Ingredients: take one whole Niall Mackenzie, a sprinkling of the finest BMW road bikes, mix in a dollop of Donington, ten cones and a pair of stabilisers and what have you got?
In true Great British Bake-Off style this is a Showstopper, also known as BMW Motorrad’s Track & Training Experience.
This day-long, on and off track experience has been designed for non-BMW owners and current customers alike with an emphasis on introducing track-based riding to newcomers and to enhance the skills and confidence of the more experienced. It’s suitable for riders of all abilities and the non-track experiences are tailored to teach transferable skills to the road or track. The range of current machinery, including an F800R, an R1200GS and the phenomenal S1000R, are available to test on a guided and pre-designated 20 minute local route.
The day is split into theory and practical experiences to get as much new informtion, tips and advice as possible asll while riding a variety of machines. I joined a handful of other bike journo’s to experience the day first-hand and was instantly impressed with the key points to this day; the group is only 8-strong so the amount of one-to-one tuition time you get with three-time British Superbike Champion and ex-Grand Prix racer, Niall Mackenzie. There’s also plenty of time on the bikes to get a real feel and an understanding of the techniques being taught both on the track, on the road and in the classroom.
After the obligatory signing-in and safety briefing (plus complimentary breakfast!), the practical action starts with half the group learning the art of body control on board little Suzuki 125cc singles, to understand how and why you move your weight around on a bike. Remaining in one gear and with limited braking you’re encouraged to use your bodyweight to accentuate cornering ability around a circuit of cones. Motocross-style you lean forwards, put your weight into the pegs allowing your backside to move from left to right with ease as you test the grip of the Suzuki’s spindly tyres. As confidence builds, the test turns into your own personal time-trial all before turning around and going in the opposite direction.
If you’re looking to break your knee-down virginity then this is the perfect opportunity.
Niall Mackenzie’s Top 5 Body Position Tips
Lean with confidence
The other half of the group begin by taking it turns on a specially built F800R complete with outrigger wheels. The art of turning a bike is in the lean but what if you want to corner tighter or you approach a bend carrying a bit too much speed? Focused Events’ Kevin Healy has you figure-of-eighting in first gear using little or no rear brake. Off the throttle, turn in, aim the inside wheel of your extendo-stabiliser towards the cone and wait…you’re sorely tempted to grab the clutch of give it some gas but by waiting you discover the angle of the turn has become significantly tighter. It’s not easy to get used to but because of the smaller groups, there’s plenty of time to practice.
Some customers would be consciously leaning for the first time but regardless of experience there’s always something new to learn.
S1000RR on track
The experience day ties-in with a standard Focused Events track day and the three twenty minute on-track sessions take place alongside the relevant group according to the customers’ riding level. Mackenzie is at the helm and advises 5 miles to warm your tyres before you increase the pace and test the capabilities of this 193bhp sports bike. The hire bikes have been used and abused before so at least they’re well run-in and equally you don’t have that feeling of harming your own bike.
The track was dry and Mackenzie wasn’t holding back and the S1000RR is quite at home on the Donington Park Grand Priz Circuit, well any circuit to be honest.. It’s already won plenty of BSB races and TT’s this year at the hands of Mr. Kiyonari and Mr. Dunlop. Even if you’re not quite at that standard, a quick fiddle with the riding modes and traction control settings and you’re all set to put the lessons learned into practise. From shuffling around in the seat as you move your weight around to trying freshly inherited cornering techniques, you feel yourself improving through every corner of every lap in every session.
BMW told us, “For RR owners, it’s a chance to learn more about the capabilities of their new motorcycle in a safe, controlled environment. Sports bikes are immensely powerful and not hugely forgiving, even with traction control and ABS! So it’s a great chance for new owners to brush up on their skills and confidence.”
The new 2015 S1000RR will be unveiled in a couple of weeks but in the meantime, BMW are offering some interesting offers on the current model including the opportunity to ride with ex-World Superbike Champion, Neil Hodgson, in Spain.
The course is available to book at either Donington or Silverstone and prices start at £325 if you use our own bike, or £550 which includes the day’s hire of a current machine. For more info, head to the relvant page at the BMW Motorrad website, or simply click here.