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Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand racing’


5.30am

Before daybreak on this freezing morning Greg and I set off to Hampton Downs Raceway for the last ART day for the season. Bikes in tow with talk about fat people’s livers and we were on our merry way. Stopping off for a pie, coffee and a fuel up at the servo before we get to the track we meet up with a few more early bird bikers, one of which has decided it is to cold to ride and will soon be loading his bike onto the back of a trailer so that he can relax in the warmth of a work van, laden with biking needs.

Once we set up and go through scrutineering, sign in and gear check we await the call for the track walk. Lines of excited bikers wait at the track entry and we are soon stopping at each corner and checking them out. Since my bike doesn’t have a stand attached to it, I have to lie it up against the tyre wall’s and barriers that line the track and unfortunately pick up a large amount of mud on my tyres which I have to try hard to scrub off before we enter back into the pits and am very tempted to just let out a huge standing burnout, but refrain from my urges as I can’t be bothered being told off so early on in the day.

Session 1 and we are all systems go, it is a pretty slow pace to begin with as the majority of us have never done the track before and are trying to get acquainted to it as soon as possible. I pass around 6 riders who are dawdling along and start to pick up my pace a little but as soon as we had started, the finishing flag hangs lazily from the start grid and we make our way back into the pits.

Now before we go out for the second session, rain starts to piss all over the lovely track and what we are left with is a nice slippery surface on which we now have to navigate. Normally I am fine in wet weather but my tyres were starting to get a little old and harden up so gave me the feeling of riding on ice for the entire session which wasn’t pleasant. Expecting the tyres to give at any second, left me riding like a nana around the track. As I enter into one tight corner and am leant over slightly my rear tyre steps out for a second or so, but it quickly resumes it’s place in line with the front and I am off down the straight. I could feel the bike edging out from underneath me on every turn and it consumed my mind leaving me with little concentration on what I was actually doing which was kind of dangerous as we will soon find out.

As I am coming out of turn 5 which drops 8 metres in a decreasing radius style corner I then power onto the short straight, reaching around 170km/h when the bike that was close in front of me decides to slam on his brakes for whatever reason, leaving me to quickly shut off the throttle and grabbing a little too much front brake. That in itself is a big no-no as it upsets the bike considerably and will no doubt cause the front to lock up…which it did. The front tyre violently moves from the left to the right and then suddenly grips on the tarmac causing it to catapult into the  air and land back down with a heavy thud and leaving me with the bewilderment and confusion that I am still up on two wheels and now coming up to the long sweeper which I need to prepare myself for.

As that session finishes, I put my bike up onto the stands and I then go and have a much needed cigarette as I miss half of the debrief. My nerves aren’t too happy at this current point in time and I await session 3, hoping that it will not bear the same, if not worse results.

Session 3 goes rather well, and I start to get the hang of the slippery slopes and smoothness on the bike and start to work on each corner, getting progressively faster as I go.

By Session 4, the track was finally dry and I could have a little bit more fun and give it some gas around the corners without fear of it dropping out from underneath me, started to link up some corners but I am still a fair way away from mastering this track. It is a busy circuit with camber and height changes and many decreasing radius corners and a double apex corner. You don’t have much time to think before the next corner jumps out at you and to combine that with 20 other bikes whizzing around on all sides of you, if keeps the body and mind very busy.

The track layout.

Now that I can get my license back after a painful 3 months, I may as well buy a road bike so that I don’t have to bus everywhere (Major pain in the ass.) So, lacking the funds to have both a race bike and a road bike, I must sell my beloved SV650.

But I think that if I can save up enough coin in the next 5 months before the start of the season, I might be able to get a new race bike and enter into the Pro-Twin series and work my way up to the top. Just looking to iron out my riding habits now and really start to learn about the bike but that shall have to wait.

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Track day essentials:

So you want to get off the streets and play around in a nicely sealed area with no traffic, kids, small animals or police hanging around? A track day is the best option for you, depending on where you go, they are pretty reasonably priced and if you are doing a course on the track day, some of them even include lunch and tuition for you.

