A long time ago in a field far, far away... Well actually it was last year, and the field was just off the A1104, in North Lincolnshire, about an hour away. Greenfield Dirt Track is where we first met Johnny Lewis at his first UK training camp. What he doesn't know about riding and racing bikes isn't worth knowing. Two days training with him and we knew we needed more. So it was decided that we, that is me and my wife Lucia [SB32 cover model] would incorporate a holiday in Florida with four days of riding with Johnny Lewis at his new training facility, 50 min from Orlando, Florida.
As Johnny only wanted a maximum of four riders we thought it would be cool to see if a couple of DTRA riders and friends would like to come along for some intensive training. Ross Sharp and Richard Thrower signed up and the date was set to coincide with Daytona Bike Week, meaning we could also support Oliver Brindley at the Daytona TT.
Heading to Florida and leaving the UK in the grip of the beast from the east and all the snow, wind and rain really did seam too good to be true.
Landing in Florida we couldn't wait to get the hire car and head for the bright lights of downtown Orlando. After what seemed like an eternity at the car hire desk we were told that they didn't have the car we'd booked, but… they did have a brand new Corvette Stingray we could have! Things were looking up. Putting the luggage in was like a game of Tetris, but we were having this car...
Later that night at the hotel we received a text from Oliver Brindley's dad Derek asking if we were going to Volusia the next day to watch Oliver race at one of the big Daytona warm-up races that happen every year. Harry Potter World could wait, we were off to the races!
As the racing didn't start until the afternoon we thought we'd take the Stingray (Stella as Lucia called it) via Daytona Beach to see what was going on. It wasn't the best idea to drive through Daytona on a Sunday during Bike Week, but the sights of bejazzled Harleys and people took the edge off sitting in traffic.
This miscalculation put us a little behind schedule meaning we arrived at Volusia just as the Pro Twins were qualifying. Nothing had prepared us for the sight and sound of these machines thundering around a half-mile track. The whole place shook, we were hooked... And had ice cream.
Being able to walk around the pits and see the riders and machines up close was a bit surreal, the whole place was so relaxed and had a friendly atmosphere, very similar to a DTRA meeting back in the UK but on a much larger scale. Getting to chat to Jeffery Carver and his girlfriend Lexi on day one of our holiday just didn't seem real. He was really excited to show his Sideburn patch off. Super cool couple...
Harry Potter world… The end.
The next couple of days we decided to check out Daytona Speedway and Main Street. The tour of Daytona Speedway is something else. As they say everything is bigger in the States. The size of the place is breathtaking. The banked turns are almost impossible to walk up and the straights go on as far as the eye can see. Everything is geared for the fans to get as close to the action, cars and drivers as possible. I must come back for a Nascar race...
We thought we should check out the spectacle that is 'Main Street' during Bike Week. Everything you have read about or have seen photos of regarding the place is true. It’s all about being seen or heard: leather, skin, chrome, beer all go hand in hand, literally in some cases, quite an eye opener. Time to get out of Dodge and into Stella...
So it was the day of the Daytona TT. We had arranged to meet Ross Sharp, from the Bike Shed, and catch up (his story of staying on a very small boat in Daytona is for another time...). Walking around the show bikes outside the track in the sun having a cold beer really put us in holiday mode. The weather back in the UK was long forgotten.
Paying extra for VIP passes was worth every penny/cent and got us into the Rolex lounge. We had an amazing aerial view of the racing and complimentary food – result! It also got us into the pits again, getting up close to the race bikes and riders is just incredible. Got to hand it to them, they know how to put a show on. Bubba Blackwell jumping his Harley, fireworks, live bands the whole razzmatazz…
The racing was non-stop, qualifying, heats, semis, finals just one after another. Watching the twins hammer around and launch off the jump was spectacular. Not every bike made it in one piece. The 450DTX bikes were just as exciting. The bike control these riders have is incredible. We decided to watch the finals from the lofty Rolex lounge balcony, hunger was also a factor. The 450 final was intense with all three of us getting very shouty as Oliver Brindley worked his way up to third at one point. Finishing sixth was an amazing result on what was basically a stock bike with some bolt on goodies. Good lad!
