You’re going to struggle to find somebody who has done more laps around Donington, than Rocket Ron Haslam. First lapping the track in the early ’70s, it would be a safe bet to say he has the largest lap tally. With his fantastic working relationship with Honda, it was only natural to open the Honda Ron Haslam race school, at Donington. Helping develop many racers including his son Leon, but also James Haydon, and also the late BSB and road racer, Karl Harris. This knowledge of Ron’s is passed down to his instructors. All of whom are all at a very high standard of riding themselves. With many club and national racers imparting their wisdom to newbies like me.
Donington Park is regarded by many as one of the best tracks in the UK. With a good combination of fast and low-speed corners, and also lots of undulation in the track itself.
Trying something new
Riding on track is utterly alien to me. I have only ever rode on UK roads, and the closest I have come to the track is a bit of karting. I have met many people that prefer to do a few track days a month instead of riding on the road. For me, I love to ride as often as possible. Having to wait for ages for the next time wouldn’t agree with me. Dad used to race back in the black and white days. He has always said that I would enjoy riding on the track.
Protective equipment is all provided by the school, should you need it. I felt quite happy and comfortable wearing my gear. However, if you don’t have a one-piece suit then the school stocks helmets, leathers gloves and boots.
We had an initial briefing explaining the format of the day. A brief outline of the track and what the various flag signals mean. We moved on to basics of the racing line, including some theory, and then onto the bike itself.
Sadly no RCV213V’s.
The Ron Haslam race school has a fleet of bikes including CBR1000R fireblades, CBR600’s and also CBR125’s for the first riding experiences. The structure of the course means that no matter what level you are, your first on-track experience has to be on the 600. You can progress onto the blade. For me, I enjoyed going back to basics. It was good to get away from the endless grunt and technology on the R1. Getting back to what felt like a breath of fresh air on the CBR600. No quick-shifter, no autoblipper, and no adjustable rider modes, just no-nonsense motorcycling.
Having never been on track before, I found it quite daunting. I was out of my comfort zone. The first session was at a brisk pace. Getting used the bike but also understanding the layout of the track. Out in pairs, the instructor signalled halfway through to switch places with the other pupil. At the end of the first riding session, there’s a lesson in the pits with the instructor. His eagle eyes watching in the first session gives a wealth of tips and feedback on how to improve, all based around my own goals for the day. These were to help improve my cornering confidence, and of course that bucket list item of getting both knees down! Using a bike on stands, he showed me better body positioning techniques and tips to help loosen me up on the bike, as he said I looked stiff.
Press this button for helicopter mode
The second session was about putting these techniques into practice and once back out on track it all made sense, cornering was easier, and I could feel myself carrying more speed through the corners. I didn’t want this session to end, but it did, and back to the classroom for another masterclass from the instructors, this time on improving lines through corners. I was struggling with Coppice, a vital corner as carrying good speed through it is critical as it leads onto the long back straight. It’s also an uphill blind entry corner, and this was what I didn’t like.
Knee down. Practice makes perfect
I was given tips on this, and we put this into practice in the final session. It was my best session yet. I Braked late and carried speed through the corners. This allowed me to get both knees down, left on the final hairpin and right on the first corner. I was so happy! That alone made my day.
The pace increased massively in the final session, I was getting faster on corner exit and braking later and I didn’t want it to end, but soon enough the flags came out, and we headed back to the pits. Certificates and prizes were given out. after the final debrief.
I spent the afternoon watching other groups come and go out of the pits and observing out on the track. It was interesting to see the instructors pointing things out to students.
Overall I the whole day as fantastic. The event was exceptionally well run, and everything ran like clockwork, as you would expect. The instructors were spot on with tuition and feedback. I left the day feeling a lot more confident and a much better rider, with photos to prove it.
Cost. After crunching the numbers it’s great value!
I have had quite a few people ask about the cost of the day, and the honest answer is to say that there are cheaper ways to get on track. Of course, you can rock up to an ordinary track day (anywhere from £120+) and have a full day on track with your bike.
Consumables soon add up, and there is added extras such as tyre warmers and paddock stands to factor in. At the race school you turn up, with no worries about the bike, it’s fully fuelled and ready to go. You don’t have to worry about getting it home again if something bad happens. It’s near enough the full factory treatment!
You get top quality instruction, from instructors who genuinely know what they are talking about. They are there to help you become a better rider. They give you acres of space to play with. With all that being said, I think the price is spot on, and well worth the money.
I want to thank the Ron Haslam Race school for having me on the day. Thanks also to Carole Nash Insidebikes for organising it.