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Old 07-13-2015, 09:50 AM   #1
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Tested Ron Haslam Race School

Learning from the proracers at Donington

I admit it, I'm a bit of a track day geek. Before heading to any circuit I brush up watching on-board footage on YouTube or reading guides. Before turning a wheel in anger on track I like to have the braking markers safely stored in my memory banks.

Of course I jumped at the chance to attend Ron Haslam’s Superbike School at Donington. The school offers an introduction to high performance bikes and the opportunity to improve your skills and understand the finer points of riding.

There are a number of courses you can choose from. I was just a bit too old for the ‘My First Licence’ course for 5-10 year olds so opted for the Premier experience – riding Honda's ABS model CBR600RR. Honda supplies all the bikes at the school.

The school has a number of high profile instructors including Leon Haslam and Michael Rutter; all the instructors have some racing pedigree, so one-on-one instruction for riders of this calibre is very special.

During the half day are three 15 minute track sessions. In between sessions the personalised tuition prepares you for the Elite course – riding Fireblades.

The school provides all the gear but of course you can wear your own.

Riders are split into four groups.

The course begins with an explanation of flags followed by some basic riding techniques for approaching the on-track sessions. The school uses a coloured cone system around Donington – red for braking zones, yellow for turning in and green for the apex.

It was wet on track so the instructors said it would be best to ride in a lower gear and to be smooth with the controls. A lower gear acts as a form of traction control, when you get on the gas and you get a spin the rev limiter kicks in sooner and can prevent a high side.

I was expecting more information on how you turn i.e. some information and technique on counter steering and looking through the corner.

After the briefing you are put in pairs and introduced to your instructor. You are asked what experience you have and what you would like to take from the sessions. I was paired with a guy who had never been on track before.

On track you follow the instructor who rides the correct lines. It is a case of following and copying as you build your confidence. The cones are very useful guidelines but I found myself looking at them more than I should have been.

After the first session there is a debrief, the instructor will mention what he noticed so you can work on those points in the following session. You then spend some time sitting on a bike with the instructor talking you through the best riding position and explaining how and why you should lean off the bike.

The four groups run like clockwork, with one group on track and another in the briefing. This means the bikes and Bridgestone tyres are always warm and ready to go. I was pleased we had more heavily treading sports touring tyres fitted because the first two sessions were wet.

During the third session there was a drying line so we started to push a bit harder. I was fortunate enough to get an extra 15 minute session in on dry track. My instructor had briefed me on where I was losing time, this was on a corner one, getting this wrong meant I was slower into the next three corners. If you get the first button of a shirt in the wrong button hole, the rest will be wrong too.

I followed him for a couple of laps taking in what he was doing and then we put our heads down and picked up the pace. We were running lap times around 1 minute 47 seconds and feeling really comfortable.

After the final session there is a debrief, it was interesting listening to the feedback. Some felt three 15 minute sessions were not enough when they booked. After riding and learning they felt that it was just right. A few riders had been a number of times; one was on his fourth course and was working on race development. I asked my riding partner what his thoughts were and he said it was pitched right for his level of experience and he had so much to think about he might have been overwhelmed with more classroom or riding that day

The skills that you learn on track transfer to the road. When you come into a corner too hot or there is gravel where it should not be, the confidence you get on track with the bike leant over gives you the ability to deal better with situations on the road. Often your survival reaction is the thing that saves you.

If you combine your superbike school experience with practice and time in the saddle you will learn the skills you need, this should be seen as a holistic approach. If you are a track veteran you should consider the school, when you see Leon Haslam sliding past you sideways into a corner and spinning up the rear on the exit you realise that you can always benefit from more training.

The Premier Experience costs: £295 and visit Ron Haslam Race School for more information.

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