The 13-hours we were at the Daytona TT felt like 5mins. Definitely going back next year.
Being as we were on holiday, 'the wife' wanted a day on the beach, sigh... Stella went topless as we left Orlando. Leaving Orlando – it’s like Las Vegas for ten-year-olds now, we headed for Daytona Beach. Rather than going direct we decided to go east to Titusville then north up the coast road. Seeing a lot more of old Florida. The drive, the sun, the car, made the journey worthwhile.
One of the best things about Daytona Beach is that you are allowed to drive on it! Only at 10mph, but getting the opportunity to drive a Corvette on Daytona Beach is something we jumped at. After meeting Ross on the beach we all decided it would be fun for all three of us to cram into Stella and go for a drive down the sand. It was a good idea at the time and did raise some comments from the locals, time to park up. We managed to find a space, the beach gets really busy. As it happened we found one right next to Jeffery Carver and Lexi in their van! Awesome couple, they came over said hello and we all chatted, bikes, racing, and life in general. Perfect day, apart from Ross's Hawaiian shirt...
Time to get serious... This was the start of the four days training. One last breakfast of steak, cheese and chocolate pancakes. Johnny Lewis and his wife Alysha are vegans and live a very healthy lifestyle and to be honest I was looking forward to trying it after all the 'food' I’d been consuming.
Johnny’s 10 Training is based on an 18-acre plot an hour north-west of Orlando. It really is a piece of paradise: minibike track, short track and a motocross track. We weren't jealous at all.
Here we met up with the fourth rider from the UK, Richard Thrower. All being friends, and on the same wavelength, meant everyone was going to have a great time. I hope Johnny got our English humour.
Rain was forecast for day one so Johnny had switched things around a little. This meant we were on the 450s first at a track about two hours north. Crossroads Dirt Track setting was idyllic, surrounded by pine trees with a motocross track on the far side, owned and ran by 'Wade'. Now Wade is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, riding around on his golf buggy chewing on a cigar telling stories. It was just fabulous.
The way Johnny teaches is extremely detailed. Every part of the track is studied and analysed: body position, braking points, corner speed, exit speed, where to find grip, nothing is left out. Working on specific parts of the track to make you ride quicker. Drill after drill after drill... It was a very steep learning curve. Writing notes is almost mandatory, as there was so much information to take in. Reading our notes before we got back on track was a godsend.
The second day at Crosssroads things got considerably faster and we all felt a lot comfier with the bikes. Working on starts, lines and riding close to each other... Fantastic day, more notes taken...
For day three of our training camp we were at his the Lewis’s own place on the minibikes. His days always starts with stretching. I was really glad we did this because the minibikes are just a non-stop work out. More drills, body position, lines… nothing is left out even on the minibikes. Looking back, I'm glad we did the 450s first as I don't think I would have had the energy after the minibikes.
The next day was a motocross day on his superb track. I’ll admit I'm not much of a MX rider but by mid-afternoon with more drills and detailed explanations I was getting the hang of it. Everyone got faster during the day.
Then it started to rain... really rain… with hail, thunder and lightning. Biblical. That pretty much put a stop to the day. It was late afternoon and I was getting tired and started to make mistakes, I think it was a sign to call it a day...
I just want to say a big thank you to Johnny Lewis and his family for looking after us. It really was a holiday to remember. And thanks to Ross 'The Slammer' Sharp and Richard 'Brokeback' Thrower for all the stupid off-tangent conversations that made us all laugh so much. And thanks to Lucia 'the wife' Aucott who organised all this, and no you can’t have a Corvette in the UK!
For more information on Johnny Lewis's school go to 10 Training