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Level 1/2 Camp At Vir


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While I'm working on my post for the Level 3/4 camp at Barber - here's the report I wrote last year after going to the Level 1/2 camp at VIR.

 

Ever since getting back on a bike a few years ago, I’ve been thinking about – no, make that dreaming about getting back on the track. Last fall, I lurked on the CSS web site every few days waiting for the 2014 schedule and I finally called them in mid-November. They said the schedule was going up later that week but I could sign up on the phone. Done - spot reserved in the mid-May VIR 2 day camp. I counted the days, read the books, watched the youtube videos about a hundred times and can't remember the last time I'd anticipated something so anxiously. I took off Tuesday from Annapolis on my GT and arrived after all their Tuesday single day students had just left. I snapped a couple of pics before going off in search of my hotel:

On the bridge looking back toward the esses and the straight to turn 7:
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Looking the other way to turn 7 and the South Course beyond:
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Here’s an image of the North Course:
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And here's they way the staff preps the school for the arrival of students - absolute professionalism in everything they do including how they lined up the bikes perfectly:
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I met Dylan Code and a few of the instructors and even though they were clearly involved in their end-of-day work, were happy to stop and talk and even show me around. I didn’t pester them too much and so bugged out to go find a cold beer and some hot wings. The next day we arrived early for a 7am start:
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I lot of these photos I'm going to post were taken by the professional photographer and I just bought the lot so all the kudos for the images go to pitman.co.uk
The way the two days are organized is in to alternating on-track, coach talk, and classroom. Their method is to work on one thing at a time starting with some fundamental building blocks like throttle control and a lot of visual skills. They openly discussed that their method wasn't the only good method but it was their method and if you followed it, you'll get better, faster, and safer at cornering.
Some classroom time:
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Suited up and ready to ride:
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Dylan Code explaining some tools for avoiding target fixation:

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I think I got a woody the first time I rolled past this sign on their S1000RR track bike:
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Here we all are, the level 1 students, lined up on pit lane. I'm #20:
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The first orientation lap parade around the track:
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The first few sessions we were limited to 4th gear only and no brakes. After riding these first track sessions, I’d say that was a fine way to slow things down so you can work on the actual skill they’re teaching – go slow to eventually go fast. The first session was about throttle control – no throttle in the turn until your line is assured and once you crack it, you open it in a smooth, continuous manner. If you have to back off, you added it too soon and you never add throttle and lean angle at the same time – a cardinal rule that got me a time out - more on that later. Here’s some track images:
Here’s me chasing my coach:
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Here I am on the turn 3 apex with turn four off in the distance to the left:
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There’s a lot of elevation change at VIR North – behind me is the top of the hill at turn 10 and I’m in the middle of turn 11 headed back down to the bottom and the long front straight out of 13.
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Here’s the elevation map – the North Course is the loop on the right:
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We all got to ride a couple of laps each day on the camera bike which was followed by a coach critiquing mainly the visual skills we were supposed to be practicing. Target fixing is a bugger of mine and I worked on it continuously for the whole two days and I can clearly see in the video when I wasn’t looking off my turn in point in to the turn soon enough.
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I’m having a bit of trouble with their video file but maybe I’ll have that to post up later.
Somewhere around 3 sessions into the second day they let us use all the gears and full braking. My lap times using rain mode, 3-4 gear, and some brakes started in the 2:teens and by the end of the camp using sport mode, all the gears, and full brakes I stayed pretty consistently at the 2:0x with my best lap times at 2:00 and a few hundredths – never broke under 2 minutes. Of course, now that I’m back home lapping in my mind, I know there’s all kinds of places I could have shaved seconds off. Oh jeez, I guess I’ll have to go back and see…
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I guess I was getting pretty frisky about half way through the second day and could frequently feel the traction control in sport mode muting the action. I guess I got on the throttle a little too hard on the drive out of turn 1 and at the same time added some lean while rolling it on and got a bit of wiggle. My coach was all over me and pulled me off in the middle of the lap and asked me what the rule was about lean and throttle. These guys never missed anything. I also got the idea that there was some kind of hive intelligence thing going on too because they would all (coach, course control, etc) know what kind of passing I’d been doing, where I’d tapped the brakes when I wasn’t supposed to be using them, etc. Here’s one of the ever vigilant corner workers:
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We also got to ride the lean/slide bike. As level 2 students, we didn’t get to slide it but rather it was a tool to work on body position and lean angle. We took it out on the skid pad and did big circles on it in 2nd gear:
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The bikes were all 2014 S1000RRs; the gear was AGVsport leathers, Schuberth SR1 helmets, Alpinestars boots – all in great condition if not practically new.
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Something else I found interesting was that all the school’s bikes had the speedo covered. It’s my theory that it was so that they didn’t have to clean the feces out of their loaner leathers when we saw how fast we were being led around by our coaches. I was hitting the limit in 5th gear by the kink at the start finish line and probably don’t want to know how fast I was going. It was fast enough to feel like it was an actual turn with a rise that got the bike a little light.
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We’d been watching the weather all day Thursday knowing that there was this massive frontal storm that was going to hit us. We managed 5 of our 7 track sessions and all the classroom instruction before it looked like this:
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That put the kibosh on any more track time with sheets of water flowing and the heavens pouring for the rest of the day. Something about lightning was mentioned too. But, I did get to go back and ride a bike they call the “panic braking” bike. It’s a bike with outriggers that won’t go down if the front tucks in braking. We took it out to the skid pad and would get it up to about 25 mph and lock up the front brake. That was a real eye-opener about what I had to do to get it to slide straight and not tuck when the front locked up. The secret is to squeeze the tank tightly with your knees and use light pressure on the bars – hard to do in a panic braking situation but when I did that I got good at sliding it and releasing it and sliding it again to a stop just at the threshold of locking it up. Fun stuff.
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Coming Home
It was beautiful weather Friday morning in central Virginia but I was going to have to ride through that mess of level 4 thunderstorms on the way home Friday. Instead I decided to take off for the mountains and rode Skyline Drive back north. I’d always avoided it on the bike due to the 35 mph posted limit but it felt oddly fine, after two days of track time, to roll along on it at a speed that didn’t attract too much attention.
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I picked up a riding buddy at the school who’d ridden his new R1200GSw to the camp and was also headed back toward Baltimore.
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We swapped bikes for the first 140 miles or so of the return trip so I got a chance to see what all the fuss was about on GSs. I’ll post up my impressions on that another time – all positive.
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This week was about me reengaging on something I’d been dreaming about for over 30 years. I’d frequently wonder why I gave up on it back in my 20’s but a start-up company focus and raising a family took over. Now at 55, the question was, can I still do this? Are my reactions shot? Will the young flat bellies run all over me?

 

I’m going to be scheduling level 3 – 4 this fall if I can get a spot somewhere worthwhile and Cobie mentioned that I’d be a good candidate for CodeRace. I think maybe the fuse has been lit.
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