Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hockenheim vs VUN

Last week Christina Baio, Franco Cavina & I took our VUNs over the alps to Germany for some track time. We were kindly hosted in Heilbronn by Oliver Thiel of Thiel Motorsport, VUN dealer for this part of Germany. Oliver has plenty of racing experience at these tracks and joined us to make it four VUNs. First up was Hockenheim...

Martin (who was with us on his Morini 1200), Cristina, Franco and Oliver 
pose with the VUNs just before our first session at Hockenheim.

Hockenheim is a fast track. The parabolika is over 800m long and the rest of the track is a mix of fast, slow and medium speed curves. Our track day was organized into 1/4 hour slots alternating between bikes and cars. The first session was crowded, I was just trying to learn my way around while avoiding hitting anyone. Other than us four VUNs, it seemed everyone was on 1000cc plus superbikes which was intimidating at first. Christina, Oliver and Franco are experienced and successful racers, I felt timid and outgunned by comparison.

For me, the second run felt much better, but this time it was really crowded with around 250 bikes, mostly superbikes, on the track. The parabolika is not much fun in this situation: On the VUN you can take the medium speed left-hander leading onto the parabolika at full throttle which gives you a head start, but before you can reach top speed, those 180hp superbikes come blasting past 60km/h faster (or more) than you. If you are good, then the ones you don't catch at the hairpin at the end of the straight you will get on the next high speed right-hander, where the VUN is flat out, while most of the superbikes are panic braking. It is amazing how fast a bike comes towards you in this situation.

 Cristina's bike after her slide... not too bad considering.

With around 250 bikes on the track, crashes are inevitable. I saw plenty go down but the ambulance was never called out, which is a good thing. Unfortunately Cristina low-sided her VUN on turn 7 about 80m in front of me. It seems that she hit a 2m long slight dip in the track at the apex that is notorious among experienced riders at Hockenheim. She and her bike slid a long way with Cristina tumbling a few times, but neither sustained any serious injury.

Later, the session was closed due to a Ducati that had blown its motor spreading oil over a large section of the track (possibly a contributing factor to Cristina's fall). The oil was bad enough to close the track for the rest of the day. Big pity because after gaining some confidence, it was a lot of fun dicing with superbikes on a racetrack.

We returned that evening to Heilbronn, Cristina licking her wounds while we prepared for the Nurbürgring on the following day... (to be continued)

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