A 56-second lap of Mallory Park on a bike is fast. A 56-second lap of Mallory Park when you are on the back is bloody fast. And I can officially say I’ve done that as a pillion to the legendary, three-times British Superbike Champion John Reynolds. And it rocks.
Less than one week after my first media contact as a www.bikesportnews.com’s BSB reporter, I was offered the exciting opportunity of putting my life into the hands of a professional. How could I say no? After speaking with Rizla Suzuki´s press man Jason McClean, Louise from his PR company invited me to the ‘The Fast and Furious’ Business day at Mallory Park . The event was being held to promote companies in the surrounding area, which included a variety of stands, food and drink, accompanied by a tour of the circuit in a couple BMW Alpine cars. However, I had pre-arranged to brave it on the back of a man with a riding talent most of us only dream about. And lapped it faster than any of my friends who race. Eh, Susie..?
Due to the fact I was going to a race track, and I had been stuck in a car all week and wanted to make an impression, I wheeled my R6 out the garage and braved the bitter cold. The day was dull, but at least the rain held off for the journey there and because of my several layers only my hands had frozen into what felt like breakable objects. I was taken up so much by the novelty of the day that before I knew it they had thawed out ready for use again.
Not having been to an event like this before, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I quickly realised this was more of a business day than I originally thought and not a bike day at all. Some people were in jeans, otherwise mostly casual or suits. I was the only person in full leathers, luckily the bike explained why. However, I certainly made my impression. In a blink of eye I was having a cup of tea with Jason and John Reynolds, so again the novelty swept over me. There were a couple of other people who some would say were ‘as mad as me’ who took up the opportunity, including Samoan-born rugby union international Freddie Tuilagi,.
Freddie had to borrow some Dainese leathers, so I went first to allow the muscle giant Freddie time to squeeze into them, literally. When watching John warming up on the GSX-R1000, just as soon as he revved away from one spot of the track he seemed to be back there again. The speed of which racers go never ceases to amaze me, even more astonishing is that within the mechanics of their minds they are basically out for a Sunday drive.
Once on the GSX-R I found my self constantly peering over John’s shoulder watching as if I were riding simply to enjoy the pure speed into and out of every corner, particularly down the start/finish straight followed by Gerrards, which we exited at about 103 mph ready for yet more throttle action. I relished in the two-up lean angle, especially at the tight Shaw’s hairpin which was followed by a wheelie as he opened up the throttle before planting it back down in time to muscle the bike into the start of the Bus Stop chicane. With each lap, the wheelies were higher, the braking got harder, my bum further off the seat and my grin ever bigger.
Maybe it’s odd or insane, but not once did any nerves kick in, I was just so excited and couldn’t mount the blue and white beast soon enough. My only concern was how I was going to hold on at that speed with no grab handle, but that was never an issue. The rules were to hold John around his waist when accelerating, push onto the tank under braking to keep my weight off him and not to move. Unofficial lap timing showed that the laps started around the 1m 2s before plummeting down. John could tell that I was content and carried on, not once did I want him to stop or slow down. I loved every second of the five laps that we did and I could have kept going.
I watch racing religiously and I witness all the time what can be done with them, and have certainly envied it like most. To be on the bike whilst they are demonstrating those exact skills is a whole different world. Mesmerized doesn’t begin to cover it, haven ridden Mallory myself I was dazzled by John’s talent even more. It’s not just down to the fact I ride enormously slower than John, but the laps highlighted the difference in speed which was expectable but in addition how late they brake, what most would think impossibly late, but no they continue to throw the bike down into the corner ready for the exit. I have now witnessed that first hand, which you don’t experience from your settee or from the side of a track.
I love this job.
I would like to thank John Reynolds, who believe it or not did slow down for his pillions that day. In a race he would knock another 18 seconds from his pace. Thank you also to Jason McClean, Louise Cain and Mallory Park for offering me this thrilling opportunity.
Now I am off to buy a track bike, I want a go.