Monday, June 3, 2013

I got to ride the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) this weekend

You read that right.  I got to do a track day on my SV650 at the new Formula 1 track in Austin.  What a great experience.  I normally ride level-3/advanced sessions but had to settle for level-2/Intermediate to get an open slot.  My best lap time appears to be about 3 minutes flat but riding level 2 and following the passing rules for that level (6-foot buffer, no inside passes, and no passing at all from turn 3-9) and it was pretty limiting for my SV650.  Still, I made some outside passes and got several on the brakes.  And all day I was NEVER passed in a corner or on the brakes so I was pleased.

You really only need 2 words to describe the track:  SMOOTH and STICKY.  Oh and AWESOME facilities.  A world class facility it truly is, and everything around Houston pales in comparison.  I'm going to cry a little the next time I go to a local track. :-)  Seriously, the surface is stupid smooth.  I don't think there's a bump nor seam anywhere.  Practically flawless.  It was so smooth that both my buddy and I thought we had lost our knee pucks the first time we touched down because just glided on the surface.   It is very technical with blind corners, SLOW corners and FAST curves.  It wasn't TOO hard to learn but after just 1 day we were barely scratching the surface of how fast we could really go.  It's hard to unlearn the sketchy surfaces that we're used to riding on back at home.

Turn 1 is TIGHT.  The hill leading up to it is super steep with a 130 foot climb.  I heard a lot of bikes get back on the gas early on going up the hill because they slowed down too much half way up the hill.  But at the top it's flat so there's a lot going on to get the bike turned in right.  You can't see the apex until you hit the top of the hill and then it's RIGHT THERE.  Then it's hard on the gas going down the hill to turn 2.  The S-turns were my favorite part and were well suited to the SV650.  You can carry a LOT of speed after you get the flow down. Then I'm full throttle, hanging off the bike zooming through turn 10 headed up to a tight turn 11.  On the long straight (which actually slightly curves the right right and goes uphill a bit in the first half) I topped out at about 130-132 mph and and the inline fours and big twins was probably doing more like 155 and beyond.  There's a nice right hand double apex that tightens up after the left 12 turn, then another fairly tight left hander, but not as bad as 1 or 11.  Followed by a TRIPLE apex that can be just crazy fast if you want it to be.  Turn 19 comes up quickly but is actually pretty open and can be taken pretty fast.  Then it's another tight left hander onto the main straight and I would hit about 120 by the base of the hill.

So it's a lot of work, but you get a couple of good straights to relax for a few seconds.  I actually get more tired at my local tracks which goes to show you just how much a smooth surface really makes for a more relaxed experience.  And the tires... every other place I've been to the tires look melted and torn up with slag and ball of rubber everywhere after a session. Well, off the track at COTA they look practically new with a smooth clean surface.  So again, even with crazy grip, the smooth surface really makes them last or at least they wear very evenly.  The overall wear was still probably pretty high because we'd come off the track and our knee pucks would have solidified strips of melted plastic hanging off of them.

Here's a video of one of the sessions:

And a close call in another session.  Keep your eyes open at 48 seconds.  It happens fast.