Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Phillip Island Track Day Nov 2014

Cresting the hill on the main straight, grid markers flashing past, the overhead bridge flashes by as I look quickly at the dials, 250+kmh speedo and tacho passing the red line in 5th gear changing up to sixth looking ahead all I can see is the track disappearing over the crest and into the ocean. I know there is a right hand bend coming up fast but I can't see it yet. The adrenaline is flowing fast now. This has got to be the best race track in the world.

A couple of days earlier........

Loading up the trailer with the bikes on thursday night for the trip down to the island was pretty easy, it only took about 10 minutes, unlike the drive that was ahead of us on Saturday morning. It was a 1000km 12 hour journey, which was made a little easier as both Bushpig and myself took turns in driving.

Road tripping

The Island approaches

Paying the Toll
We had left Sydney around 6am for the long boring trip down the Hume(Doom) Highway. Why this road only has a 110kmh speed limit is beyond me. It could quite easily be 130 or 140kmh. Hour after hour and mile after mile of boring dry country scenery we were finally coming into view of the bridge onto the island at San Remo. We had to pull in a pay the toll at the San Remo hotel. Bushpig said it would bring good luck and please the motorcycling gods or some such thing.

Phillip Island is a pretty place in its own right even without having one of the best race tracks in the world on it doorstep. The Sunday dawned a perfect day with sunny Sky's and a warm 24°C. So we had a bit of a look around the island and went out to the knobbies where they have seals, penguins and seagull colonies. We didn't see any seals or penguins but there were thousands of seagulls shitting on every ones cars. But we didn't really come here for sight seeing we came to race er ride the track. You decide which one we were doing. Technically they call it a ride day, but just about every one we saw looked like they were racing each other.

Main Street of Cowes

Waiting to get into the track. Funny thing that this guy in front was in the garage next to us.

For those of you who have never been to a track day before and were wondering how it works it is pretty simple. You pay your money and sign away your life via their indemnity forms then you are allowed into the track where your bike has to pass scrutineering. You also need a full set of leathers, gloves and boots and helmet. Back protectors are highly recommended but not mandatory.
There are 4 different groups of riders; Red(Fast), Green(Medium/fast), Yellow(Medium/slow) and white(Slow). Groups are checked and if your to slow/fast for a group they will move you either up or down. You get 6 - 20 minute sessions throughout the day which are 1 hour apart, which actually comes around quite fast on the day. That's pretty much it about it. Ride as fast as you possibly can without binning it is the general idea.

We got to the track early about 7:15am and the line to get in already stretched out to the road. I was feeling a little zombified as I didn't sleep real well the night before. I guess the anticipation of the days events were playing on my mind and I only slept very lightly. It felt like the alarm had gone off just after I fell asleep. It was one of those nights where I was drifting in and out of sleep. It was also my first PI track day and we are in red group, so I was a little nervous.

The skies had grayed over and looked ominous as we waited to get into the track. Indemnities signed and we were allowed in. We quickly found our garage where Stuart and Rick were frantically unloading all of their gear and race bikes. We just unloaded bushpigs R1 and were about to unload mine when Phillip Islands meteorological system decided it was time to dump on us. So we left my bike in the trailer until it could be retrieved in one of the few dry bits between some of PI's best rainfall.

Once unloaded we promptly went through scrutineering promptly and got our bikes back and on the stands with our tyre warmers on. Then we waited....

and waited...

and waited some more......

and it rained.....

and rained some more......

so we waited some more.....

Whilst the bikes sat idle in their nice and cosy tyre warmers. 

Early on during this time I'd texted Jules of Tarsnakes fame as he was coming out to the track today to see us, take some photos and generally check out how a ride day operates. I'd just finished texting him the garage number then he suddenly appeared right in front of me phone in hand. Well that was a stroke of luck. The officials had the wet signs out meaning no slicks, I wasn't prepared to go out anyway until it dried. So Jules, myself Stewie, Rick and Bushpig all had a good yack about all things bikes and other such things.

This was the theme for the day

Race ready

I'd felt a bit bad about Jules coming all the way out to the Island only to have bad weather have us stuck in the garage most of the day. We did have a great chat together though so it was still good. And mate if your up this way next year make sure you drop by and say g'day, your welcome here anytime. Thanks for the lend of the jacket too mate, much appreciated. I put my leather jacket on after you left that kept me warm enough even if I did look funny in shorts, thongs and leather jacket.

Phillip Island ride days have a bunch of BMW S1000RR bikes that you can hire for the ultimate track experience. Just don't crash them as the excess is $5000. We saw about 3 or 4 of these go down the track in the rain on the Monday.

The guys in the garage next to us were on street tyres and the rain wasn't going to stop them from going out. Bushpig still had his road going tyres on so he got out for 1 early session where it was still wet but stopped raining briefly until near the end of the session where it started to rain again. The smile on his face when he came back in said it all. I think the words were something along the lines of "Fucken unreal". That was pretty much the end of day one as Phillip islands weather put us to the sword as we just waited and watched. At least while we had all this down time Rick was put to good use and set up every ones suspension sag settings in the garage. He has since been nicknamed Dr Kwok. Lets hope tomorrows weather will be a bit more co-operative. This was the reason we booked for 2 days - insurance against the weather. Rick didn't get out as the race bikes had slicks and Rick was only booked for one day.

Photo courtesy of http://tarsnakes.com.au

Not all bikes that went out came back in the same condition
Day 2 started out a little more promising as there were patches of blue sky with ominous looking rain clouds passing overhead. The track had a dry line on it but still had wet patches. Stewie and Rick both said that I should swap the slicks for the road tyres to at least get some time on the track to learn it before going out on the slicks later when it dries up. It didn't take too long to make the decision, better to go out with not many bikes on the track to learn where it goes before all the fast guys get out. Stewie and Rick had the wheels changed whilst we waited at the rider briefing. That was a good decision as I got to learn where the track went and there was only a handful of riders out. 

