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GregGorman

Trackdays And Safety

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I went to my first real trackday in a while and my observations led me to this conclusion: Trackdays are fricken dangerous!

 

I watched in horror as the beginner/novice riders meandered around the track with no real sense of direction and no real guidance despite the best intentions of control riders.

 

The intermediate riders seem intent on figuring out just how hard they can hammer their brakes after they swerve back in front of the rider they just passed.

 

The Advanced group riders go all day as fast as they can with no real plan of practice to actually get faster and making close passes with a 40+mph closing rate.

 

The passing rules make no sense to me. Beginners can only pass on the the straight. Intermediates pass on the straight and outside in the corners. Advanced can pass anywhere. Their passing rules promote charging corners and take your attention off your rider because you have to figure out if you're in a corner or not.

 

My only real track experience is CSS or racing. This experience was probably my 6th trackday. I don't recall the previous trackdays being like this but they were four years ago so maybe I'm just remembering the good times.

 

Did I just hit a bad trackday? If so, how do you make it good?

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Even when you have a bunch of quite good riders on the track at the same time, like in AMA racing, things get scary when the fast guys lap the slow guys - few will experience to be lapped more than once*. I couldn't imagine being on a track where the difference may be that the best is nearly twice as fast as the slow riders - it would make downtown rushhour traffic seem calm and safe in comparison.

 

* I would actually prefer to see riders being flagged off before they get lapped. 15 years ago, you could even see lapping in GP racing regularly, and it often made for some dangerous situations. This lead to the 7% rule; if you were more than 7% off pace during qualifying, you weren't allowed to start.

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Hey Greg,

 

You pretty much hit the nail on the head, track days are like that in australia as well. Maybe give going out last in your group? seems to work here, bit more open space. Seeing as you race I would say just go into the fastest group as these guys can at least hold their line and if your practicing something they hopefully have the skill to get around you if needed.

 

It also depends on the provider your riding with because some passing rules are different at least thats how it is here. Guess its ride and hope really

 

Probably not very helpfull :)

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I'd say it depends on the trackday provider and their clientel. Some providers do a good job of policing the groups and enforcing their rules. Others it is just a free for all.

 

I typically ride in the fastest group and that group is usually filled with racers that can hold their line and I can have confidence riding with them.

 

In the slower groups the riders are less experienced, but if the provider does a good job the riders in these groups can have a ton of fun and remain safe as well.

 

 

 

I really enjoy trackdays, I get the chance to go out and just ride for fun with my friends. My bud runs a track day company and he has worked hard to develop a system so that everyone has a great time and he provides a very safe day for all. Some organizations don't work as hard and their days can be mayhem...

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Ours is strange. We have 4 groups, and I ride in the 3rd. Just under the racers. It's usually real safe, even when passing. I don't pass much, but when I do, they know I'm there well before the turn. I get passed a lot, and they're always real safe.

 

We've actually just had ANOTHER incident with the dude who hosts our trackdays. On top of being a..... not cool guy, he rammed another rider doing an estimated 20 mph faster than the other rider on a straight. THEN he pulled up along side the guy who'd just slid down the straight and yelled at him for being in his way.

 

The other rider was obviously upset, and the argument was "don't take anything to the track that you aren't willing to throw in the dumpster," and "you signed a waiver and knew it is dangerous, get over it." The first one is numbingly stupid, and signing a waiver isn't a switch that turns off peoples brains, and also doesn't give people the right to RAM others. At the end of the day he did apologize and fix some of the bike, but should it have come to that? And knowing him, I'd bet that someone told him about people being upset about it, and did it for PR. He's NOT a genuine guy.

 

There are other incidents, and he's not the safest guy on the two up bike, but it's his and he has the right of way whether your in his way or not.

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Greg,

 

I think your observations are quite common. In Denmark/Sweden, we usually have 4 levels called something like Green, Yellow, Red and Black (written in increasing speed). It usually goes like this:

 

Green group: First timers. The riders have a very low speed, but most of them don't have a clue about lines or TC, and they are all over the place. Few accidents - most ppl either run straight into the sandtrap or outbrakes themselves.

 

Yellow group: The "big desperado" group. Most have a couple of trackdays under their belt and/or think they're the next Rossi (they're not). Speed is significantly higher than in Green group and crashes are abundant. Lines and laptimes are wildly erratic. There's a large disparity in laptimes and riding in such a group either requires ignorance, a very high skill level, or nerves of steel. Or all of them.

 

Red group: in this group most riders rides with fairly consistent lines and laptimes (the're still a few oddballs). Crashes happen, but at a fairly low rate.

 

Black group: usually riders who either have a (rookie) racing license or is running at a pace close to that. Lines are very predictable and consistent. More crashes in Red group, since they are here to push their personal limits.

 

But as stuman points out, the particular trackday provider can also make a huge difference.

 

Kai

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We have 4 groups also. Beginner, Superstreet, Intermediate and Advanced. Superstreet is the dangerous one. They're "high on confidence, low on skill" riders. I was through there pretty quick, but it's where most of your accidents are going to happen. Sometimes they combine Intermediate and Advanced, and everyone is usually cool, but sometimes you get a Richard like the owner of our local organizer and people get hurt.

 

I'm running Superstreet next weekend, but it's only because I've been sick for so long, and I'm so much faster than most of those riders, that I'm not worried about anything happening.

