Motorcycle Track Guide: Cadwell Park

three time British Superbike champ's guide around the rollercoaster that is Cadwell Park, including how to take off over the Mountain

Every year Cadwell Park attracts more BSB spectators than any other racetrack.

When 30,000 plus fans line the bankings, a unique atmosphere is created that no other UK circuit can provide.  It may be the narrowest circuit on the calendar but it is also the most spectacular. When riders ask me about the famous ‘mountain’ at Cadwell I can only tell them riding up it is an unforgettable experience and they must get that box ticked as soon as possible. Technically it has everything; chicanes, fast corners, slow corners with extreme changes of elevation and cambers in between. This makes it very challenging to ride and when your pace increases so must your concentration. The good news is that the MSV organisation has increased safety recently to levels that previous owners told us were impossible.  

I’ve always liked Cadwell Park; unfortunately it didn’t always like me. My advice to first timers would be to give the circuit respect and be patient. Simply going round and round will allow you to absorb its many quirks and you’ll find your lap times will fall without having to push too hard.

Sector One: Start/Finish to Park Corner

Sector One: Start/Finish to Park Corner

Coming over the start/finish you get an amazing sense of speed with the grass bank on the left and the barrier on the right being so close to the edge of the track. I’ll be in fifth on my totally standard R6 before gently squeezing the brake and shifting back to fourth for a fast run into the uphill Coppice corner.

There are various braking references but I use the small access road on the right that doubles up as the club circuit hairpin. From the left apex this corner opens out and climbs steeply so you can immediately get back on the throttle but you’ll be close to 100mph here so start off steadily and build up. You should be tight to the left kerb then use two thirds of the track on the climb coming back to the middle of the track before clicking back to third for the run round to Charlies and onto the back straight.

On approaching the crest you should come back to the first apex then drift back to the middle of the track before pulling back to the second apex as you continue to turn right down the hill. Once the front end of the bike is settled it’s a case of gradually opening the throttle but the camber drops away here so begin to stand the bike up before accelerating hard. The narrow track means you’ll soon reach your exit point on the left, then it is off down Park Straight using all of fourth and fifth as you aim for Park Corner. ‘Aim’, being the operative word because as your speed increases the track appears to get narrower as you head over the blind crest that kinks slightly to the left. 

Having good track position is essential here. I come up the hill in the middle of the track so I get a nice straight run into Park braking just past the 300m board. It is all the way back to 2nd gear here being careful to get off the brakes before turning in. The risk with not getting off the brakes here is in the middle of this tight right there is a dip in the tarmac so should you still have the front suspension fully loaded there is a fair chance of snacking on some buttercups.

Sector Two: Park to Mansfield

Sector Two: Park to Mansfield

Park corner turns back on itself slightly so slow in/fast out works best. I use all of 2nd gear staying on the very edge of the track before shifting to 3rd and holding a constant throttle while brushing past the right apex of Chris’s curve. It’s then into the middle of the track and opening the throttle smoothly around the long right to the approach of the Gooseneck. Some riders stay on this line and head straight to the cambered right, however I like to pull out more to the left 100m from the corner for a wider sweep in. 

The closer you are to the grass going in on the right and exiting on the left at the Gooseneck the faster and safer you will be. You mustn’t be too aggressive on the throttle exiting the left however as both the front and rear suspension unloads as you dive down to Mansfield. Once upright you can accelerate hard down this short but mega steep downhill section but get ready to kiss your front mudguard as you brake and back-shift to 2nd gear for Mansfield.

Sector Three: Mansfield to Hall Bends

Sector Three: Mansfield to Hall Bends

I can’t stress enough how important it is to get off the brakes as soon as you begin turning in to Mansfield. This is downhill braking like no other track in the UK so your front forks will be close to bottomed out and you are seriously off camber as you approach the apex. Try not to use too much track on the exit as getting immediately back to the left is important for the entry into the next chicane. I hold second from Mansfield, then back to first for the dead stop right/left flick, then up to second and follow the white line on the edge of the track down to the left-hander that leads you into the Mountain section.

Like the Gooseneck you will get the ‘berm’ effect by staying tight here but then follow the left edge of the track longer than feels natural before running across the right apex and on up the Mountain. As the track veers right at the top you need to be turning slightly right on the way up then picking the bike up as you come over the rise.

Of the thousands of riders I’ve watched here, Karl Harris and Johnny Rea are the only two that jump it and make time. Ryuichi Kyonari could match anyone’s sector time but with both wheels on the tarmac. If you do fancy getting some air then carry speed up smoothly rather than accelerating hard as when your suspension compresses then unloads at the top you’ll find yourself in all sorts of trouble. I click third on the short run along the top again staying close to the white line before peeling off at the Pit Lane Exit into Hall Bends.

Sector Four: Hall Bends to Start/Finish Line

Sector Four: Hall Bends to Start/Finish line

A dab of front brake settles you before this short but exciting double right-left flick.

As I enter the right I’m already pushing my body to the left of the bike so I can change direction quickly and get good drive over the rise to the hairpin. I change back to 1st just on the crest which helps slow me down and pull me into the slowest right-hander on the circuit. Like Mansfield, to stay safe you need to be releasing the front brake on the way in, following through with smooth throttle opening as you exit along the white line. It’s then up to 2nd and downhill to the off-camber Barn corner that opens out onto the start finish. Whack the throttle open here and in seconds you’ll be swimming with ducks as immediately to your left is a lake. A unique feature but one you want to avoid. You’ll be scrubbing off speed till just past the apex with a closed throttle then it is a case of opening the throttle very smoothly for a safe run out. Your exit point is the tip of the ‘V’ where the track narrows on the left, then it is up through the gears to complete a lap.

Cadwell Park circuit is like no other. On a fast bike it is like threading a needle as its narrow nature makes every section so much tighter. You need to sort this circuit out at a slow pace because sections like the Gooseneck or the Mountain need lots of practice – try too hard too soon and they’ll catch you out. It has an excellent surface whatever the weather and tends to dry out quickly. Even at a steady pace every lap is an adventure so give it the respect it deserves and you’ll have a blast while staying safe.