My Season at The Honda Ron Haslam Race School
"Having never done any track riding but a regular attendee at Historic racing events I decided that 2019 was going to be the year that I actually made the commitment and give track days a bash.
Like most people I guess I did what most do. Turned to social media and spoke to friends and fellow riders as well as those that are current track day regulars. So after hours of research and many hours watching you tube and similar track day groups I made the decision that despite being an experienced rider who has also received advanced motorcycle training there was no way I was going to risk my bike never mind myself on a track without tuition.
So again, where to go? Living in the East Midlands it was a no brainer with Donington park only being half an hour ride away. Being of a certain age I remember the glory days of local riders Ron Haslam, John Reynolds and Chris Walker so it made sense to see what was available at Donington.
A quick Google search and the Honda Ron Haslam Race School popped up on the browser. Having gone through the online options I then subscribed to the Ron Haslam Race School You Tube channel and Facebook page and again got lots of detailed information that as a potential customer made my decision making and choice easy.
So, a call to the Ron Haslam Race School was placed and after a very patient lady answered all my questions my block booking was made for the Premier Plus experience, a one to one course and new to the Race School. A few days later the comprehensive joining instructions arrived which really made sure any unanswered questions were answered.
I arrived at Donington for my first session for a 2.55PM sign on significantly early and soon realised that the day ran with military precision. 2.55PM sign on meant 2.55PM and not a minute before. It was soon apparent that a busy race school had a precise schedule catering for many different courses and level of students. The newly refurbished café made a comfortable waiting area as like many others who also patiently waited for the clock to show 2.55PM. Bang on time the riders in my group were called to the desk. An orderly queue was formed to sign the required paper work and book in and receive documentation required if you wished to borrow any motorcycle clothing. We were directed the garages where riders were issued with full race clothing from new branded SPADA race suits, boots, gloves as well as Arai Helmets. This again was really well organised with really helpful staff which catered for every clothing eventuality. Size wasn’t a problem and the sizing range that was at the school’s disposal was more than adequate to cater for all shapes and sizes. Within minutes we were all sat in the briefing room where a comprehensive briefing took place which as a newcomer was more than adequate to give me a clear understanding of track and the race school etiquette. The senior instructor giving the briefing then used a large wall sized diagram of the Donington park track to give the students benefits of his many years’ experience of both driving and riding around the track. This I’m sure put many people (more) at ease as I was aware that there were many first timers as well as myself present.
It was then trackside where whilst we waited for the previous group to finish, we got instruction on how to ride and how to position yourself on the bike. A garage was set out with 4 bikes on stands along with smaller briefing boards of the track layout that had been used earlier in the briefing. These would be used throughout the session by instructors and pupils as great training aids in order to drill in this new riding style very different from those of us only used to road riding. We were then introduced to our instructors and introductions were made.
Having chosen the Premier Plus course, I would be having 1 to 1 tuition. I was allocated Sam Osbourne a relatively new instructor to the school but with bags of race experience and infectious enthusiasm which really did make my time at the school thoroughly enjoyable. Then it was an introduction to the bike. Like all premier and premier plus students it was a brand-new Honda CBR650R. Straight out of the factory with all the latest modifications including quick shifter, traction control and ABS. Apart from the race fairing fitted it was a totally stock bike running on very effective Dunlop touring tyres.
During the briefing the various hand signals used by the instructors to communicate was again reiterated and it was off we go! As it was an open pit lane there was very little congestion on the track as the instructors were able to decide how long each session was in between a debrief further and instruction. As a novice and first timer even in my 50’s I couldn’t stop smiling as we progressed our way around Donington Park. I now realise I wish I had done this 30 years ago.
