Hasn’t it just?!
The last time I flopped my flabby torso on a decent sized bike, discounting riding a Ducati round a paddock, was in February 2018 in Jerez. To put that into context, that is the longest I have gone without riding on track since probably 2005. Ouch.
Thankfully the drought is over. Originally the plan was to travel to Almeria with both the BMW S1krr and the newly built SV650 stocker. Except it isn’t newly built. It simply isn’t built. It is unbuilt.
And so off I went to Almeria with just me and ole faithful primed with the same full tank of Spanish blue petrol, engine oil and grubby filter as it came back from Jerez with in 2018 (oh the shame). We went with Track Sense, a favourite Euro TDO who take a small group and piggy back on Bike Promotion trackdays, a huge German outfit. TS are very relaxed but at the same time very professional with the best documentation and communication of any TDO. And they treat you like grown ups.
Now it is fair to say that my last foray round Almeria probably wasn’t my finest hour. It was seven years ago and the Beemer was still a bit overwhelming for me. The technical nature of Almeria left me scratching my head last time and with me using silly road gearing I don’t think I really found my rhythm at all – so I have always wanted to come back and learn to enjoy the circuit. So this was it – rusty rider with an unkempt bike at a bogey circuit. What could go wrong?
I should at this point explain that our trip to Almeria was a little more than the typical jaunt. Apart from the sheer luxury of having a second stillage to carry ‘stuff’ in given that the SV race bike was vapourware, we also paid a little extra to have unfettered access to Andalucia as well. Until recently this was a circuit well worth ignoring but it has been re-imagined and is a wonderful track in its own right. Add to that the benefit of essentially sharing the paddock with Almeria and you have a whole new concept – two tracks in one holiday without moving garages. But it gets better – because opening up a link which cuts out one corner on each circuit, you combine two circuits into one 9 kilometer rollercoaster! So for day one and the first sessions on day two and three we had our choice of circuits on each session and the last two sessions on days two and three were on the combined circuit.
So how was Mr Rustyarse? Well not too terrible actually. After a lap the bike felt familiar and I was happy to just get on with learning Andalucia. Which is a bugger of a track to learn your way round. It has seemingly endless blind crests and hidden apexes and it wasn’t until third session that I had any confidence to commit to most of the corners. But the more I put into it the more I enjoyed it and I found myself wanting to ignore Almeria. I knew I had to get out on it, because it is half of the combined circuit and that would be ruined if I only knew half of it. So at the end of day one I ventured out on Almeria. Hated it. Bits of it felt vaguely familiar but only in so much as ‘oh yes I remember hating this bit’.
Day two and I was loving Andalucia, but decided I needed help on Almeria. Danny Webb offered his services but couldn’t take me until day three, so I had another crack myself and it wasn’t so bad. When they had the two combined sessions, things started to come together and well, what a lap! It has everything and having over four minutes between seeing the same thing again just keeps the mind totally engaged. Amazing.
I was getting mildly frustrated at this point because while I was loving the circuit, I was stuck at a certain pace and I knew I could do a lot more. My old sparring partner Blue is usually a good reference – he gets to pace quicker than I do but I can usually get up to his speed or thereabouts so seeing him leave me for dust told me I wasn’t back to my old self. Then I spent a session with Wee Danny Webb (what a gent!) and apart from really helping my lines round Almeria, he also described something to me in a whole new way which I had not considered before. The next session I went back to Andalucia and dropped eight seconds off my PB. Bingo Bango!
So all that was left was two sessions on the full circuit and I absolutely loved it. New riding style, new confidence, new pace. Incredible circuit with very little traffic and blazing sunshine. The day ended with everyone very, very happy. I was well pleased that the muscles that ached at the end of day one no longer ached and I felt strong if a bit exhausted due to the heat. The bike performed as she always did, no spills, no red flags… We got to watch Danny Webb and Scott Redding do their stuff in between session which is always inspiring.
One thing I learned on this trip is the importance of garage location selection. Let me demonstrate:
On one side, we have one end of the spectrum, Mr Blue – a downright shambles on a good day:
And on the other, we have our Phil – Mary Poppins reincarnated:
This was our group, mostly miscreants from Northern Ireland. Couple of fast boys at that table…
We even managed to sneak in a wee bit of culture…
The only complaints I heard were from people who had only booked one circuit. Both circuits are so technical that you can’t ride them at any sort of pace until you know them so the combined laps were not enjoyed by those who only knew one half. The moral of this is pay the extra £130 and get access to both for three days – it is daft not to.
We elected to stay in town instead of with the great unwashed who stayed at a golf resort – which is apparently great but we like to get out of an evening. Very glad we did, we were right in the middle of town and surrounded by proper tapas bars. We enjoyed great food and beer every evening and all within 5 minutes of our hotel so once anyone hit the wall, they could limp back and collapse into their pit.
Great company with Phil, Blue and the crowd from Norn Iron, great organisation by Track Sense, amazing circuits, no crashes, one red flagged session – everyone got something significant out of it.
One of the best Euros I have been on and I’ve done a few!