So to get started for your track day, here is the basic essentials of what you will need:

  • A bike – go figure, though some racetracks like Hampton Downs will hire them out to you.
  • Full leather gear along with a full back protector.
  • A snug fitting helmet – if it is too loose, they won’t let you on.
  • 10 – 20L petrol can with spare petrol – you will definitely need it, and it saves you from leaving at track breaks.
  • Large bottle of water – you will get dehydrated very quickly which means you lose concentration.
  • Basic tools – chances are that you won’t need them, but you never know.
  • Duct or electrical tape to cover your lights and all other pieces of glass or plastic that could scatter if you crash.
  • Make sure you’re bike is up to WoF standards and everything is tightened and what ever you don’t need can be taken off.
  • Light lunch – something that will give you long lasting energy and some quick sugar rush foods like chocolate is also good to have.
  • A car and trailer – if you have one, it is well worth taking it out because by the end of the day, your brain isn’t functioning as well as it should be and it can be a recipe for disaster.
  • Tyre gauge – check your tyres after every session, because with the kind of riding you are doing, the tyres can play funny games with you and it is one of those things that it is so easy to check but if you don’t, could mean you come off.

Now there are also additional items you can take, like video cameras, which are really good for reviewing your laps and seeing what you need to work on, so a laptop is also a good thing to bring out as well. Sunscreen is also a good option because the back of your neck can get burnt really quickly and if you are using a clear visor then so can your face.

Track day tips:

The best idea is to go out there with something that you would like to work on, say for example you cornering style, heavier braking, weighting the bike throughout a corner etc… But if you go out there with a solid focus on something to work on, it is the best place in the world to practice and it’s in a safe environment.

Drink lots of water, make sure that you need to go toilet after either every 1st or 2nd session and that will set you up for the whole day and keep you working at optimum performance.
Lower your tyre pressures, because you are riding harder and faster, the tyres will heat up a lot quicker that just pootling along at 100km/h would, so for example for my Sv650 which has a 160/70/17 rear and 120/70/17 front I would be riding at 30/30 psi and you can always play around with it on the day if you have a pump.Make sure you warm your tyres up first, a couple of laps depending on your pace should be sufficient to get them to the proper temperature and then you are good to go.

Ride at your own pace, there will be riders out there that will make you feel as if you are standing still, but don’t try to push to keep up because as soon as you start to try out-riding your ability, the more likely you will crash. Test your limits and gently push them as you go on in the day but don’t be a fool and think that if they can do it, that you can too.

Learn the track, every track has it’s own idiosyncrasies and you need to be aware of them if you want to ride as well as you can. So for example, Pukekohe raceway is a very bumpy track, but the worst corner is the first sweeper called Jennians, as you turn into the corner if you are in a certain place or you have not got the bike settled down with positive throttle, your bike will buck around like an angry horse, put once you have learnt it, you can ride through it no sweat.

Try to watch the other riders that go around the track, if they seems like they know the track really well, then follow their lines, sometimes it may not be obvious to you but if you want some of the faster lines around the tracks, follow the more experienced guys and you will pick it up no problem.

Always look ahead of you, as many corners ahead as you possibly can and plan out where you are accelerating. If you keep your eyes ahead, you are probably less likely to get scattered when  going to go, turn in, brake and some body comes roaring around the outside of you on a corner, the main thing there is to keep calm, maintain your line and look ahead, it is their responsibility to pass you safely.

If you are unsure on what the flags mean, then ask the event organiser to show you, generally they will run a briefing to all new comers in the morning anyway but it is best to know what to look for.

When leaving the track, raise either your left arm or left foot as much as possible to signal to the other riders that you are leaving the track so that they can stay out of your way and carry on.

Advanced Rider Training and Pro Rider days:

Every now and then you have groups or companies that will hire out the track and provide an instructed day where they will follow/lead you around the track and help you work on key areas in your riding style.

I often go to the ART days and work on my riding as much as possible now, they have great instructors and lessons for you to learn throughout the day and in my opinion, it is the best value for money that you can get.

Off the top of my head the costs are:

ART – $120 – includes lunch and BBQ at the end of the day.

ProRider – $125 – not sure if it includes lunch or not.

The links to these websites are just under here:

http://www.amcc.co.nz/home

http://www.prorider.co.nz/

and the link for North Island Racecourses are here:

Pukekohe – http://www.countiesracing.co.nz/motor-racing/ – Controlled testing days are only $90

Hampton Downs – http://www.hamptondowns.com/

Taupo – http://www.tauporacetrack.co.nz/

If you need any more information about  Track days, please contact me with your question and I will do my best to help you out.

Matt

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