That first lap out was incredible, the speed and flowing nature of Phillip island was absolutely incredible. My very first pass down the straight in the damp condition I hit 250kmh before peeling into turn 1 which is an incredible fast bend.
The first session ended up raining on my last lap, I had been pushing as hard as I could in the damp conditions and my visor had been fogging up around the circuit I had to open it a couple of times to defog it near honda and MG(the 2 slowest points on the track). The last lap coming down the straight started to bucket down with rain I remember seeing 255kmh in the rain and my visor was badly fogging, very interesting......

Drying track

Riders lining up for the first session, still a wet track

Our 2nd session was just about to start the track had dried again but another heavy rain shower dumped right at the start of the session so I sat that out. I didn't want to ride in the rain when it might be dry soon. That was the last of the rain for the day and by the 3rd session the dry track signs had come out and everyone had come out on their slicks. I decided to stay on my road tyres as the weather still looked dicey. I managed to go a lot faster in the second session and I saw 264kmh down the front chute before starting to fear god. I was surprised that I got my knee down pretty early in my 2nd session as well. I love this track. The one thing I noticed was how under powered my old R1 was compared to the new bikes, all the new litre bikes motored past down the straight and I was coming around turn 12 the same speed as most of the guys. 150 small ponies can't match the 180-200 horses of the modern bikes. Time for an upgrade? No bikes came past on the straight when I was doing track days 10 years ago. 

The suspension was working perfectly, money well spent in my book as it's probably the reason that I stayed on the track and in 1 peace. I was also pretty happy with the performance of the old Michelin pilot power 3 as they had over 5000kms on them. I managed to pass a couple of guys riding on slicks on my worn old street tyres. I can't wait to try these slicks out when I get to Eastern Creek. The tyre warmers are a must on a track day, where you can go out hard from the first bend as the tyres are already up to temp.

The 3rd session was even faster again and I was really enjoying it and getting into some sort of rhythm, managing to string the corners together in a high speed sequence. Getting the knee down was no problem at all as it seemed to be kissing the tarmac everywhere. Some of the A graders in the session were really flying on their race bikes on slicks as I watched them from a couple of metres away backing their bikes in, motogp style into the 2 hairpins. So impressive. I have a new found respect for the motogp boys.

The 4th session started out pretty well but I started to get a bit tired fairly early after only about 4 laps and I started to slow a bit. This track day stuff is hard work for a lazy fatboy like me. So as I came past the start finish line I was thinking I may come back in. The yellow flags were waving at southern loop and as I crested the curve I could clearly see Bushpig sitting on his bike in the kitty litter on the exit of the turn. That was enough for me so I pulled in to see if he was ok and needed any help. Turned out he was fine and he lost the rear end coming out of the bend and went into the kitty litter. There was virtually no damage at all, those oggy knobs did a fantastic job.

Stewie on the YZF 750 race bike

The track had some official photographers taking happy snaps of everyone circulating. We went and checked them out and they were very good photos so we bought a couple each. 

Me at Lukey Heights

Me at Siberia
This was my first time on the Phillip Island track and I thoroughly enjoyed it except for the average weather but anyone who has been to PI before will know that this place can be fickle. If your thinking of doing a ride day I highly recommend PI as it is a seriously fun, fast sweeping track. If that's your type of riding your going to love it. I know I did.

Here is a video I put together over a couple of days.


  1. A great write up Steve. I really enjoyed your description of that first run down the main straight. So glad that you got some decent weather on the second day and that Geoff (and R1) was OK after his 'off'.

    I really enjoyed my visit - despite the weather. I've been to the Island many times as a spectator and it really is a special feeling rolling through the front gates of the circuit. Regards to the other fellas, it was great to meet them and I will see Rick and Stuart in action at the Island Classic early next year.

    Cheers Jules.

    1. Hi mate. Thanks for the kind words. Make sure you drop in and say hello to Rick and Stewie when they are down racing, i'm sure you can get into the pits for that race event.

  2. Replies
    1. That was my favourite one too. Good photography!!!

  3. Been waiting for this write up all weekend! Great stuff! It was a shame that you lost the first day but maybe your suspension benefited from the lay day. Glad to hear Geoff was ok after his off.
    "Time for an upgrade?" "This track day stuff is hard work for a lazy fatboy like me." You know the answer......1KG lost is 1HP saved. Get a MTB, lose weight and build strong legs=fast for longer.
    Again, nice one little Bro.

    1. Well my bike didn't feel like it increased by 6HP, easier to purchase 50HP than lose 50KG!

      Faster for long sounds good, might have to keep it up.
      Glad you liked it, it took a while to put it together.

  4. Let me guess.... you're still smiling?

    Great write up and photos. Bummer about the rain on the first day but it sounds like you made up for it on day 2.

    1. I've been smiling all week. It wouldn't be PI if it didn't rain. Glad you liked the post brandy.

  5. Nice write up Steve. Hidden talent!

    1. Thanks mate, its a shame you didn't get out on the track. I'm sure I could have learn a few tricks from you.

    2. Oh and a big thanks to you and stewie who it wouldn't have been possible without you 2 guys. Thanks for the lend of the trailor.

  6. It looks like no fun at all...

    Glad you got out on the second day and gotcha knee down and nothing else. Cool write-up too and I bet there's some pictures going up on the shed wall eh?

    1. I've been wondering where to put those pics I bought. Thanks for the tip.