RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
Once you start to ride on track, you want to do nothing else. It is that addicting. When you ask me “Which track would you really love to ride one day?”, then the answer is “Portimão”. So when my boyfriend asked my “Do you want to go racing at Portimão with No Limits Trackdays?” I replied with a very loud and very enthusiastic “YES!”.
My original plan was to go racing at Portimão in 2023, so I would still have some extra time to ride some more laps on track and gain more experience. But hey, you know the saying “You only live once”, right? So we thought “What the heck, let’s go”.
My boyfriend arranged our registration and I blocked the days in our agenda. Extremely exciting! Ron had already met some instructors of No Limits Trackdays in Andalucia when he taught at the Racecracks event there. No Limits is an English organization based in the United Kingdom.
In addition to organizing track days on the English circuits, they also organize many track days in Europe. Together about 400 track days per year, organized with two teams. That’s a significant number!
Many a MotoGP or WordSBK fan will undoubtedly know the circuit of Portimão. If you don’t know it by name, you probably know it from the spectacular photos. The circuit has a large height difference in some sectors. When the MotoGP and WorldSBK riders first ride up the hills and then drop down into the fast left corners, amazing images and shots emerge.
The front wheels comes off the tarmac and they seem to fly across the track. The flow, the technical aspect and that fantastic height difference bake it a breathtaking circuit. It was a big dream for both Ron and me to ride there.
Racing at Portimão sounds amazing. But how do you arrange something like that? Booking those track days with the organization is not that difficult. It is a matter of simply going to the website and book them. But what about your bike? Do you have to bring it all the way to the UK?
No worries. You don’t have to. Do you want to bring your own motorcycle to track in Portugal? Then as a Dutchie or main land European, you can bring your bike to Belgium on a predetermined day, where Erwin will be waiting for you with his crates and truck. You put your motorcycle on a steel crate and squeeze all your other stuff around it.
In our case, double crates – that fit two bikes – were used. Then you can also squeeze more stuff between the bikes, so it gives you a bit of extra space that is also protected by the bikes. We put all our stuff that we needed to ride on track on this crate. Don’t just think of the bikes, tires, paddock stands, tire warmers, canisters (empty!) and the other necessary materials, but also this of your leather suit, motorcycle boots, helmets, gloves etcetera.
We also stuffed a large weekend bag between the bikes, with all our base layers, the required chargers to charge the airbags in our motorcycle suits and large bottles of shampoo that we were not allowed to take with us in our hand luggage.
Don’t want to risk it to bring your own bike? Or not willing to go through the hassle? Or can’t you bring it with you, ‘cause you crashed it and didn’t get it ready on time? Then there is also a possibility to rent track bike. No Limits partnered up with Smallboy Track Bikes to make this possible. When you rent a track bike at Smallboy Track Bikes, you rent the bike complete with a new set of tires, the use of tire warmers, petrol and full assistance from the Smallboy team. They refuel the bike for you after each session, etcetera. Is it going to rain? And you still want to ride? Then they the bike on rain tires for you. Most luxurious!
Normally we are a big fan of driving across the border by car and throwing all the stuff in the car and trailer. So you always have everything with you. But the Portimão circuit is located in the south of Portugal. So it is quite a long drive. We are not happy with the current diesel prices. So we decided to fly over. It also saves you a lot of days off.
Because we had already put a lot of stuff in the crate for the motorcycle transport, we only had to take a small suitcase as hand luggage on the plane. We flew to Portugal on the 11th of November, 2022 at 06:30 with a group of 8 lovely people total. The track days were scheduled for the 12th, 13th and 14th of November. No less than 3 days of racing at Portimão!
We landed at Faro airport around 9:30 am. After the necessary arrangements we all sat in our rental cars and drove to our hotels.
If you book the Portimão event, this includes your stay in a hotel for three nights in addition to the track days and motorcycle transport. This concerned the night before the first track day – from Friday to Saturday – and the two nights that followed. Did you want to stay an extra night to fly back the day after the last track day? Then you could indicate this in the booking process and you paid for one extra night. We flew back on the evening of the last track day, so this was not necessary for us.
The entire group – about 150 riders – who had booked the Portimão event through No Limits Trackdays, was spread over two hotels. Which, by the way, are less than 3 minutes away from each other by car. Both were in Portimão on the coast, where there are also plenty of nice and good restaurants to enjoy in the evening.
