Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dundee, IL, USA
Road America Track Day Report
I spent yesterday at a Road America track day with Sport Bike Track Time, running in the intermediate group on my ST4s. After some overnight showers the predicted morning showers and storms never materialized, and by the time we took to the track there were only a couple of puddles on a straight section after the chicane so the track was in great shape. The weather was perfect, maybe 80 degrees with a pretty strong breeze and lots of sunshine.
I really wanted to get on this track as it's fast and long with tight corners, fast sweepers, long straights and some nice elevation changes. As I said after my first track day, if you haven't tracked your ST but are thinking about it, go for it! Our bikes are surprisingly capable and I had no trouble running at the front of the "I" group. The torque pulls you easily out of the turns and for example I was able to make several passes on the short up hill straight between 5 & 6. I generally shifted at 9,000 RPM unless I was dragging someone down a straight, then I used another 500 revs. Shifting at 9K is going to be a lot easier on the motor than running to redline all the time and drops you into the meat of the torque curve anyway. I ran the same Continental SportAttack tires I've had on since I was at the AutoBahn circuit and again have nothing but praise for them. They performed flawlessly, allowed me to get on the throttle early, were very predictable under very hard braking and allowed me to lean until I scraped the pegs, pipes and in fact a hole in my boot! The wear is fantastic and I'll be back at Autobahn on Labor Day with the same rubber (that will be three track days and 1,500 road miles!!). One change I just made to my bike was to the brakes. The stock brakes are very good on the road but simply are not up to the task of track work. I installed BrakeTech full floating iron rotors and Ferodo race pads. The difference on the road is noticeable, but the difference on the track is tremendous. When worked hard they just worked better. I can now repeatedly brake hard, scrubbing off 100 MPH lap after lap with absolutely no fade. I am so happy with this upgrade I can hardly describe it. Even when I was pushing it and braking hard enough to feel the front tire begging for mercy the brakes just asked for more. Simply awesome. I rode my bike to the track, bags and all, so after removing the bags, raising the pipes, removing the mirrors and taping up the lights I was ready to go.
This track is FAST. I was consistently seeing around 155 MPH on the front straight, braking just after the end of the pit wall and down two gears for turn one. There is a pavement patch around the inner 1/2 of the corner and the transition is not perfect so outside passes took some care. Down the hill out of 1 and quickly arriving at turn 3 for a brief but hard stab on the brakes and down another gear then hard acceleration for another straight before heading down hill into 5. This was cool as I was just touching 150 and braking at the "4" marker when not in traffic. Braking for 5 is down hill and slightly curves to he left. I could feel the back end moving around a bit since it was so light, shifting down from 6th to 2nd. The blast uphill to 6 happens fast and the turn in for this left hander is just after the crest of the hill so it's a bit of a challenge. I found that if I finished most of my braking just before the crest, I could lay the bike down just as it was settling after the crest and hit the apex every time. The thing about this track is that it's deceiving just how fast some of the corners are, and turn 7 is one of those. The road falls away some at the exit and dives downhill again but it's quite a fast turn. Down hill into 8, which is a tight left (2nd gear) you then head out to the carousel. I would short shift into 4th just before the entry and just lay down, get comfortable and relax. This is a very long corner, more than 180 degrees and again quite fast. This is where I wore the hole in my boot. I wasn't quite far enough back on the peg and could feel the boot rubbing, but was passing a guy on the outside and didn't wan't to give it up so I kept pushing. I got by him but could also feel air on my foot on the next short straight into the chicane! After the 2nd gear left/right chicane was my favorite part. The run into Canada Corner (turn 12) is mind blowing. You have a right bend followed by two left bends that are all taken flat out. There is perhaps ten feet of grass on either side of the track which is then lined by concrete walls and catch fencing. Behind the fence are dense woods and all this closes in on you and gives such a sensation of speed. The exit of the second left spits you into the braking zone for Canada - at 145 MPH. You can make up a lot of ground on someone if you can stay wide open until you get it pointed straight for 12, which is another one of those corners that is faster than it looks. Then you head uphill, winding to the right then quickly left under a bridge, still turning left and still uphill. The apex is right under the bridge but the exit is blind and at the crest of the hill. The final turn, 14, is critical to get right since it leads back onto the long front straight. The biggest challenge with traffic was getting a good enough run out of 14 to keep the R1's and such behind you on the straight. Sometimes I would get passed halfway down the straight only to out-brake them into 1 and start it all over again.
All in all it was a great day. It's not the most technical track but the speeds are very high and keep your attention. The day was not without some additional drama though. I had to miss the first afternoon session when my bike would'nt start. Thankfully Goeff Mellinger from MCC was there and we took all the bodywork off and traced the problem to a loose wire at the fuel pump harness. We taped it back together but then my dash quit working. At least the tach worked and that's all I needed anyway.
I was also surprised how much fuel was used. In six 20 minute sessions my ST4s gulped down two full tanks! That's how much wide open running you do here.
I got back home with a renewed appreciation for this great machine. Fast on the track, comfortable on the road, carried all my gear as well. It needs a good cleaning as there are now bits of rubber everywhere but she'll be looking new again very soon. I'm sure I'll end up with a dedicated sport/track bike some day, perhaps at the unfortunate expense of my ST4s as college tuition planning will prohibit two bikes. I'm sure enjoying it while I have it though.