Track Day Report Jennings GP by Eric Watts
Track Day Report from November 25th, 2013 at Jennings GP in Jennings, FL
A great track day in November has to start out cold! It was about 37 degrees when we arrived at the track at about 7:30 am. After unloading, registering which group we would ride in, and getting things setup, I still had to remove a few items on my Ducati 848 Streetfighter to make it track ready. The front turn signals and the kickstand had yet to be removed.
Martin Weiss and I shared his trailer to get to Jennings from the Orlando area. Shortly after my prep work was done, Martin got his Guzzi V7 race bike started and warmed up for a few minutes. This was the first time his bike has been run at a track in the US, I might add. It had also been 4 or so years since its last appearance on a track. The Guzzi lived its former life in Martin’s former homeland in eastern Switzerland. A few other prep tasks were carried out such as checking our tire pressures, zip tying any loose wires down or other things that are otherwise usually hooked up to something when the bike is in street form, fueling up, and we were soon ready to go.
Mandatory Riders Meeting!
A rider meeting was carried out at about 9 am. They went over the usual things, flags and pitting in and out procedures as well as emergency situations on the track. The riders who would be going out in the novice group then assembled and we went over how we would run the first session. Sebastian Didato, owner of Melillimoto Ducati dealer who was hosting the event showed us how we would follow the lead riders (that consisted of himself and a few other experienced racers) one at a time for one lap each to get a feel for the proper racing line on the track. After that we all decided that because it was still very cold, we would do a track walk around first. This was very helpful. You get to see so many more things when you walk the track first that you will never see when going by things at speed. I walked with Sebastian most of the time and he explained his line on each corner as we went along.
The first session for me was very slow doing the follow the lead thing. We ran the whole lap at about 40-50 mph max. I don’t think I shifted out of 2nd gear. That’s not to say it was very beneficial to others there. I know there must have been some complete beginners there as one of the guys in my group (we went out in groups of 3-4 per lead rider) went wide and into the grass and we were just barely moving along. He soon pitted right after as I guess it must have scared him, but it was probably good he pitted, have a re-think and go out again. I have the advantage of having done quite a bit of kart racing as a child and teenager and I felt after one or two laps I pretty much had it down and was ready to go on at speed. Unfortunately the next 2 sessions were the same thing; I wanted to go ahead so badly. I sort of feel 2 of my sessions were a waste because of this, but I just went along with it. I choose to go out in the novice class because I didn’t know what novice meant. I could have meant fairly fast for all I knew, and this was the first time on race track for me on a motorcycle so I was just playing it safe.
Finally, Open Track!
Finally after lunch we were let loose and could open it up. I followed Sebastian for a bit and watched his line before eventually passing him as he waved me by. I think he was still helping someone else who was following him and was riding fairly conservatively. If I remember right, just at the end of the session about 5-6 laps or so later I came up on him and the rider he was helping and lapped them. The second session after lunch it was decided by someone to run an entire session for each group running the track direction backwards or clockwise that is at Jennings. (Counter-clockwise is the normal configuration) I didn’t really want to do this, as I was still just trying to figure out the line the normal way around, but went out anyways just to take advantage of as much track time as I could. I again found myself passing people in the novice group left and right. I came up on a guy on a Ducati Multistrada who was just cruising along and passed by him with ease in the back section of the track in the quick left right section of corners back there. I’m not entirely sure where Martin was on the track, but he must have been on the complete other side of the track the whole of all the sessions. I know he ran out of battery power and his bike died in one session and he had to get a tow back to the pits as he is running a total loss system on the Guzzi.
Our friend Steve Salvo riding his Ducati Monster and I had a good little session a few times out there. At one point I got by him but then I ran wide in the fast left hander (turn 2) and went into the grass for a bit, I misjudged that one and took it a little too hot. But all was fine I just went straight on into the grass and slowed down gently before re-entering the track behind him again. I eventually caught up to him again and passed him also in the back section of left rights. It was a fun little run there.
Final Session the Best!
By the final session of the day I really felt I was getting into the groove. I was finding my braking points and where to shift gears. Most of the track, at least on my bike (the 848 Streetfighter) which is geared pretty tall it seems, was spent in only 3 maybe 4 gears. The long back stretch consisting of turns 2 and 3 the fast left handers (it’s not really a straight away at all, it’s a huge left hand sweeper the whole way down) you can’t approach top speed of your bike unless you are really pushing it, I think anyway. I hit maybe 125-130mph (the times I glanced down anyway to look) at the end of the back stretch and I think I was only in 4th gear. The back section of the track with the quick section of tighter left and right hand corners is spent mostly in one gear I felt, just leave it in 3rd the whole way and roll on and off the throttle, maybe a little bit of front brake before each turn as I started to pick up speed by the end of the day, but other than that all in 3rd gear, maybe dropped it to 2nd for one of them then upshifted back to 3rd but that’s it. It’s definitely not a top speed track since its all turns for the most part. The front straightaway is not very long at all and you also can’t get to top speed of your machine there either. It’s going to be a great track for the Ducati 350 single race bike when it’s done because of this and that bike not having a great deal of top speed. All your time is made up in the corners at Jennings I believe.
Not My Last Track Day! This is only the Beginning!
I’ll definitely be back to Jennings in the future and this won’t be my last track day, that’s for sure!