Hello and welcome to Alex's Blog,
This blog is all about the Almeria Track Day experience of Chris Taylor, joint-manager of our Oakmere superstore, he speaks about his experience of track days at Almeria. Take it away Chris:
I have been to Almeria four times before, the last time being 2012 on my old Yamaha R6 but I had a break from track days and I have just bought the 2014 ZX10 last year and this is my first serious track day session to get to know the bike. I had done Oulton Park and Donnington on it, but I figured that Almeria was a pretty safe bet as I know the circuit well and with it being a number of days all together I was certain that this is where I would get to know the ZX10 properly. And in lovely weather!
I went with Focused Event to Almeria because I have been with them before and had a great experience and they are the best for Almeria. They take the hassle out of getting my motorbike there - it was collected locally from me two weeks before and when I arrived there it was sat waiting for me in great condition with everything present and correct - as always.
Kev and Neil did a great job as per usual. Gemma the photographer is also out there taking fantastic shots. A great team.
It's a very different riding style from the R6 to the ZX10 so it was like starting from scratch because with the R6 you carry a lot of corner speed and with the ZX10, because litre bikes don't corner as quickly, its more of a stop, get the bike turned through the corner and upright as quickly as possible so you can utilise the power of a 1000cc engine - so this is what I needed to try to retrain myself with to adjust the riding style from one to the other.
My main concerns were suspension settings and tyre wear. I needed to keep a close eye on both of those. I was running Pirelli Super Corsa slicks 120 front and a 200 rear. My first concern was hot tyre pressures. Even though I ran the same tyres on the R6 the pressures would be different on the ZX10. After taking advice I was recommended a 35 PSI hot in the front and 24 PSI Hot in the rear. Obviously much lower tyre pressures than you would run on the road, but this would give you a bigger contact patch on the track.
When we got there the first job was to get everything set up. I found a comfortable space in one of the garages, bike on stands, tyre warmers on, and get all the equipment close to hand so you feel nice and comfortable as you are there for four days so it's important to get everything set up and be comfortable with your surroundings.
For me, psychologically, I need to know where everything is and
familiarise myself with my surroundings to make sure that I am not
thinking about, or stressing about, where anything is, so when I am on
the bike I can just focus on riding. In the word of the great James
Hetfield (from Metallica) "Nothing else matters".
With all that set-up I just needed to get out and ride the bike. I started in group 1 (the slowest) first. Focused Events put transponders on everyone's bike and the team take note of everyone's track times. These are not disclosed to you this is for them to then make sure that everyone is in the best group for them on their lap times. Not knowing makes you try harder as well. The first couple of sessions went well.
These are twenty minutes long and the aim is to get around 8-10 laps in. I started nice and steady as I hadn't been there for 7 years, so I needed to re-learn the track and I wanted to be confident with what was coming up next etc. Familiarising myself with breaking points, apexes and not really concentrating on the correct lines yet, the first day was all about refamiliarising myself with the track.
The first day went well, I was picking up the pace by the afternoon sessions, but as I got quicker gearing became an issue. For example, which sprockets to run front and rear.
On the second day I was moved to group 2. I decided that adjusting the
tooth size on the drive and rear wheel sprocket would move the optimum
power range in to the correct settings for this circuit. I fitted a 39
tooth rear sprocket just to try to get the gearing perfect so that I
would get a better punch out of the corners on to the short straights.
By the afternoon on the second day a new rear slick was required. I decided to try a different brand, a Dunlop, just to see how it would be.
I had never tried Dunlop tyres before, so it was a new thing for me, but everyone was telling me that they grip really well and wear better, and last longer. But they have a much stronger tyre wall than the Pirelli, so you run completely different tyre pressures with them. In the Dunlop rear you run a hot 22 PSI!!! (SO LOW)
I was getting tearing on the tyre driving out of corners (as you can see it is either side) but I wasn't sure what the issue was, was it the tyre, tyre pressures or was it a suspension issue? I decided to text Richard at Maxton Suspension and ask him what the best thing to do was.
We decided it was probably going to be a suspension issue so at the start of day three I applied four clicks to the adjuster first and that cured the problem and the tyre was wearing a lot better. I was going out and getting better times. Unfortunately, in one day I ruined this tyre because of the soft suspension on day 2 I had worn it excessively and had to throw it away. It should have lasted me two days. On day four I fitted a brand-new Pirelli slick. Stick to what you know.
So, I fitted the brand-new Pirelli slick and adjusted the rear suspension as Richard from Maxton Suspension had advised to stop the tyre wear that had ruined the Dunlop the day before. I was advised that as I went faster the tyre would last longer. How does that work??? I don't know, I am just trusting my crew chief, Mr Callum O'Shea.
The last few sessions were great. I was getting quicker all the time. I managed to go out with my brother-in-law Callum who races in Thundersport GB and he "gave me a tow" but he was showing off a little bit as his rear tyre was completely worn out and was spinning the wheel up coming out of corners leaving big darkies in front of me. He didn't leave me though and he did a 1.53 and I wasn't far behind him. It was hard work though and the sun was beating down on us.
It was all good though and I kept me and the bike sunny side up for the whole four days, so all was well with the world. Home the next day. I definitely made progress on the ZX10 and got to know it more which was what I wanted.
I decided to leave the bike out there and booked a three-day Almeria experience on April the 1st - read about that on part 2 of this blog.
Until next time, stay safe,