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Trackday Safety

 

It’s late September, I have already done between 50 and 60 days on circuit at Track-days in 2013, and I honestly still love it.

My motivation for writing the following blog is simply safety, nothing else. I don’t want to offend anyone with what I have written. I do hope that if I write about some of the common dangers I see at every event I attend, I may be able to make a few riders more aware of these particular dangers and so save a few crashes, injuries… or worse.

Here goes, but first is a question I need to ask…. ‘are you one of the faster riders in your group at the track-days you attend?’

The reason I ask is that one of the most common mistakes I see is faster riders overtaking slower riders on the wrong side.

I regularly see them get most of the way past a slower rider on the outside, then brake much harder for the next turn than the slower rider can before turning across in front of him. The slower rider has done absolutely nothing wrong but has to try his best to avoid a collision with the back of the faster rider’s bike. If there is no collision the faster rider goes on to do the same thing to another rider he passes. Eventually he causes a collision that takes one or both riders down and then blames the slower rider for running into the back of him. He genuinely believes this was the case.

Always attempt an overtake on the inside for the following corner. This way it’s not necessary to get all the way past the other rider, just up beside them in order to get the upper hand/advantage.

By far the most common dangerous ‘fast rider’ move I see at track days is the following:

Faster rider attempts to overtake a slower rider on the inside (correct side) in the braking zone approaching a corner. He positions himself beside the slower rider well, and all looks to be going to plan but just before the faster rider turns into the corner he forgets about the rider he has just overtaken and swerves in the opposite direction of the corner in an attempt to get a wider entry line, which basically steals the slower riders line/track position and sometimes even makes contact with him. The slower rider has to stand his bike up in an attempt to avoid collision with the faster rider and now can’t make the corner at all so runs off track and into the gravel swearing. The faster rider continues on oblivious.

When I overtake someone on the inside it is normal that I must enter the next turn on a slightly tighter entry line than usual. Once I am on that entry line I stay on it, never moving out and taking the overtaken riders wider entry line (for both my safety and theirs). Our lines eventually cross paths tight against the paint in the mid turn but I should be past by then. Because I have entered slightly tighter, I must carry slightly less mid turn speed in order to make the bike turn tighter and get the exit right. This may hold up the overtaken rider slightly in the mid turn until the exit starts, but both riders are safe.

An overtake between two corners that ended in disaster-

On a right to left ‘S’ series of turns with no braking needed, the slightly slower rider ran a little wide on the exit of the right hander so the faster rider slipped up beside him on the right. The slower rider then pulled his bike back on to line with no chance of knowing the faster rider was there. The collision and resulting crash was huge. Both riders were injured and bikes were destroyed all because the faster rider attempted a pass on the less safe side.

There are some places at some tracks that overtaking on the outside can be clean and safe, but the general rule is ‘inside for the following corner’.

‘Speed difference is our biggest danger’.

There are many ways to put yourself and others in danger on track, but the easiest one, and the one that many are not aware of is simply slowing down where and when you shouldn’t. Reducing speed creates a massive speed difference between yourself and other riders.

I do my best to keep my speed up unless I am in the actual pit-lane. The pit-lane entrance and exit is not speed restricted so I can’t understand people wanting to do 40Kmh when they are coming off track or going back out on a section of track that others are safely doing 2 or 3 times that speed.

I very nearly got caught out recently in a group of riders heading out of the pit-lane and onto the circuit, all accelerating, building speed. The very same moment that most of us took a quick glance over our shoulder to see if any riders on circuit were coming, the rider in front shut his throttle! Myself and everyone behind scattered in every direction (like chased chickens) in an attempt to avoid a collision with the back of his bike. He was totally oblivious as he rode off slowly into the distance leaving 4 riders with racing hearts pumping adrenalin and swearing.

In my opinion riders are much safer to not shut the throttle when exiting the pit-lane and joining the track. I simply accelerate hard to reduce the speed difference between myself and the circulating riders at the same time as staying ‘glued’ to the side of the track I am exiting from until after the first turn at least. While accelerating I’ll take a glance over my shoulder just to know if someone is coming, so I know how hard I should try to stay out of the way. I’ll even ride on the curbs if necessary. Sometimes I may build speed before staying at the same speed/throttle position while glancing over my shoulder and exiting the pit-lane, but I avoid closing the throttle and reducing speed.

A ‘dead give away’.

A general rule that keeps proving to be correct; The more noise/disturbance a rider makes with their bike in the garages and pit-lane, the slower they are on circuit.

I hope to see you out on track soon for yet another day doing what we all love – fast, safe riding.