Fact: Castle Combe provides thrills and spills!

Castle Combe race track in Wiltshire rattles my senses during inaugural track day outing.

One of the longest established race curcuits in the UK, Castle Combe, has encouraged novices to take part in their in-house motorcycle track day programme for the past 15 years. Due to very strict noise regulations they allow only 12 riders on track at any one time and employ numerous, experienced instructors to provide tips and advice on your lines and riding style.

With a promise of plenty of space on the 1.85 mile circuit and as a complete track novice, I signed up to one of their weekday events to investigate..

Before I left London, a quick history lesson from Editorial Director Mark Forsyth concluded with a tale of how he broke a 14 year old lap record set by 'B.Sheene' on his last visit to the tricky Wiltshire circuit. MF, we are not worthy!

Armed with my old man’s trusty Honda VFR 750 and some shiny new knee sliders, I was keen to improve my road riding skills on a track that was once one of the fastest in the UK.

Nerves building, the day started with a friendly safety briefing where riders with very limited experience are given the choice of sporting a blue ‘New To Track’ bib and inclusion in an all novice group.

The first outing on track consists of several sighting laps in order to familiarise yourself with the course. Nerves settled, the rest of the day consisted of approximately six sessions of 10 minutes each.

If you’ve ever been to Castle Combe you’ll know that nearly all the corners are right handers except for the several chicanes introduced in the late 1980s to reduce average track speeds. As the rider of one mean looking Suzuki Bandit found out, too much throttle on a cold left hand tyre edge spells a rather broken Streetfighter and a painful kiss with the tarmac.

Following a rain shower during the lunch break, I ventured out back onto the now damp track with a touch more trepidation. The crashed and burnt out ZX-9R parked in the pits from the previous session provided clear proof of how slippery the track now was. I needn’t have worried though, the torquey VFR behaved perfectly and I finished the damp session with a big smile and a huge sigh of relief.

Later in the afternoon, on a dry track and in my penultimate session, my boot and right hand foot peg touched down folding up as I tipped the VFR into the tricky Quarry corner. My heart jumped straight into my mouth. After a few quick breaths, I was gleaming, part of me had scraped the tarmac and I was still on the bike!

The fact that lots of people overtook me throughout the day was all part of the learning curve, but it felt great that I’d improved and increased my cornering speed on a circuit renowned for it's ability to bite. The instructors were all very helpful and the overall theme of 'safety first' shines through.

The ride home felt painfully slow and the traffic at rush hour pissed me off no-end but I was riding with an increased confidence and with the knowledge that I’ll be back soon for another go.

Visit the Castle Combe site for more information.