The M25 is my second favourite racetrack on the UK mainland, after Oulton Park, and my absolute number one favourite track day venue. Track days on the M25 are brilliant. They run 24/7 365 days a year, are free to enter and you can do as many laps as you like. Plus, the food in the canteen is far better than anything on offer at UK racetracks (‘Vegetarian? You can have chips, beans or chips-and-beans’).
What’s even more interesting is how they allow all the different groups on track at the same time, and they run car days, bike days, vans, trucks and buses all together so you can learn from the masters of many different disciplines.
Weirdly, not many people do more than one lap, in fact most participants fail to even complete a full circuit. Without that it’s hard to appreciate the nuances of this particularly challenging stretch of under-rated asphalt that runs through six counties and reputedly inspired Chris Rea’s hit ‘The Road to Hell’.
What makes the M25 so special and so different to other track days is that the volume of traffic requires different skills to a regular track day. Typically, at Brands, Donington or Cadwell, you spend half a dozen 15-minute sessions accelerating hard, braking hard, not-quite leaning over as far as you’d like and then accelerating again. All those flipping corners are so frustrating. Who rides a motorcycle to slow down every ten seconds? What a waste. Can you imagine if birds flew south like riders do trackdays; 15 mins going fast then slow, then fast, then slow, then stopping for half an hour? They’d be lucky to get to Margate by winter, never mind Africa.
The M25 is a different kind of challenge. How many vehicles can you pass per minute without disrupting their journey or putting either of you in danger? On a good day it’s like ballet; gliding through gaps that others haven’t even seen yet. Snicking, squeezing, sliding between cars, trucks and vans as if you exist in a different dimension. No one gets hurt, no one gets angry, no one else’s lap time is impeded by your actions.
There’s a fine line between slick and stupid and it’s certainly not about flat-out speed and balls-to-the-wall bravado. Different skills required to a typical track day, different again to off-road adventure riding. But equally rewarding and unlike any other experience I know.
I first got curious about the M25 after reading about Bill Drummond (of the band KLF) and something called the M25 Spin which is (or was, not sure if it still happens) a 25-hour run around the M25 by anyone who wants to take part. This story inspired an unofficial 24-hour race around the M25 between the editorial and advertising teams of the magazine I worked on at the time and, after having completed 10 laps (at around 90 minutes per lap) in various stints for Team editorial through the day and night, I was hooked (and knackered).
Wouldn’t it be great if we could persuade Dorna to run a round of MotoGP round on the M25? At 200mph they could, in theory complete the 117-mile lap in around 35 minutes. Maybe we add a fuel and tyre pit-stop at Clacket Lane services (which, handily is designed like a pit-lane already) to make it more interesting. The sight and sound of a pack of flat-out prototype motorcycles all slipstreaming each other would make for incredible TV and, some of those gentle kinks would become fairly serious bends at that speed. There’s only one left hander as you peel off at the junction for the M26 for Sevenoaks so that would make tyre selection interesting.
And the biggest advantage of using the M25 for a round of MotoGP is that you could run the Moto3 race at the same time, only they would be going in the opposite direction on the other carriageway. And imagine a pack of slipstreaming Moto3 bikes through the Dartford tunnel. Yes please.
Sadly, it’s unlikely that Dorna will see the benefits of a road circuit in the calendar, which is why we should be all the more thrilled that the Isle of Man TT is back for 2022. The Mountain circuit is the one racetrack I know that is even more challenging than the London Orbital. Yes, it’s a pain to get to (in TT fortnight at least, away from that it’s a lot easier) but the experience of running your bike over the Mountain section without scanning for speed cameras or worrying about anything other than riding the bike is something truly special. Funnily enough another magazine I worked on did a 24-hour unofficial race around the Mountain course too (which might have been my idea too, come to think of it) and one of those laps in the early hours of a late-summer morning was the single most memorable motorcycle event in my life.
If you’ve never been to The Island, then go. If you haven’t been for a while, then go… on a modern bike. If you think track days are somehow a measure of your ability to enjoy a motorcycle, then go and if you’ve already won your own personal M25 road race title, then you should definitely get yourself to the IoM.
Road riding rules because the rules of road riding are different. No longer about ultimate speed, as we all get older and smarter, the challenge has evolved. Don’t wait until someone bans it to make the most of every flipping mile. Starting this summer.
See you at South Mimms.