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Track Time at Cartagena with No Limits

What a wee shite of a track.

If you just want easy track fun in the sun then this isn’t it. There isn’t a straightforward corner on the track and there appears to be no ‘civil’ run-off (ie. you leave tarmac, you’re probably going down). But as for a training track – I’d say it’s the best I’ve been to.

There are double apexes, virtually every corner is a very late apex and most tighten on themselves at exit – add to that the elevation changes and no run-off and you have a gnarly track! The surface itself is plenty grippy, there is a lot of dust each side of the racing line but it turned out to be relatively grippy. Played on my mind for the first couple of days though.

I was there to blow off the cobwebs but I had no clue just how much I had forgotten over the winter. We paid for coaching on day two and his appraisal of my riding was pretty damning. My body position was terrible, my braking was awful and my lines on the track were a shambles. It was pretty depressing – but then I hadn’t paid Mike to tell me I was great. His exact words, I believe, were ‘you are naturally very fast for someone who hasn’t got a clue what they are doing’. I’m sure that’s a compliment – right?

Over the four days I finally got my mojo back to some degree. I had to concentrate a lot on hanging off the bike – I had completely gotten out of the habit and without realising it I was imposing huge limitations on my lap times. When I spent a session thinking about nothing other than hanging off more, I dropped two seconds off my time.

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The lines came to me on the final day, with exceptions here and there – but a review of some proper fast laps on YouTube since coming home showed me I had the right idea. I could have done with two more days there to be honest, but at least things improved and I know where I am really letting myself down. When I look back at how I was riding when Mike appraised me, I can see how he thought I was completely clueless. All my skills from last season had gone out the window, the good thing is they are still there – I just have to remember to use them first, then improve on them.

On a positive note, after four days riding a pretty twisty circuit I can honestly say I feel as fresh as a daisy – so my 18 months of training and all our endurance riding last year seems to have had a significant effect. In my trackday days four days on track would have left me very sore.

The week was great craic, although the weather was overcast for pretty much the whole time and the wind was a challenge at times – it affected the spectators and families more than the riders I suspect. We had lunch-time entertainment from Axel Pons on his Moto 2 bike which was inspirational, the evenings were pretty beery as you would expect with mixed fortunes on the food front. We shared a garage with the O’Connor brothers which kept things entertaining and the garage next door was full of our sparring partners in No Limits Racing. The restaurant/bar at the track is worthy of mention – it is well run and provides a great service. It is run by a Scottish guy called Scott (go figure) who shared a few beers with us and generally looked after us very well. Definitely worth skipping the hotel breakfast to have his fry instead…

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The biggest disappointment (apart from my lap times…) was my buddy Danny having an off in the last afternoon. It was a fast one and he knocked himself cold, waking to a broken hand, broken nose and a chunk out of his tongue where he had bitten it – as well as a lot of gravel rash on his face where the visor detached when he face-planted. (I have already ordered a custom fit gum shield having seen Danny’s tongue.)  We broke him out of the Spanish hospital to get him on the flight home but he was taken to hospital in the UK for further observation and diagnosis. He’s a tough cookie and will bounce back, just disappointing he now has more work to do to be ready for the season than he had planned.

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All in all the trip was, for me, a harsh lesson in not assuming you can jump on a bike and go fast after four months off, but thank goodness I’m not learning that lesson at round one like I did last year. I’ll be writing things down from now on, things I have to read before every session on a track. Danny, Cookie and the O’Connors are owed a “thank-you” for having an interest in me sorting out my riding – every little nudge helps. It was an incredibly worthwhile test session and great fun from a social perspective. Now it’s back to cold, wet Oulton for some real racing…

I’ll add some more photos when Alex James is back at work…

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