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I'll safely agree with Stu. I have ridden the same track, with largely the same group just weeks apart and had entirely different experiences. The track day sponsor makes all the difference.

 

The good ones have a thorough rider's meeting, everyone understands and commits to the passing rules / zones for the day and groupings are earned and not self selected.

 

Just last season I attended a track day sponsored by the local Hyabusa club and all 25 of them signed up for the Advanced group. It was a chrome soaked mess.

 

My advice would be to find a good promoter that puts safety at a premium and stick with them. If your on the east coast, I would be happy to help.

 

Jody

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This is one of the reasons I come to the school as often as I do! I've been to some track days that were pretty damn scary, especially in the intermediate group. Certainly the track, and the provider, make a big difference, but you still never REALLY know what you are going to get, until you are there in the middle of it. Since my husband and I ride together often, I find myself doubly worried, since he is out there, too! I've progressed from riding the beginner group up through to the race group, and I definitely found the intermediate group to be the most volatile.

 

I am willing to spend a little bit more and come to a CSS day instead, where people are there to learn and the staff is totally dedicated to keeping everyone safe and improving. The troublemakers are handled immediately or thoroughly humbled in the first few laps (no-brakes is brilliant, for more than one reason!).

 

One of the first times I ever went to a CSS school (it was a 2 day camp, actually), there was a guy (student) there who really appeared to be a jerk. By the end of the safety briefing, I was pretty worried about being out on the track with this guy... but Trevor noticed, and pretty soon Keith was having a chat with the guy, and guess what - Keith sent the guy home! I'm not sure whether Keith would appreciate me telling the story, but the truth is, I was TOTALLY impressed. It was the right thing to do, it took guts to do it, and I think everyone in the class was relieved that the guy never made it out on the track. It's a rare track day provider that would notice something like that and take such definite, immediate action, but it's things like that that keep the rest of the group safe and happy.

 

Anyway, my point is, for a little more money I can come to a school, and have a terrific, worry-free day. Oh, yeah, and I improve a lot more, too. :)

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This is one of the reasons I come to the school as often as I do! I've been to some track days that were pretty damn scary, especially in the intermediate group. Certainly the track, and the provider, make a big difference, but you still never REALLY know what you are going to get, until you are there in the middle of it. Since my husband and I ride together often, I find myself doubly worried, since he is out there, too! I've progressed from riding the beginner group up through to the race group, and I definitely found the intermediate group to be the most volatile.

 

I am willing to spend a little bit more and come to a CSS day instead, where people are there to learn and the staff is totally dedicated to keeping everyone safe and improving. The troublemakers are handled immediately or thoroughly humbled in the first few laps (no-brakes is brilliant, for more than one reason!).

 

One of the first times I ever went to a CSS school (it was a 2 day camp, actually), there was a guy (student) there who really appeared to be a jerk. By the end of the safety briefing, I was pretty worried about being out on the track with this guy... but Trevor noticed, and pretty soon Keith was having a chat with the guy, and guess what - Keith sent the guy home! I'm not sure whether Keith would appreciate me telling the story, but the truth is, I was TOTALLY impressed. It was the right thing to do, it took guts to do it, and I think everyone in the class was relieved that the guy never made it out on the track. It's a rare track day provider that would notice something like that and take such definite, immediate action, but it's things like that that keep the rest of the group safe and happy.

 

Anyway, my point is, for a little more money I can come to a school, and have a terrific, worry-free day. Oh, yeah, and I improve a lot more, too. :)

Hottie [I feel like we're family here!]

I know of another student (actually I knew him from a vintage bike forum) that was tossed out of a School in Texas. He wrote me a private e-mail about the event that I later confirmed with Cobie so it is good to let prospective attendees that the School is diligent as it gets in keeping it safe.

 

Rainman

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I ride with NESBA, Absolute, Roger Lyle, and TPM, among others. It's always the same:

 

Three groups. The Novice Group is filled with first-timers and people with little or no track experience. This group is nerve-wracking because people with little or no experience are completely unpredictable.

 

Then there's the intermediate group. This group is filled with, a.), a bunch of novices who don't want to admit they're novices, so they signed up for, "intermediate," b.), some intermediate skill level riders, almost all of whom have had no formal training, so they're all riding way over their skill level and creating an inherrently dangerous situation by riding too fast for their ability, and c.), some back-of-the expert-class guys who would rather be the fastest guys in intermediate than the slowest guys in expert, so they're out there riding like they were in the expert class, scaring the Hell out of the the beginners who lied about their skill level to ride in intermediate. A frickin' zoo!

 

And then there's the "expert," class. Filled mostly with a bunch of cowboys who think they're Casey Stoner, except almost all of them have no formal training whatsoever, and are riding waaaaay over their ability. Not for the faint of heart.

 

Add to the equation the fact that even though it's not a race, most everybody in every group is riding like it is. And most clubs put 40 to 50 riders in each group. That's a whole lot of untrained, poorly regulated, high speed traffic to contend with.

 

I don't like any of the groups. Each has its inherrent dangers. I ride in the, "intermediate," group where I'm typically in the top third. On several occasions, CRs have told me they're bumping me up to, "expert." I politely decline. Of the two groups, I feel safer in intermediate than expert.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love track days, (currently signed up for over 30 this season!), but the way they're, "run," is maddening and often, downright dangerous. One trick is to wait until the afternoon. Attrition plays its role. