Trackdays are more than just turning up at your local circuit and riding around in circles. They’ve evolved into something special – and 2016 is packed full of them
Ride and learn days
inding tuition is easier than ever. There are dedicated riding schools and most trackdays have instructors on hand to help you. Money spent on training will help you ride faster and safer than any go-faster kit ever will.
The Honda Ron Haslam Race School at Donington Park celebrates its 20th birthday this year and is firmly established as one of the UK’s most popular motorcycle track events. It caters for everyone from complete beginners to trackday regulars and racers. New riders learn on CBR125/300s and CB500s and the more experienced get to ride the famous GP circuit on CBR600RRs and Blades, all included in the price. Tuition is tailored to the individual.
Of course, the other big-hitter is the world renowned California Superbike School (CSS), which was founded in 1980. Inspired by Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist books, CSS carefully dissects the art of track riding into a regimented three-level course structure. A fourth level lets you piece together everything you’ve learned in the first three. You can use your own bike or hire one of CSS’s Ducati Monster 1200s, 959 or 1299 Panigales.
Advanced rider training company Rapid Training operate trackdays with instruction at Folembray in France and if you’re looking to add a touch of glamour to your school day, you can enlist the experience of top level ex-racers who star at trackdays in the UK and Europe, including the likes of Jeremy McWilliams, Niall Mackenzie, Neil Hodgson, Troy Corser, Andrew Pitt, Steve Plater and Steve Brogan. James Whitham also runs his own Track Training days at Anglesey, Mallory and Croft.
The Motovudo riding school, conceived by former 500cc GP winner Simon Crafar operates at trackdays in Europe, run by the man himself, and closer to home, Motovudu visits MSV trackdays, headed by ex-British Superbike champion John Reynolds.
But for the ultimate in track riding decadence, at the world’s best circuits, there’s the Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) at Mugello with the likes of Troy Bayliss and Carlos Checa, or the Yamaha Racing Experience at Spa where you can meet Rossi’s crew chief Silvano Galbusera.
‘I can tell they’re going to crash’
Michael Neeves instructs at the Honda Ron Haslam Race School
You can tell by a rider’s body position, lean angle, corner speed and patience level whether they’re a crash waiting to happen. It’s so obvious you can spot the signs in a couple of corners.
Road riders tend to ride straight-armed in the corners and flat-footed on the pegs and quickly run out of ground clearance and grip. Hanging off might feel alien and take a lot of effort, but it gives you a bigger safety margin at speed.
Lots of riders are on the edge in the corners, but don’t use 100% throttle on the straights. Doing all your work on the straights and not overriding the corners is the key to an easy fast lap.
Then there’s the ‘kneedown-flick-highside’. That’s where riders slam the bike down to get their sliders scraping, then go to full throttle before remembering to lift the bike upright again.
Many riders simply don’t think once they’ve left the pits. They’ll cut across the track into the first turn without looking behind them, crash on cold tyres and be in a rush to set a lap record in their first session. Then there’s poorly maintained bikes, worn-out tyres and sleep-inducing supersized meals at lunchtime.
Trackday tips and tricks
Now you’ve cleared the biggest hurdle and decided what kind of trackday to do, there are a few things you can do on the day to make your life easier.
Be early, be prepared
Arrive at the track early. Set tyre pressures, fit tyre warmers, if you’re using them, and get noise tested before signing-on and briefing.
Don’t forget to fill up
If you’re riding to the track, brim your tank full of fuel at the closest petrol station, then you’ll have enough for at least half a day.
Get the right rubber
Trackday compound tyres are best. They don’t need tyre warmers, work in a wide temperature window, aren’t as likely to cold tear as race tyres and are durable.
Bring all the kit you need
Make sure you have enough tyres and brake pads to last
Keep hydrated, eat light
Bring water and light snacks. Avoid the pie and chips at lunchtime - it’ll wipe you out for the afternoon sessions.
Take your time. The best sessions are in the afternoon when most riders are knackered and have headed-off home.
Find the right group
Be honest with yourself and enter the correct group. Riders circulating at wildly differing speeds are a recipe for disaster.
Ride at your own pace
Don’t wait for mates, you’ll get tangled up with other riders and risk a collision. Keep focused on what you’re doing.