A day at the Races, Ron Haslam Race School

Last chance to stay in the South

Last week I spent the afternoon at Donnington Park at the Ron Haslam Race School learning how to ride a Honda CBR600RR at high speeds through Craner Curves and getting my knee down around Melbourne Hairpin.

Along with Mr Parker Snr, we took part in the Elite course consisting of x3 15 minute sessions following an instructor. After togging up, the day kicks off with a quick introduction to the circuit, rules on track and some safety briefing before being lead out into the pits to get assigned an instructor. There are 2 riders to an instructor, our session was sold out meaning 22 riders + 11 instructors on-track at one time. That’s pretty busy although you don’t know it until you get taken by a faster running group, it’s a bit like allowing people to play through in Golf.

Mr Parker's
Mr Parker’s

The idea is each time out you pick up things from your instructor and push yourself further in the next session improving your technique and speeds each time. I have to say, I didn’t really feel this was the case for me although P Snr will say otherwise as he was sitting up my ass most of the afternoon before being let loose in the final few laps of the end session and literally leaving me somewhere at the other end of the track to fend for myself. Fortunately, I managed to get washed up in another group but nobody came to hook me up and take me round.

Andy Parker riding a Honda CBR600rr through turn 2 at Donnington Park
Taking turn 2 at Donnington Park

It is a great day, but I don’t know whether it is an exercise I want to repeat. My main interest in taking part was to gain better knowledge of bike control as I have only had a full licence for a few years now and have just gone from a bit of a kettle (‘99 SV650s) to a new CBR600FA. To an extent I did! I learnt that I could approach a corner at 80mph which probably has a limit of 50mph and get round it without ending up in a hedge if I wanted, but that’s not practical on the road, or legal. The theory behind that however is something quite valuable.

A lot of people feel that getting your knee down is a sign of a great supersport rider but I came to the conclusion that this is wrong because the knee down concept is not doing anything apart from acting as a guide. If your knee is scraping the ground it’s a warner that any lower and you’re a long way from the contact patch and you need to get the bike up or it’s going down.

In combination with being taught how to hang off the bike and what it is doing to the corner angle and speed is the explanation of locking the opposite elbow into the tank. In doing this you remove the pressure from your wrists and forearms and this is where you gain control over the bike. This I found more exciting than what my knees were up to whilst in the breeze. coming off the back of Melbourne it’s all too easy to take a too tight a line to set yourself up for Goddards and you’ll get round fine.

However, with the elbow locked into the take I found I could get wider out of Melbourne and fast up the hill braking later and cutting back more on Goddards giving a faster line down the home straight.

Take Aways

Gear and brake

I locked up the rear twice during day, both approaching Goddards. This was because I was heavy on the brakes and trying to change down from 3rd to 2nd. As soon as you pop out the clutch with the brake still on the back spins back in and it gets swirly.

I haven’t totally figured the solution to this yet but there is certainly a need to balance either getting in the right gear then braking or braking then changing down.

Elbows not knees

Focus on getting your body as far back in the saddle as you can and get your opposite elbow tucked onto the tank, your hands will then be more relaxed and there’s less chance of popping the throttle and you call also counter steer more and get it down further.

MPH? who cares

These race bikes have no Speedo it’s all on feel. The rev counter will give you an indication of where you’re running but I looked down once in an hour – when I realised there was no speedo. Feel the engine and listen to it, you go as fast through the corner as you feel you can safely.

Chequered Flag

I certainly would recommend doing something like the Ron Haslam Race School, there is also the California Race School at Silverstone. If you compare the two online it might seem that the CRS appears a little bit more involved and as if you get more hands on with your instructors. After seeing the immense operation that goes into running RHRS at Donnington Park I can’t see there being much difference, really they want to get you out on the track and in as quick as possible. The instructors are there to help you unpick any problems you might have but don’t expect to be getting coaching.

Donnington Park