Tested: Silverstone track days

Visordown's Kane Dalton and former Manx GP racer gets colour-coded on Silverstone's friendly track day

EVERY time I ask a friend to join me on a track day the standard response is: 'But I don't want to crash my bike!'

My simple response is, well don't crash then! It makes me laugh because they are happy to ride on the road without worrying so much about crashing.

Learning skills on track, where there is no traffic, or police radar and there are large run off areas manned by experienced marshals and with medical assistance close at hand is the best place to learn and explore your potential - and also your bikes.

Understanding how far you can lean your bike over will get you out of trouble on the road. When that corner tightens up unexpectedly it can teach you how to react... and not just by grabbing a handful of front brake.

Silverstone track days want to encourage new riders to the track. They want people to feel comfortable bringing their pride and joy to the circuit with confidence.

Walking around the pits I noticed a number of road bikes that I would not expect to see at a typical track day, for example Ducati Panigales, Bennelis and even a Triumph Bonneville. There were only a few track bikes.

Silverstone run three colour-coded groups, Blue, Green and Red. Silverstone uses colours so it does not put any value or pressure on the ability in the group. For example, experienced road riders may not appreciate the label novice, even if this indicates novice to track. Also, riders might feel shame at being considered intermediate or I often hear people refer to the advanced group as ‘’the fast group’’ - and this can be intimidating for some.

Instead riders can concentrate on developing at their own pace.

When you sign up for your track day on the Silverstone website you are asked what level of experience you have on track and then allocated a group. As the groups are really small this offers the opportunity to move groups with ease. If you are feeling confident that you are a little quick for your group you can move up. Likewise you can move down.

Silverstone sets the maximum number of riders in a group to 20, some track days pack groups with 40 or more riders. This means you get a lot more track space and this makes for a less intimidating experience.

The groups are allocated garages together and there is a huge amount of space. Everyone has access to power if they are trick enough to use tyre warmers. Each garage is also serviced with teas, coffee and biscuits, which is a nice touch.

Silverstone offers an instructor allocated to each group. All the instructors come with a racing pedigree. Regardless of your skill level you can ask for riding tips, chat about corners you are having problems with. It's important to note, this is not an academy day where you follow an instructor in a group all day, you are free to take advantage of the instruction or just do your own thing if you prefer.

Each group has sighting laps behind the instructor at the start of the day where there is no overtaking. This give you the chance to familiarise yourself with the track and get over any initial nerves. Your first session is 30 minutes to accommodate the sighting laps.

The set up encourages people to chat and build friendships. When you befriend a rider in your garage you are far less likely to cut his nose off in a corner. One guy in our garage ran off the track in the same place three times, when he came back in the van with his bike's belly pan full of kitty litter I went and chatted to him about what he was doing wrong into that corner.

The cars that had been on track the day before had dropped some oil, this had been cleaned and cement dust was laid down. The dust left a white mark where the oil had been; this was just at the turning in point to the corner. I gave him a little advice and next session he came back with a huge smile on his face.

You can always find people of similar skill that you can have a bit of banter with in the garage and on track.

In the morning briefing they emphasize the rule on overtaking, you can overtake in a straight line, before or after a corner but once a rider has entered a corner then it belongs to them and you must give them the space to do what they need to do without distraction or fear.

At the Silverstone track day I attended everyone was very respectful and followed the rules. This really gave people confidence on track. If you are faster you still have a great day, as you know you have the ability to overtake safely. I was testing a Ducati Panigale against a Yamaha R1 and I'd have been lynched if I'd scratched either bike, so it made me feel more at ease that no one was going to take me out by over cooking a corner.

You get six 20 minute sessions on the day.

The usual price is £139

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