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Trackday safety …. revisited

I’m feeling like it’s time for another blog about safety on track…

Until there is a better way I feel strongly that it’s the responsibility of the people running Trackday events to educate their Trackday riders about safety and etiquette. I’ve just come across the perfect example of why I think this…

Eren Kurter,  a well educated, polite and very likable fellow who is a street rider recently did his first trackday event. Over a meal and a beer his friends encouraged him to tell me his entertaining story about his first Trackday experience. Eren was clearly self conscious but went on to explain that after some laps learning the circuit in his first session on track ever, a man suddenly appeared on the circuit waving a chequed flag, so Eren stopped. My eyes went wide and his friends start laughing.
Next this man with the chequered flag started frantically waving his other arm in a circular motion, so Eren did exactly as he was told… he turned around and went back the way he’d come!  Now I laughed along with Eren’s friend’s.

Of course I was shocked by Eren’s story but laughing is easy when you know that nobody got hurt.

Eren’s story is a perfect example of the type of thing that injures or kills riders.  In my experience it’s always the avoidable ‘dumb shit’ that causes the nastiest accidents.

A good pre-ride briefing from the organiser with compulsory attendance (No attendance- no briefing sticker- no getting past the Marshall at the end of pit lane) would have educated Eren enough to ensure this didn’t happen and it could have saved someone’s life. Good trackday organisers already do thorough rider’s briefings but some don’t do them at all and some briefings are just not adequate enough to cover the basics for new riders. I know it’s torture for the experienced riders to be told the basics at every event, but a couple of the clever organisers avoid this (Tracksense to mention one) by first giving the information that all levels of riders need to know before letting the experienced riders go (faster groups) and get ready to ride (their sessions are first) before continuing with more thorough information for the less experienced riders (slower groups).

I’ve also noticed that it’s not just safety that is better at the well organised events. Because these good organisers are constantly communicating with and politely helping to educate their customers I don’t see the stupid stunts like riding fast in the parking area, without helmets, wheelies in the pitlane or bouncing bikes off the rev limiter in the garage and pitlane area.  I have absolutely no  patience for this shit, it’s totally unnecessary and makes other people’s day less safe and a lot less pleasant. Invariably these stunts are pulled by the inexperienced and slowest guys who simply haven’t yet been told that acting like this is extremely uncool. You only need to watch the fasted guys in the world. They are quiet, polite and humble in the garage, they let their bike warm up at an idle before slowly riding down pit lane making sure they don’t pull out in front of anyone, and post the fastest times.

So what can we do about all this?
We can choose to ride with Trackday companies that give sensible, concise pre-ride safety briefings (not just a speech about how great their own Trackday company is and to ride slowly because you’re 2000miles from home ;-).  This way the companies that don’t give good briefings will change or disappear.

I wish you all a fast, fun and safe season on circuit.

Simon

8 comments

I suppose I am rather selective about which company I use and yes I would agree that some are a bit “up themselves” and have a bit of a take it or leave it attitude, the briefings can be a bit overpowering and I don’t like being talked to like I’m a child BUT I would sooner this than no rules at all, bad and aggressive riding is something I bother about most. Large groups of mates continually looking around for each other is also dangerous.

There is still quite a disconnect between being told stuff and putting it into action. I am a very experienced racer in New Zealand even being in the same race as Simon in the past. The other weekend in a club race I did something I should not have
and I should have known much better. But it simply escaped my attention. Part of the reason I feel is that I don’t race all that often anymore so am not constantly immersed in protocols. Regularity and consistency of message is important for learning. At least the young guy I was coaching got to see what not to do rather than just hear words.

I agree with all of this, but there’s something else lurking that needs looking at. Another element at the core of bad Trackday management, is the fact that in most cases there is no qualitative assessment for the “instructors” the TDO’s use. Selection seems based on them being “reasonably quick” and that they are prepared to work for free (in return for a free event/foreign trip after doing x-amount of days). That’s not a professional way to approach the selection of the best eyes and ears that the TDO has once the event runs, and certainly doesn’t offer any sense of these guys being able to pass on the right thing to punters who expect an instructor to tell them where they’re going wrong! I have seen instructors ignore dangerous riding thats happening in front of them (if you’re unpaid, why create more shit for yourself?), I have even been stuffed up the inside by instructors who realised I knew my way around certain tracks and felt the need to show me how brilliant they were (I’ll keep my own ego in check at this point and won’t share the part of the story how that ended for them…), and I’ve seen a floundering punter be given this thorough debrief and advice after a session “you need to be more aggressive” – what the hell does that mean?! That’s all he got, it’s useless, not to mention dangerous. Let’s move this on – what do we want from instructors on Trackdays? 3 questions – Have you got an ACU coaching licence? Have you raced? and the best one – Are you being paid to instruct today?…. you can work it out for yourself what you’re dealing with if the answer to all 3 is “no”….

Brilliant Paul, nail on the head – Simon

I’ve only done 1 track day in 2012 (time and that old demon money prevent me from doing more)!
Overall I would say spot on Simon, however, I was the ONLY complete novice rider in the novice group, on a new bike to me on a new circuit and I have to say the amount of UNBELIVEABLY FAST novices in my group was incredible, I was being undertaken, overtaken and overall whilst it didn’t stop me I found the first session a bit stressful as I had no idea how these individuals were going to behave!
Your ideas are mega, but maybe stopping the fast and advanced riders from trickling down into novice groups would have been better!
BTW I found this out after the day had finished, which does make me wonder if the profit motive was the key driver that day?!
I’m looking forward to doing one of your events soon though I have heard good reports! 🙂
Aidan.

Absolutely spot on, including the above comments.

I agree with all the comments previously. I’ve done close to a dozen euro track events and I’m afraid you pay for what you get. Go cheap and you can expect to see the so called ‘instructors’ in the kitty litter – my first experience on a euro track event. That’s not to say the bigger companies are faultless; introducing local riders using road bikes/tyres on the last day of a 4 day event isn’t very wise and quite unfair on those who, by that stage, are well tuned to the track and those around them.

Regarding the pit lane etiquette, its true that there are a fair few that can spoil it for the rest, intimidate novices and risk theirs and others equipment. I would certainly recommend that people new to track book with the larger, more reputable agencies who have the means and manpower to control this area as well as the track, making it a better atmosphere for everyone.

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