Top track tips

How to learn a new cir­cuit

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents - Michael Neeves MCN Se­nior Road Tester and Elite in­struc­tor at the Honda Ron Haslam Race School

Take it easy at first

It can be in­tim­i­dat­ing to think every­one else ex­cept you knows where they’re go­ing when you turn up to a new track. But don’t worry, there’s no rush. Turn your head from side-to-side and look around to get an idea of the track lay­out on those open­ing laps. Don’t at­tack the cir­cuit straight away; it’s too easy to run off the track and form bad habits that will be hard to shake off later.

Do your home­work

Learn as much about the cir­cuit as you can be­fore you turn up. Find on­board videos, track guides and even com­puter games to give you a flavour of the track, but th­ese should only be used as a guide. The cir­cuit will look com­pletely dif­fer­ent when you ac­tu­ally ride it.

Walk, run or cy­cle

If you can get ac­cess to the track the night be­fore, walk­ing, run­ning or cy­cling around it will help you learn it more com­pre­hen­sively. Now’s your chance to suss out the shape of the cor­ners and to look out for things you can use as brak­ing, turn-in and exit mark­ers. Look out for bumps, cam­bers, kerbs and any­thing you think will help or hin­der you at speed.

Join all the dots

The rac­ing line, brak­ing mark­ers, apexes, turn-in and exit points are the most im­por­tant thing to ‘lock-in’ be­fore you worry about go­ing fast. Track rid­ing is for­mu­laic, as it never changes (un­less it starts rain­ing). Treat it like a gi­ant, high-speed dotto-dot book. Be­gin by hit­ting your marks at low speed and the rest is easy as you bleed in more speed.

Take a pen and pa­per

Print out a track map and make notes af­ter ev­ery ses­sion. Start with the sim­ple stuff by writ­ing down the gear you’re in at each cor­ner, even if it’s the wrong one to be­gin with, then progress to writ­ing notes about what the bike is do­ing at points on the track, and draw the rac­ing lines you’re tak­ing. Your notes will change as you learn the track more, but the act of putting them to pa­per will make you think more about what you’re do­ing.

Brush off the bravado

You’ll be bom­barded with ad­vice at a track­day, whether you ask for it or not. The best words of wis­dom will come from the in­struc­tors, but lis­ten to the faster rid­ers, too. There’s a lot of bravado at a track­day and the most com­mon thing is rid­ers telling you they’re flat-out in cer­tain cor­ners – they’re usu­ally ly­ing.

See if you can walk, run or cy­cle around the track to suss out the cor­ners and look for brak­ing mark­ers. Use your head and be­come an ex­pert on the track be­fore you ar­rive, study on­board videos and the track map to learn which way the cor­ners go. But re­mem­ber, the track may seem quite dif­fer­ent when you ac­tu­ally get there. Treat the track like a gi­ant dot-to-dot, hit­ting your marks slowly to be­gin with.

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