RINGSIDE SEAT: BACK ON TWO WHEELS
Dale's back on the 'ring and back on two wheels ... and it feels good!
Today is the second and final day of the Doc Scholl Motorcycle Training course and I'm not needed in the office until 10. It's an hour before the track opens. That will give me just over 90 minutes to sample the Nordschleife on two wheels with no cars. Just bikes.
It's a special opportunity. Really special. In over 10 years of lapping here, this will be my first time riding the 'ring on a bike without worrying about oil spills or optimistic lunging overtakes up the inside.
Not only that, but this will be the first time I've put my head down and gone quickly on a bike in five years.
2012 BMW S1000RR is a beast. The spec sheet shows 193hp, and a blat on the autobahn proved it did an easy 186mph, nudging an artificial top speed that is exactly 299kph. But it's loaded as standard with the kind of kit that would have cost me a couple of credit cards a few years ago; quick-shifter, traction-control with adjustable throttle maps and even ABS that works on a sports bike.
It's a world away from my last bike, a simple but brutal Suzuki GSX-R1000K7 that was kicking out around 170hp. No electronic aids on that bike, and I didn't crash that. Oh, wait, I did...
Frank Schackmuth, or Shacky as he's called, is a tyre tester for Bridgestone and lives in Nurburg. He's led our fast group for three laps already this morning. The first was glorious, early sun rising, misty trees and fog in the valleys. But in the last 30 minutes the fog has burnt off and the pace warmed up considerably. I started at the back of the group, and between each lap I've crept forward a place. That's how the convoy training works. So now it's my turn to chase the tail-pipes of Schacky's booming 1198cc Ducati.
my mate Andy reckons the suspension is a little too harsh for his pipe-cleaner frame, both the front and rear damping suits me much better. With the traction control on and set to race, I've still got the yellow light flashing away merrily on most corner exits. I'm not sure why, as the standard-issue tyres aren't even near the limit.
The wagging of the bars is held in check by a steering damper somewhere, but it doesn't really intrude. Unlike the traction control, which chops power the moment the front wheel sees daylight. Which is pretty much every other corner here.
the video below to see what I'm talking about, but check out how easily the S1000RR keeps the big Ducati in sight on corner exits such as Hocheichen (one of the three key exits on a quick lap of the Nordschleife).
Lap four is tough work, physically, as I'm so out of shape. But adrenaline, like silver duct tape, fixes everything. When the other three members of the group stop for water and suspension tweaking, Shacky and me hit the track for two more laps of the Doc Scholl lead-follow format.
I'm still buzzing right now, six laps and two weeks later.
Thanks to Doc Scholl
Action photos by franks-photo-service.de