How to overtake safely on a trackday
As you get faster and more confident on trackdays you will inevitably start to catch slower or less experienced riders. Overtaking smoothly and safely is crucial, whatever the skill level of the two riders involved to avoid an accident.
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MCN Chief Road Tester, Michael Neeves, teaches you how to take the lead and master overtaking on track days.
It’s good to overtake
Overtaking is one of the most satisfying parts of a trackday. It’s good for the ego, especially if we think we’re on a slower bike. But for those being overtaken it can be terrifying – scary enough to put a novice trackday rider off forever, so the trick is to waft by like you’re invisible.
A good overtaking technique helps you slide past another rider without making them change line or putting them (or you) in danger. It’s better to impress someone with your smooth, considerate riding technique, than them coming to find you in the paddock.
If you’re even thinking of overtaking, you’ll no doubt be lapping faster than the other rider, so there’s no need to make a do-or-die manoeuvre.
Do it on the straights
The safest place and most courteous place to overtake is on the straights. If your bike is much faster than the guy you’ve just caught, be patient and wait for the next straight to zip past.
Start the overtake in the acceleration zone, but do it on the inside of the rider. Don’t go around the outside – the gap will reduce quicker than you think as they drift to the exit kerb and you’ll risk a collision.
...or the braking zones
If your bike is the same speed, or slower than their's on the straights, overtake in the braking zone, but not the turning-in zone. Once the rider in front is tipping-in, you’ve got less track to play with and you’ll end up lifting them up, or if they don’t see you, you could collide and send them off the track.
Your out-braking run should start on the entry to the corner before. Don’t be tempted to nibble into their ‘lead’ on the way in, or you’ll struggle to keep up with them along the next straight. Stay off the throttle mid-corner, turn tighter, lift the bike up and get on the power, ready to get the slingshot.
Have a braking marker
Braking markers are essential for overtaking if the rider in front is only fractionally slower than you and it’s hard to get past. Don’t just brake after them – they might’ve braked really late that time and you won’t be able to make the corner.
Pull out to the side of the rider, giving them plenty of room. Forget they’re there so they don’t distract you, but look out for your marker and brake when you see it. If you’re not past already, release the brakes slightly to move ahead.
If the other riders is the last of the late brakers, still brake at your usual maker, but let the brakes off earlier, modulating your speed with the lever until you’re safely past.
MORE TRACK RIDING ADVICE
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Reduce your entry speed
Now that you’re on a tighter line going into the corner and ahead of the overtaken rider, knock-off some corner entry speed to make the apex. Go in too fast and you’ll either run wide or lose the front trying to scrub-off speed, especially on cold tyres.
Brake at your usual marker and keep your eyes fixed on the corner, not the other rider, or the outside of the track – you go where you look. Point the bike into the apex at an angle, so you’re braking safely in a straight line. Let go of the brakes at half lean and tip in, off the throttle.
Leave slipstreaming to racers
It’s dangerous enough sitting behind another bike at speed when you’re racing and you know and trust the rider in front not to do anything unexpected, but on a trackday it’s even more perilous.
The rider might brake earlier then you expect, miss a gear, or just give up on their lap and decide to dawdle back to the pits. It’s normally you who’ll crash – back wheels are more solid than fronts.
Are you in the right group?
If you’re overtaking lots of riders in the novice or intermediate group, it’s safer for everyone to move up a group. Simple.
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