My instructor showed great knowledge and was able to answer my many questions as well as give clear and precise instruction. Making it simple to understand was really important as with all the other contributing factors going on in a busy environment it really helped the tuition progress. The session required you to follow the instructor around the track as they continuously give you tuition via hand signal monitoring you in there wing mirror whilst demonstrating the perfect riding position for you to emulate again whilst leading you on the perfect racing line. Add to this keeping you and the other students and instructors safe and providing a fantastic learning environment it really does go to show that to be an instructor at the race school you have to be far more than just a racer or rider as I have no doubt that customer satisfaction and customer focus is one of the main driving factors in my opinion for all those to hold this prestigious position.
The school site coloured cones around the track for braking apex and corner exit which are also marked on the instruction boards which are a massive learning aid and really do help assist in learning the racing line. Before I knew it, the session was over and I was still grinning from ear to ear. when Sam asked me how I got on with the quick shifter I had to be honest that in my excitement I had forgotten to use it and was using the old-fashioned clutch method! The format of teaching, Explanation demonstration imitation and practice worked really well. As a novice learning the correct lines from the start really helped as I didn’t have any bad habits to lose. There is also a well-established track etiquette between the instructors which works extremely well as it allows for the more experienced riders and those on the more powerful machines not to be held up by those new track riders like myself. It also means our riding and instruction isn’t hindered nor disrupted as there was more than enough space on track.
It was then back to the garage de kit and into the debrief room. Written feedback from the trainers was transcribed onto official race school certificates along with attendance certificates signed by Ron Haslam himself. within the de brief the instructors gave feedback and grades on all the different aspects which made up the day which is extremely useful as it shows strengths and weaknesses and areas to target for improvement. Finally, there is a grade as it is a race school and not somewhere to go to be told how great you are at riding around the race track!! This can also be entertaining when those students who attended in a group pry for bragging. was quite happy with my initial 63% as it gave me lots of areas to improve lots of areas to focus on as I continued my journey. I collected my certificates and my Race school goodie bag that contained numerous product discount cards and other samples such as screen wipes and bike stand discs amongst others."
Prior to leaving I stopped off at the photo desk and purchased the photos from Thrill Pic which had been taken during my session and were of exceptional quality and worth every penny. By purchasing the images each time I attended I was able to use them as a development tool and as they say the cameras doesn’t lie! The picture of me at maximum lean angle knee slider scrapping the concrete on the corner didn’t materialise though. More practice required. I left that first day buzzing at the experience.
As this was the first session in my block, I made the decision to keep the same instructor throughout my time at the race school on my premier plus sessions. My reasoning being they would be able to see progression and use different techniques to help me in those areas that required we were working on. Therefore, I put a request in with the office team for Sam Osborne on all my sessions.
So, as the sessions progressed it was amazing to feel the difference in not only in riding style but also the sensation speed as you have the confidence to rev the Honda right up to the rev limiter. From being constantly lapped over and over again in the early sessions to starting to hit the apex correctly and making real progress and using the excellent ABS braking system that the Honda possesses. My lessons were broken into areas to develop and I was pleased that Sam was brutally honest with his feedback and assessment of my riding. It showed that to become a capable and competent track rider it takes many factors not just being throttle happy. Knowledge and techniques taught were put in place and as the months passed my riding became quicker and quicker. The speed issue being secondary to me as I had so much more confidence in the bike and its abilities as well as my own.
So, as I finished my block of Premier plus lessons and had my final feedback I looked back and thought how had attending the Ron Haslam Race school benefited me?
Well as someone who rides 12 months a year in all seasons and does high mileage my road riding has improved tenfold. I consider that I am a far more competent rider and far safer which in turns makes me less of a hazard to any road user. This doesn’t mean I ride on the public road like I did around the track far from it, track riding is best kept for the track. However, such basic skills as observation, throttle control and application, balance, braking and cornering has all improved which in turn has made my riding far more enjoyable. Also knowing the capabilities of modern machine components such as ABS traction control and tyres really does give you confidence in what you are riding.
