right next to them.

I registered myself at the welcome desk and then took the bike for a safety check. That went quick (5 seconds) without any concerns, and we then gathered for the 8AM rider meet. There was lots of information there, mostly about rider safety, the various flags and general information about the track.

The first session started at 9AM. I had signed up for the slowest C-group, so I went in at 9:40AM. Each session was 20 minutes long. The first couple of laps we were following a control rider at a snails pace getting familiar with the various turns on the track. Once he moved to the side, I started riding faster, increasing my speed over consecutive laps. I found the time slot of 20 minutes per session to be perfect – any longer would have been exhausting and any shorter would have been too less time to do my best on the track.

I ran the 9:40 and 10:40 AM sessions, but I skipped the 11:40 session. I was a bit dizzy after the first two sessions, not having slept well the previous night. I felt much better after lunch and enjoyed all the afternoon sessions.

The ZRX did incredibly well on this tight track for being a 500+ lbs bike. The instant torque in any gear really helped a lot. I even tried running a few laps in 3rd gear, without a single gear change.

For most of the day, I was riding conservatively, just trying to get a feel for things, and trying to get the lines right. I did have a couple of “sticky” moments, one in turn-8, which is a blind turn at the crest of the hill, and one in turn-4, which is decreasing radius turn. Both times I saved in well before I ran off the track, but I paid more attention to these sections in the following laps.

I started in C group and in the morning session I was easily passing 2-3 riders in every lap. By the afternoon, the slowest of the riders had dropped out and there was less passing. Towards the end of the day, I was being passed every other lap by a couple of aggressive kids I think those guys were from morning B group.

The most worrisome part of the track for me was the straightway. Here you have 4-5 bikes riding pretty close to each other, all gunning it to their max, reaching speeds of over a 100 mph. Then they all brake at different points and magically fall in line to take turn-1. On the first couple of laps this high speed clustering was a little unnerving, so I started to take it easy on the straight, allowing most people (except the 250s) to pass me.

Here is a picture of my rear tire at the end of the day. It was practically bubbling from edge to edge.

Unfortunately Akshay lowsided his BMW in the first afternoon session and had to sit out for the rest of the day.

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