Thursday, May 10, 2007

What is a track day?

What's a track day? Let me start this whole thing off by saying, "A track day is whatever you want it to be."

First, let's examine the simple facts. A track day takes place on a closed circuit course. Generally, these are called racetracks, but in a technical sense, the course where you took your first motorcycle class was also a closed circuit course. I only mention this to help you understand that a racetrack doesn't have to be a scary place.

Track days are supervised events. Crew, corner workers, staff, and safety personnel are all there for the participant's benefit.

Each individual signs up and participates in specific group sessions at the track. Most track organizations allow each group to circulate the track for a period of 20 minutes, after which, the participants get a 40 minute break.

Most track days have groups divided into three different levels of participation.

A) The highest group would be an open class / racing type of event with very few limitations on speed, passing, or other regulations. This is NOT an environment for anyone without real racing experience.

B) The intermediate group is designed for participation by those with a reasonable amount of experience at the track. Passing is allowed under certain circumstances in the corners and is always allowed on the straight parts of the track. Participants in this group tend to be those who want to improve their skills and speed in a less restrictive environment, but without the free-for-all of the open class group.

C) The safest group is organized for those who want the opportunity to ride as fast as they feel comfortable, and without any pressure from other riders in the group. There are generally some strict rules that prohibit passing in corners, and anyone who exhibits agressive riding in this group is generally moved into the intermediate group for everyone's benefit.

From a speed standpoint, the safest group is generally no different from a group you might ride with on the street. However, there's a huge difference in safety between riding at the track and riding on the street. Road hazards are highly unusual at the track. You won't find gravel in the corners and squirrels don't generally leap out at you from the bushes. Further, there are no grannies in Buicks or cellphone-using minivan moms on the track. Finally, there is always an emergency crew at the track. This means the response time for an accident is at least 10 times better than one might experience on the street!

So, I'm not going to beg you to go to a track day, but I'm going to ask some questions you have to ask yourself......

1) If I go out to ride in the hills with my buds today, what COULD happen?
2) If I go to a supervised track day with my buds today, what COULD happen?

And finally, 3) Why haven't we been doing track days for years?

Just FYI - track day promotors allow visitors to show up and watch for free. Find out when there's a track day in your area and just go watch. You'll see it's a pretty calm and tame affair.

I hope to see you out there some day soon. Oh, where do you find out about track days in your area? Ask your local motorcycle dealer or use that thing they call the INTERNET. ;-)


Sean said...

The few trackday organizers I know let you work half day as a cornerworker and ride the other half of the day. Alternatively, they let you work a full day and then get a free trackday in the future. Not something set in stone with every organization out there, but a great way to save on expense of trackdays, if available. (You have no excuses.) ;-)

motopacsman said...

Thanks Sean. That's great information! Glad you added it.