Would I recommend the Honda Ron Haslam Race School? Absolutely! I have done many times over already. The main thing that you really notice particularly more so as a regular customer is that this isn’t just a famous name on the door and an owner who has zero input into how things are ran. Unlike other businesses such as restaurants spring to mind!! This is a business built from the ground up by the Haslam family and from my experience Ron and Ann Haslam were at the helm at every track day. Where else can you speak with a world champion in any sport who stops and speaks with you and has time for you?
Every staff member I spoke to said they loved working at the Race School whatever role they were in. This is clearly evident by the thoroughly professional but more so the friendly manner in which the business is ran.
I’m really struggling to find any negatives about my experience at the School. From start to finish every aspect was trouble free. It really is a well-oiled machine that has a business model that works and delivers exactly what is says on the tin. Where Else can you ride round a grand prix circuit on a brand-new Honda Motorcycle wearing top grade motorcycle protective clothing and receive top class instruction from some of the best teachers in the county for a few hundred pounds?
So what’s next …. Oh I’ve booked some lessons on the Elite course…!"
"Last week, I found my niche. No, not being cast as the seventh dwarf, and I didn’t land a job where all I’m required to do is flex at a camera; what I’m talking about is racing around an international race track on a 650cc Honda motorbike thanks to the Honda Ron Haslam Race School."
"A Honda representative once told me that a track day with tuition is worth four years’ experience on the road and I have to say I agree. I cannot recommend this type of tuition enough and I’ll most definitely be back, whether that’s to do more tuition or simply as part of a track day on my own bike, it’s safe to say I well and truly have the track bug."
"I just attended your race school today 7th August, and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it and what a great team and experience. Really beyond expectations and exceptional. Thank you very much and I hope to return again soon."
"Being a complete novice (first time on track) I couldn't have wished for more friendly, encouraging yet professional instructors. This is why I signed up for another session the next day!"
"Hi, We came up yesterday for my son’s birthday present of an On Track experience and he loved it, so thank you for everything that went into the organisation of the day. Then I put my name down for the chance to ride pillion with Ron Haslam. As I spend most of my life terrified of everything, this was an enormous thing for me to do. Even putting my name down was a huge thing, and the ladies on the desk were lovely. I was lucky enough to get the phone call to say I could go out and from that moment, I cried and shook and fretted but from the ladies who fitted me out with all the gear I needed to the lady who took me through to meet Mr Haslam, everyone was really kind and understanding. Then, as Ron came out to meet me by the bike, my nerves disappeared because he was so nice and calm and encouraging. I ride pillion with my son so was used to that, but nothing could prepare me for the four laps sitting behind one of my all time racing heroes! Ron explained how it would go; a gentle lap to see what was what, then faster for the subsequent laps and if I wanted him to slow down at any time, tap his arm. True to his word, the first lap was (kind of!) gentle then we hit the road running! I was determined not to wimp out and tap so I hung on and enjoyed the ride. I was at times terrified, but never once did I feel unsafe. The skill of Ron Haslam is beyond understanding. When we got back to the pit lane, I was just exhilarated and when Ron said I had done well and he was impressed that he had got up to top speed and I didn’t tap, I could hardly believe what had happened. Can you pass on my thanks to Mr Haslam for being so, well just amazing! Thank you all so much."
"Hello Hazel & all the team Just wanted to thank you all so much for a truly memorable experience, each and every one of you guys looked after me from start to finish - even down to handing out ice creams during the gloriously hot weather. I cannot recommend the Ron Haslam "experience" highly enough, and having spoken to my biking mates I would like to think the information I have given them will encourage them to contact you and enjoy the experience for themselves. I would also like to say a special thank you Hazel, for taking me under her wing and looking after me, and to my Instructors on the day - Ian Cherry and Michael Nibblet, who guided me round the track - particularly Michael during sessions 2 and 3. I learned so much. I am now looking forward to September 12th, when I will be returning for another memorable experience. Thank you to a great team"