The Afterburner track day won't happen with no WSBK round in 2021, so here's a look back into how fun it was to take part in earlier this year. Words: Winston Taylor Photography: SD Pics...
My heart skipped a beat when I received an email telling me that registration was open for the 2020 Phillip Island Afterburner track day. Held the Monday after the WSBK event in February, this was my fourth year in a row I have gone and I look forward to every year.
The circuit consists of 4.44km of pure magic made up on 12 of the smoothest and fastest corners on the planet and one long daunting straight, a place my mind has gone to many times whenever I need cheering up. I have won many touring car races there over the years on my video game and dreamt of pulling 300km/h down the straight in real life, then one day I realised that its time to stop dreaming on the couch and time to start living.
With my registration done and WSBK tickets purchased, you’re quick to realise the atmosphere at WSBK is very relaxed and there are literally thousands of bikes parked around the track to look upon. The racing is amazing and watching the speeds the professionals can do around the track is a sobering experience, especially the entry speeds into turn one. The main race on the Sunday was so close for the lead and I don’t think I have ever seen so many position changes at the front in my life.
It was a very early rise on the Monday to head off to the track, after finding a spot in one of the many garages, I took my bike to scrutineering. Here one of the smiling staff members will check your bike for tyre and brake pad wear, ensure there is nothing loose, your throttle returns ok and away you go. Upstairs to registration and a short safety briefing explains what the different coloured flags mean and how to ride safely throughout the day.
The afterburner track day differs from a normal one in that you don’t have to book the whole day but individual sessions depending on what your preference is. A full day consists of five 20 minute sessions with the choice to ride on the pillion seat at a controlled speed. Lining up for the first session, my heart is thumping, I found myself with a mixture of emotions running through me, anticipation, trepidation and excitement are the ones I can explain.
After getting the go-head to ride out on the track, i instantly noticed that my track-bike which is a 2005 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 feels a different compared to my regular road-bike, a 2015 BMW S 1000 RR so I used the first few corners to get the feel of it once again. Once I felt confident to start winding on the throttle I am reminded that even though this is a 15 year old bike, it has some serious power and with no electronic safety aids, which means I need to respect it. Holding a 180hp bike on full throttle on a race track is a thrill I will never get tired of, the world almost instantly becomes a blur.
As the laps go by I try to concentrate on getting my lines right, gradually braking later and rolling on the power as early as I can. I love seeing other bikes a few corners ahead, chasing them down and overtaking them. Just when I think I am doing ok I get rounded up by another bike mid corner, I am amazed at their speed and lean angle as they go flying by to disappear into the horizon.
At lunch time we were called out for the pillion session and my friend hops on the back. The pillion session had a speed limit, a crash in this session would make it a very long trip home. Back in the pits and my passenger is elated and she is hooked, next year I think there will be two bikes on the trailer.
As the sessions roll by I meet up with a few other riders running around the same pace as myself and we have a little battle between the two of us. As we pass the empty stands I think of what a buzz it would be if it was full of cheering spectators, but the guy picking up rubbish doesn’t lift his head. I am saddened to see the chequered flag being waved but I came into the pits with a smile on my dial that will last for days. Its been a magic day riding one of the best tracks in the world and I don’t think I can wait 12 months to come back again.
Hats off to organisers and staff members who made the day run so smoothly. For years I would listen to my friends talk about how much fun a track day was and I would always think it must be so dangerous or I wont be fast enough. Im so glad I did my first track day though, I believe it is safer than some of the riding we do on the road, the track is so wide. There are limited riders in each session and there are no surprises around the next bend. Book a track day at Philip Island here.
Phillip Island Track Day Pricing
- Weekday $295
- Public Holiday $325
- Single Spot Garage $15
- Two single spots $30
- Three single spots $45
- Full Garage $80
- Double Garage $160
- Three Full Garages $240