Mike Hopkins Motorcycles & WPMC Advanced Riding School

PitlaneThe day started out with us driving through to Killarney Race Track. Excited and still fast asleep I headed in the general direction. On arrival I was greeted by a friendly security guard who pointed out the route to the paddocks. Under the bridge, to the left and then to the right. I still got a bit lost seeing as this was my first experience of Killarney.

Soon enough I found bikes and plenty of them. So I was heading in the right direction at least, a good sign. I got of my trusty steed, and went looking for the registration office. I was handed the form, you know the normal fine print. They do not take responsibility for your life nor limb and what not. All the paper work done and dusted I went back to stick some masking tape over my rear view mirrors and head lights. As the instructor said “The things in front of you will be coming at you so I would guess close to 100 if not more people had the same idea as I had. Excitement was in the air, and you could see the white of everyone’s eyes. The group had been split up into ‘Slow’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Fast’, and it had been a mixed batch in my own ‘Slow’ group. There was everything from 2 strokers, all the way up to 1200’s and even and adventure bike.quickly, you don’t want to still worry about the guy behind you. That’s his problem”. As for the headlights, it was to prevent glass from going everywhere should you hit the deck. I hopped back on my baby and I was off to the scrutinizer, to see if she would be track worthy. Well let’s just say my tires were on the brink, and afterwards I understood why he said so, but alas I was ready to join the group.

The day would lead as follows. It would be 4 sessions of 15 minutes for each group, starting with the Fast Group, followed by the Medium Group and then the Slow Group bringing up the rear. For a total of 1 hour of pure unadulterated enjoyment. In the slow group we would spend the time in between sessions getting some training, which is where the school portion of the day came in I suppose. The Fast guys fired up and set off and it got loud quickly. I never imagined what 200km/h looked like a mere couple of centimeters away. As I stood next to the main straight and watch the big boys race past. What a sensation, every hair had jumped to attention and I was left in amazement. We got called in for the safety briefing before it was our turn to set off. They explained the flags and the process we would follow for the sessions to follow. We were not to overtake on the inside, not to overtake in the first 2 laps of the session. And if we were much faster then the person in front we were to overtake on the outside when safe or on the straight away. And most importantly to hydrate when we came in. And to ride within you’re personal limits.

The time flew past and before we knew it, we were suited up and lining up in he pit-lane to set off for our first session. The first 2 laps would be to get acquainted with the track, and to warm the engine and tires up for optimal performance. We set off and the adrenalin started to course. All I could do is remember the instructor saying “Ride within you’re limits and you’ll have a good day”. The track consists of 5 corners, with 2 long, fast straights.

From the pit-lane you head into turn 1 which is a left hander, pretty tame except when coming down the main straight at full tilt. Out of turn 1 there is a bit of a straight which leads into turn 2, a right hander. This was one of my favorites of the day. Mastering this corner meant the next 3 corners would be fast. As you past a bit of a dog leg to the left you start to slow down for turn 3 which is the fastest corner on the track. As you hang off the right side of your bike, you need to be as smooth as possible to make the best of this corner. Another little bit of a straight and you hit the double apex right hander at turn 4. This was my favorite corner of the day. When you would head into it, it would seem that you were way too fast, but you actually had to go in quite fast. To let the bike drift out to the left and then dip it in to get a good drive out for the straight. Which brings us to the “Whose got the biggest pair” straight. Clocking well over 200km/h down there. The first couple of times were a bit hairy, not knowing exactly where to start your braking. Not to mention it is a bit of a bumpy road down there with a slight lean to the lift. Which brings us to the last turn, turn 5. Now this is an interesting corner, it is the only corner on the track which is banked. It’s a relatively sharp corner, which tightens before it opens up to a dog leg on the straight. Then you try and hit your top speed again before having to hang on the front break to make the bike tilt in and take the turn.

All and all it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I think I am hooked. I can’t wait for the next Riding School, trying to hone your skills and perfect each corner. Which from what I gather from the instructor is a life long pursuit for perfection. A special thanks to Mike Hopkins for the event, there was a lack for nothing on the day. And if you are on the fence about attending a day like this. Just go through with your car and spectate. I have a sneak suspicion you will head back home to fetch your bike before the Medium group hits the tar.

For all the photos of the event, have a look at the following link:

http://capefuel.co.za/2013/12/mike-hopkins-motorcycles-advanced-track-school/