Track Day 101

I think that getting maximum enjoyment and benefit from your track day really depends on you.

It starts with good preparation. Remember the Army adage, the “7P’s”? Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Production.

Is you bike ready for the track? Are you ready for the track? Are you physically fit enough to handle a full track day with two or more hours of track time in the current weather conditions. If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, then either abandon the day, or if you have enough time then try and remedy the situation before the track day.

Are you mentally prepared for the day? Have you decided why you are doing the track day and what you want to get out of it? It sounds simple, but I suspect that a fair few riders get out on track not really having thought what they want from the day.

As with many things in life, if you don’t have a clear goal or set of goals (beyond the basic goal of not crashing), then there’s a strong chance that you won’t derive maximum benefit from the experience.

As someone who wants to learn to ride better and faster, and who wants to use track days to achieve that objective, my overall goal is easy to state. However, a slightly non-specific goal like that is hard to deliver on without defining what it actually means.

I can start by quantifying my goal. My quickest lap last at my last Brands outing was just under 1:12. My goal for my next Brands track day is to get down to 1:06 – that involves shaving 6 seconds over 5-6 sessions, an improvement of 1 second per session, or approximately 1/10th of a second a lap.

If you read my previous article on my first Brands track day, you’ll know that I summarised quite a few points (from Andy my instructor that day) that should deliver the extra speed I’m looking for … if I can put them into practice.

These points are in fact what I will use as my sub goals – if I can improve on each of those issues, then I have a good chance of being able to deliver faster lap times.

These are the some of things that I’ll be concentrating on:

  • Proper body position when cornering, specifically:
    • Keeping my arms bent
    • Sitting back in the seat away from the tank
    • Dropping my head and shoulder low to the inside of the turn
  • Following the racing line and not turning into the turn too early
  • Getting on the gas harder and earlier coming out of the turn

Each session I’ll be focusing on one or two of those specific things in order not to overwhelm my little brain. In later sessions, I’ll try to combine and focus on few of the points together.

How will I know whether I’m making progress?

Using a lap timer will allow me to monitor my progress after each session. If I was being really pedantic, I could use a notebook and record the things that I tried to focus on that session and to see what kind of difference they made.

Some improvement will come from being more familiar with the track, however focusing on specific issues like my body position will yield faster returns, I feel.

The second part of the analysis comes after the track day when I review the footage taken from the bike. Watching your ride after the event can be phenomenally eye opening. What seems quick on track often looks (very) slow on video… especially in my case!

One of the major benefits of a video is that it enables you to see your lines around the track, and to hear the engine. Listening to the engine sound tells you whether you had the right gear for the corner, when you started driving out and how hard you were able to get on the accelerator.

If you spend time reviewing the data collected on the day, you can use that to quantify your improvement at specific corners and parts of the track.

To summarise:

  • Prepare the bike and your kit
  • Make sure you’re fit and ready
  • Define one or more goals for the day
  • Breakdown those goals into concrete objectives and/or areas to work on
  • Monitor and measure your progress
  • Review your data during and after the track day

I’ll let you know how I got on after my next visit to Brands.


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