Track Day Knuckleheads

I spent a good deal of time trying to help out several specific students at the last Elite Track Day double-header weekend.  But no matter how much you try to help some people, they just can't get over their egos for long enough to learn that they don't have control of themselves, or their bike.  

Elite Track Days has a very stringent policy about being promoted to group 2 from group 1, where everybody starts.  You need to ask to be moved up, you need to do it at the start of the day, and you need to be followed by an instructor who will watch you and advise as to whether you can move up.  Somehow, this one guy's buddy had been previously moved up to group 2.  He claimed that he always rode in the same group as his buddy at other track days.  Which is fine, since there are usually three groups at other track days.  Beginner or group 1, Intermediate or group 2, and Super-Fast/Racer or group 3.  

To be in group 2 at Elite, you pretty much need to be competent enough to not get run over in group 3 at other schools, whether or not you are as "fast" as they are.  Basically, this means that you take good, predictable, smooth lines, follow the rules, and don't freak out if somebody blasts under you into a corner.

So this guy asked to be moved up.  I went out.  I told him I wanted to see a few things from him: don't cross the merge line, don't apex the first two turns out of the merge line, follow proper procedures when approaching other riders regarding passing(early morning, NO passing), good smooth lines, put his hand up when he wants to come off the track, keep it up, and don't put it down and change your mind.  Oh, and don't lose me, since you're on a GSXR 600 and I'm on a Husqvarna Nox, which lacks a little top-end oomph compared to a GSXR anything.  Anybody that's fast enough to be in group 2 on a GSXR is fast enough to lose me pretty easily.

I follow him out, and the first thing he does is clip the merge line, and apex the first turn right out of the pit exit.  Not a good sign.  He proceeds to completely fail at showing me that he has any concept of the lines to take, much less repeatable predictable ones.  He sure does wick it up in the straights though, and slows down early for the turns(which he enters in the middle, stays pretty much in the middle to slightly inside, and then exits in the middle pouring on power while leaned over.  That's BAD btw).  After a couple of laps, he throws his hand up late for the pit entrance(supposed to put it up immediately after the last turn where you should stay all the way left out of the line of fast traffic), and then realizes his mistake, puts it down after a little hand flourish, and continues on the course, apexing across where I was going to be if I hadn't slowed down intentionally.

I quit following him, and decided to spend time with the guy that needed some help, and was actually capable of learning.

He was initially receptive to the idea that he wasn't group 2 material, but he proceeded to be a really annoying presence on the track for the rest of the day, because his velocity was such that he WAS faster around the track than many of the more sedate and newer riders in group 1.  When he couldn't pass, he would use the pit lane like a passing lane, blowing through the pits at 75% of full speed.  He continued to be "fast" for the whole day, but I didn't see him improve at all, in spite of even bringing him and his crew in for private school when they didn't come to class between sessions, and were forced to sit out a session(in group 1, you must attend class between sessions).

The whole point of this ramble is just a piece of advice from the slow "fast" guy that has good lines and is very safe on the track:  Don't assume that just because you're as fast or faster than other people on the track, that you are actually a good rider.  I'm still learning things, and I've won racing championships.  At the last track day, a fellow instructor followed me around for a bit to learn my lines, and laughed that I was braking very early for two corners.  That's because I was still trying to learn a better more consistent line around the track.  Sure, I can blast into the corner, but I'll never be fast through it if I don't learn it at a slower more controlled pace first.

We instructors don't know everything, and many times, the "students" are "faster" than the instructors if for no other reason than they tend to bring bigger hardware with them to the track, which will make up for "slow" in the turns by being an easy "fast" in the straights.  But we do see a lot of students, and we have been to a LOT of track days and races.  Do yourself a favor at your next track day, and ask an instructor to work on one or two specific things with you for at least part of the day, so that you can still go out and "have a good time" blasting around the track, but you've also worked on improving one or two things, like braking control, or body position, or lean angle, or exit speed, or entry speed, or anything at all really.  Work on figure 8's in the parking lot while you're not on the track.  You'd be amazed how useful that is, and how much more confident you are with your bike control if you know that you can move the bike very slowly with great skill.

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