Monday May 12 - a handful of NTNOA club-members attended a track day at Cresson (www.motorsportranch.com/) which was organized by Tony & Martha at Eurosport (www.eurosportcycle.com). Captain Commando brought his Tuono charger (and his vintage Ducati 450 Desmo as well), George and Clay were on their Ducati Monster S4RS projectiles, Dean on his very trackday-friendly SV650 and yours truly on his trusty Tiger.
If you read no further - and I know that a lot of our members are experienced at racing, let alone track days – but just know that you’ve gotta do this if you haven’t already! Not only is it more fun than a great big bag of fun things, it’s damn useful. As a track day novice, I learnt more in that day than I’ve learnt in five years of street riding – and I’ve learnt skills that I can apply to the road, and not just the track. For one thing, a modern bike has reserves that I hadn’t begun to tap – and I think I can now use those reserves in emergency situations, simply because I now know about them and have used them.
All of us had elected to do the Track Day School – a bargain at $225 compared to the $150 for Trackday only - as we received the same amount of track time plus the benefit of instruction from Tony and his very knowledgeable instructors. After 8am sign up for Track Only (Group A) or School (Group B), all riders presented their bikes for tech inspection – this involved:
· taping over lights and plates (question – what did they use before 3M Blue masking tape, that stuff comes off without marking your bike at all?)
· checking chain tension and tyre condition
· reduce tyre pressures to 30/30 psi
· mirrors could be taped or removed in Group B, but in Group A they had to be removed.
Our guys had all elected to wear leathers, either one or two-piece, but there were a couple in textiles and even one guy in a mesh suit. I noticed that everyone on Group A wore leathers so it may be mandatory there.
At 9am, we all gathered for rider orientation where basic rules were set:
· “we are not racing – this is a track day” Yeah right!
· overtaking on the outside only, so no diving down the inside
· let your tyres warm up before pinning it
· give plenty of warning and get off the racing line before entering the pits
· if the handlebars touch the ground then your day is over, no exceptions (because you could have internal injuries)
· if you run wide onto the grass then you stay off and do NOT rejoin the track until the end of the session
· if you look dangerous, they reserved the right to take you off (but not take you out J)
We were using the short 1.7 mile track (http://www.motorsportranch.com/1.7-road-course.cfm) and running anti-clockwise. From what we learnt, Little Bend was the most interesting turn and the one which involved the most “offs”. In fact, later in the morning, one of the Group A riders went off there in the only real incident of the day. Evidently he was OK; the only hurt he received was the verbal drubbing from the others when he limped back to the pits.
And they’re off!
Suitably sobered by the gritty reminders that there is at least some risk in what we were doing, Group A headed off to the track and we went in to the classroom. The structure of the day was that each group spent 30 minutes on track and 30 minutes off. If 30 minute track sessions don’t sound like much, I can tell you that it is pretty damn demanding.
Our classroom sessions focused on topics such as racing lines, body position, getting off the seat, braking, turning, counter-steering and turning into the apex as late as possible,
The first track session involved sending us out in three groups of five or six riders in procession behind an instructor. He led us around at a moderate pace to learn the race lines. At the end of each lap, the rider behind the instructor was waved to the back and next one moved up – this way everyone got to ride behind the instructor and see exactly where he went. Then it was back to the classroom to build on what we’d learnt – and so the day went,
The second and subsequent sessions were “at your own pace” and it wasn’t long before folks were pinning it! Tony and his instructors circled with us – making it look easy but also looking to provide pointers where they were needed. It was noticeable that the NTNOA guys were quicker than anyone else in the Track School – speaking for myself, the adrenaline surged, the red mist descended and whilst I wasn’t a maniac (I hope), I quickly found the confidence to go pretty quick. I had the opportunity at one time or other to follow my NTNOA compadres through the curves and it was very educational – they all had a feel for the racing line and most important they were very smooth and relaxed – the epitome of a natural rider.
I don’t consider myself to be slow but I’d never really got out of the saddle before, figuring that the road is not the place to be learning that. Well, I can tell you that within minutes of being on the track, I was out of the seat and putting a knee down; and by the end of the day I felt as though I’d been doing it all my life.
I’m no expert but Cresson seems a lovely circuit, straights just long enough that you could let the bike really go, but lots of varied curves to practice your craft. I never really nailed the Rattlesnake to my satisfaction (but boy! I saw George do it - poetry in motion!) and the Horseshoe gave me fits, but I had great fun entering and leaving the Wagon Wheel and Little Bend is simply terrific. Tony’s instructors have thousands of laps at Cresson, and their advice was golden. When they pointed out that you could treat Boot Hill and Tombstone as one constant radius curve, then that became a real highlight of each lap.
But there’s a price to be paid for all this – by three o’clock I was exhausted. It is so physically and mentally intense that I was quite content to call it a day. It’s funny, I’d gone there worrying that we wouldn’t get enough track time, but I actually didn’t bother to do the last sessions. I figured I was tired enough to possibly make a mistake and since Group A would be on the track as well, there would be some very fast riders out there. By the way, a big tip if you ever consider doing a Track Day – trailer your bike there ‘cos you’ll be too knackered to ride home.
So, along with George, Clay and Dean, I was hanging up my helmet when Phil headed for the track on his vintage Ducati – a visual and aural treat Phil named "Eye Candy." Speaking of which, that bike got more attention than all of the track day exotica there and deservedly so – it’s a beauty!!
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Revised: June 06, 2008 .