The first day we didn’t have to ride yet, so we enjoyed a well-deserved glass of Sangria in the wonderfully warm Portuguese sun. We couldn’t get the bikes out of the crates yet, until the following morning on the first track day. This may sound annoying, but in reality it isn’t such a big deal. Also, on that first day they only start riding at 10:00 am, so you have quite some time to get everything ready in the morning.
The Portimão circuit – officially called Autódrome Internacional do Algarve – is a 30-minute drive from the hotels. You’ll be there in no time and during that short drive you’ll see something of the Portuguese landscape. When you drive up the access road, you already notice that it is professionally organized.
Everything is neat and finished. Very different from, for example, the smaller Spanish circuits. Although I personally think that those tracks also have their charm. But the logistics, facilities such as toilets and the pit boxes of Autodrome Internacional do Algarve are just finished and neat.
The pit boxes are also quite large. Where we are already cramming at Assen if we want to put 8 motorcycles in one pit box, we had no less than 11 motorcycles in the box at Portimao. And there could have fitted at least two more, probably even three. You are a little closer together, but it is certainly not annoyingly cramped.
Everything was ready in no time. Afterwards, you will receive a short briefing. NB; this is given in English. All communication at the event itself will be in this language. Do you not master English very well? Then make sure you are with someone who does, so that this person can explain it to you in Dutch. Do you understand it, but is it going a little too fast? Then the No Limits staff is fully prepared to repeat it at a slower pace.
After the briefing, the time has come… the first engines are started. The event was run in three groups. The fastest group started first. Then the intermediate group and finally the slowest group. In our group of 8 we had 7 riders. 3 of them rode in the fastest group, 2 in the intermediate one and 2 in the slowest group.
Ron started in the intermediate group and I in the slowest. This felt a bit more comfortable to me. It was a new track after all, and the R6 has just had a full gearbox overhaul by Moto-Techniek. The assignment was; the first day, just break it in slowly and let all the new parts work together. So don’t immediately go full send and don’t ride in high revs the first day.
So off we went for our first laps. Full of nerves. First with the entire group for two rounds behind some instructors. This is mandatory under UK insurance regulations. So we did. And actually that was quite nice to explore the track (in the slow group) at a cruising pace.
The first part is quite similar to Assen. Two faster right turns, a tighter right and then a sharper left turn. After that first sector, the circuit really gets going. There is already a slight difference in height in the first sector, but after turn 7 you turn tighter to the right uphill and after turn 8 you dive down the first ‘real hill’ at full throttle.
Wow.. that feeling is almost indescribable. Going up you know you’re going down after that, but initially the fast 9th turn is a blind left turn. So you dive down almost on ‘good luck’. It’s a bit scary the first time. But after a few laps you will find this part one of the nicest parts of the circuit. The faster you go, the more the bike will loosen up there with the front end. It is mind blowing and a fantastic feeling.
Then you ride up again towards another blind turn. And then after turn 11 you make another dive down. Then up again and finally towards the fantastic last part. Turn 14 is a right-hander after which you get a short straight. Here you open the throttle and then ride down fast onto the right. On the R6 I dived down in gear 4, shifting to 5th gear quickly after turn 15 to hit 6th gear on the straight.
Unfortunately the R6 suffered a little oil leak after the first two sessions on the first day. For the rest of that day I only did one or two laps per session. Each session a test round to see if we had solved the oil problem. We didn’t find out what the problem was until the end of the day, so the first day was a bit of a flop for me in terms of riding. Fortunately, we had the problem under control and resolved by the end of the day. And the rest enjoyed the first track day intensely. Seeing them that happy made me happy as well, so it was a great day after all.
On day two – when I was finally allowed to really accelerate – I bumped into the top speed of our Yamaha R6 for the first time. On the straight, in 6th gear, into the rev limiter with the hysterical white flashing light on the dashboard. It didn’t want to go any faster. A problem? Certainly not, because the straight is not that long. On the dashboard it said 268. Our actual speed will be a bit lower, given the changed ratio of the gears. Unfortunately I rode without my own laptimer and GPS, so I owe you our actual top speed.
But how quick were we?! Unfortunately I still ride the R6 without a laptimer. You will receive a sticker from No Limits that takes care of timekeeping, but the organization handles this a bit differently than you may be used to from most Dutch organizations. For example, where you also get a similar sticker with Racecracks and can then see your lap times online, No Limits does not publish the lap times.
