2023-02-09/10 Aprilia TV4F @ Buttonwillow, First Track Ride

Loaded up with someplace to go

I went down to Buttonwillow to ride configuration 13 (the most common for motorcycle events) on February 9-10, 2023 with the Tuono with Track Daz. I took the Tuono because I wanted to try it on track and the Daytona is still getting its suspension work and tune. Day 1 was a low-headcount event with 30 minute A/B groups. Day 2 was racer practice day with 4 groups and 15 minute sessions. Day 1 I worked with a coach while I rode the Tuono and he was on a new MT-10 with some mild tuning. This was the first time that I’d ridden on track in 4 months and most of my more recent experience at Buttonwillow has been on small bikes (390/400). I had a lot of learning to do but wanted to at least get a baseline for the sensations of riding a liter bike at BW and get a better feel for the electronics, and lastly, dial in my AiM setup using the Solo 2 DL and a SmartyCam 3 Sport with a custom ECU profile to capture as many channels as possible.

Without getting into the weeds, my developmental areas are 1) eyes (don’t linger on the apex so long), 2) using more of the track, and 3) later turn-in (where applicable). Riding the TV4 was pretty exciting and for its next outing I will likely adjust gearing somewhat (+2 teeth on the rear sprocket). While I never got to a proper fast pace, I did get some reference data from two different professional riders which gives me a lot of stuff to review before my next outing and can compare that to my easily repeatable baseline.

The Tuono has a full suite of electronics (engine maps, engine braking, traction control, wheelie control, and semi-active suspension). I’m not quite confident enough to disable TC/WC on a 175bhp bike. Now something else worth noting, BW has some very significant bumps, and the one at the last corner (Sunset) continues to become more pronounced. My coach for the day has navigated a line that minimizes the impact of the bumps through this corner but I was only able to find it a few times when he wasn’t in front. Most of the time I hit them while bringing the bike upright but still leaned over a good bit and while applying throttle it seemed that the rear tire would come off the ground just enough to trigger the TC and I’d experience a very significant power cut until it had traction and then it would take off down the front straight. I was okay with the bump, I didn’t appreciate the level of intervention though. There were a couple of other spots where the TC was mildly annoying but nowhere as bad as the big bumps in Sunset. For that I really need to find the right path on my own and build consistency.

For assorted reasons, I never got around to riding the Ninja 400.

Day 2 left a lot to be desired. Granted, it was a race practice day so sometimes those turn into a festival of red flags. I rode all 3 of the morning sessions and every one of them was cut short.

Session 2 of Day 2, we didn’t even get past the out lap. It was cut short by a rider passing out of Riverside and running off track followed by a bunch of tumbling and bike parts streaming across the track. Track Daz will throw a red flag if a single bike goes off track, even if the rider is unhurt so over the 2 days, there were quite a few flags. Unlike the Northern California track day providers, you come in on a red flag as opposed to stopping in place on track and waiting until a black flag is thrown.

All in all, I was quite happy with my time at Buttonwillow on the TV4. I now have a foundational sense of how the electronics work, I went faster around BW than I ever have, I’m respectful of the bike but not afraid of it, and I got to hang out with a couple of friends. As a bonus, I was passed by and talked to Kayla in person and she is just as great as everyone says–amazing talent and composure. Even though day 2 was red flagged for all my sessions, I got my AiM setup much closer to how I want it so that’s a big win.

My takeaways from the 1.5 days at BW13 with the TV4 and what I’ll work on for my next visit:

  • Before returning, review my reference rider details, look at his slow points and degree of application in terms of throttle and brake timing. Other than the entrance to the Sweeper, our lines were pretty similar.
  • Adjust gearing, try +2 teeth on the rear sprocket and make use of short-shifting, this will help smooth out TC intervention while keeping me in the power band.
  • Be very deliberate and slower with throttle opening while still working toward full throttle when possible, this should help with the TC intervention.
  • Assuming traction is good, start with a lower TC setting (say level 4) and drop to less intervention from there, Wheelie Control at level 1 was fine for me (range of 1-3 with 1 being least intervention), ABS on 2 (range of 1-3) was fine, I don’t recall triggering the ABS at all.
  • Suspension – start with manual 1 (M1) and adjust individual parameters from there; I never felt like I got to the limits of A1 that I mostly rode (semi-automatic mode, track setting); per the manual, I did adjust the preload in back from 5 turns to 14 turns (turns in from full soft); I will use the manual mode because I want the consistency, I have a long ways to go on building feel for suspension settings so I need to work on what each adjustment feels like but being electronic I can do that easily.
  • Find brake markers in the bigger deceleration zones, work up to them; I didn’t work that out before riding this time and I didn’t plan to, my intent was to use lighter/longer just to build comfort with the horsepower of the TV4 so I wouldn’t completely park the bike in the corners like I did when I rode a Panigale V4S at Thunderhill late in 2022.
  • Tire wear on the OEM Supercorsa DOT rear was surprisingly good, I credit the electronics for much of that. I’ve definitely got at least another solid day on the rear.
The Attack and Westby teams were loading up from 2 days of private testing when I arrived
The TV4 electronics settings I mostly used while at BW
BW is quite pretty at sunset
My reference rider on the TV4, I’ll study this for my next visit