In the last article we explained about track days and all the preparations to go to one. It’s your chance to find out how fast you really are without running into cars, stoplights and even cops.
Now let’s look at some tips on the actually racing. Most of this you will hear from the circuit professionals, something you will really, really, need to go for. Ask them, since they will show you all the ropes, more than I can ever tell you. Track day training is going to be essential.
But for the mean time, here are a few points.
- Before going out, make sure you know what each flag stands for. Know when the track marshals are telling you that there is oil on the track, when the session has been called off, when to stop, etc etc. It’s very important to know all the flags, since it can save your life.
- Have fun out there. You don’t have a career in racing, so have fun. You are not there to race everyone on the circuit. Eventually you will find some other racers whom you can measure yourself against, but don’t try it in the first few sessions.
- First few laps, ride behind an experienced racer. They will know when and where to brake, and enter into the corners. This way you get a “feel” for the circuit, and you slowly memorize the layout.
- Never, ever, look just in front of your tires. Always look as far ahead as your can, especially in a curve. If you look down in front of you, that is where your bike will go. So look towards the exit of the curve, unless of course you want to inspect the grass and gravel.
- When hitting the brakes, remember that most of the work will be done by the front brakes. It’s an 80/20 rule – 80% front and 20% the rest (remember your body can also slow down your bike, so not only your rear is in the 20%).
- If you do run off the track, do not use your front brakes. When you are still at speed, keep straight and slowly use your rear brakes to slow down. If you are still going too fast and heading for the crash barriers, get off your bike. You will stop faster than your bike.
- If you do go back to the pits, make sure the other riders know this, or even when you are slowing down. Race your arm, signaling that you are slowing down. This will prevent another riders from slamming into you.
- Don’t over do it. Know you limits, and slowly start improving them. Just because Nicky Hayden was riding in front of you and managed to take that curve at 150 mph, doesn’t mean you can. Do not ride outside your limits. It’s going to take time and practice.
- Slowly start lowering your body alongside the bike in the corners. Don’t worry if you can’t put your knee down yet. It takes time and practice to be comfortable doing this. Move your center of gravity (CoG) more and more to the inside of the curve.
- When going out on the first laps, take it slow to warm up the tires. Be safe and take two laps making sure the tires have reached perfect temperature, but when you do, keep looking behind you since other racers will already be in their fast laps, and you don’t want to “mingle” with them.
- Relax! Racing is about being relaxed. If you stiffen up, you will not be racing smoothly, and therefore you will not be racing at all. More likely, you will be crashing a lot. Just relax, breath going into the corners through the nose, breath out when exiting through the mouth. This way you get a good rhythm going, and you will not fog up your visor.
- Oh, and if you think you’ll look cool doing that winner’s wheelie, think again. You’ll find that the circuit will ask you to leave.
- When you are part of a novice group, and the seasoned riders are on the track, go and look how they are doing it and learn from them. Talk to them when not riding, and ask for advice. You’ll find that most of them will help you if they can.
So now you are ready to go and play on the tracks. Remember, it’s for fun. You will learn a lot, and gain more skills in riding your motorcycle in day-to-day traffic in the city. And you will finally find out in a safe way how fast you really are. And that is what it’s all about.