The English organization chooses to keep the lap times private. This again has to do with other English legislation in terms of privacy. If you really want to know, you can very kindly request it from the organization. If they are in a good mood, they will tell you your lap times. But keep in mind that 149 other riders are also curious about their lap times. Some of which are so focused on it that they want to check it after practically every session. So I understand it if they don’t answer your question.
So the golden tip; are you focused on lap times? And do you have a lap timer? Then be sure to take it with you. Don’t have a lap timer? But would you like to keep track of your lap times? Then purchase one in advance and make sure that you have already installed it on your motorcycle. Or sacrifice a session and install it on the spot.
The other riders of our group of Dutchies rode with lap timers. They use the Solo 2 to keep track of their lap times. The fastest from our club rode a 1.50. Ron ride a neat 2.04. I rode just under 2.20, halfway through the second day (which was my first real day of riding). Then the timekeeping was turned off and the rescheduling for day 3 started. So unfortunately, my last 3 sessions were not timed.
But don’t fixate on lap times too much. Did I regret it at first? Yes. Because I really enjoyed riding in the afternoon and felt like I was riding quicker. But racing at Portimão is so awesome that it’s a shame to let it bother you.
It will be clear by now that racing at Portimão is fantastic. It leaves many a circuit in its shadow. But not only the riding is magical. The atmosphere on the paddock and in the pit boxes is also really good. The atmosphere is pleasant, friendly and very social.
I was grumbling and mumbling on the R6 with the oil leak. Ron helped me as much as he could, but of course he also wanted to enjoy his sessions. That was no problem at all. When he entered the track, I immediately received help from our crew in the pit box. Both from our own club and from the organization and owners of the Smallboy rental motorcycles. They all helped out and we solved the leakage together.
That’s exactly what I think is the best thing about riding on track. The willingness to help each other and to let each other have a wonderful day. Everyone is willing to share his or her knowledge and lend a helping hand. It’s heartwarming.
There was also a great atmosphere outside the paddock. Not just with our own crazy bunch, which consists of fantastic people. But the organization is also in for a good joke and a pleasant evening. New friendships also emerged within the pit boxes. People grow close and go out to dinner together.
Do you still have few track-riding friends? And do you doubt whether such a foreign circuit event is something for you if you are traveling alone? Then just do it. You really won’t regret it. In no time you will find a connection with pit box mates and you will be included in the fun.
The last day started with rain. Or well, mister. But at least enough to make the track wet. Way too wet for slicks, and actually also for street tires. Ron and I are both avid rain riders, so we put the rain tires under the bikes and went for it.
Ron was a bit too enthusiastic and had a small crash in a turn where apparently one has to ride a different line when its wet than you would on a dry track. A little too casual on the throttle and voila, you quickly loose the front. Fortunately, he was able to put it into perspective and the damage was not too bad. A little tinkering and he was ready to go again. He picked up his flow again and set a good pace.
I also really enjoy riding on track in the rain. So that rainy ending to our Portugal trip was no problem at all. Confidence in the R6 had decreased a bit after quite a few problems with the gearbox this year. But after the gearbox overhaul by Moto-Techniek, it now shifts smoother than ever before. And confidence slowly returned. That promises great things for 2023!
The rest of our club is not a fan of riding in the rain. Fortunately it dried up slowly and they were able to hit the track with slicks around 3 pm. We skipped the last session to pack our stuff in time and get it ready for the journey back home.
That same evening on the 14th of November, we flew back to the Netherlands at 7:10 PM. We arrived at Schiphol around half past eleven. You have to sacrifice a good nights sleep for it, but it’s all worth it.
Trackdays was awesome. Epic. Fantastic. We enjoyed every single minute. What a track.. Be careful if you decide to go here. No other track seems to be able to match this one. Will we enjoy riding at Assen less? Or at the circuit of Alcarras? Certainly not. But the quality of this circuit is on another level and it has a brilliant layout.
Normally we ride a lot with Racecracks, which is actually always well organized. Many other organizations seem a bit messy when you compare it with Racecracks. But No Limits Trackdays has got it right. The communication and organization was clear, well done and just right.
Would you like to ride on a foreign circuit? With your own motorcycle or with a rental bike? Then an event like this is a wonderful choice. Add a few days to explore the surroundings and coast of Portimão and you have a wonderful mini-holiday.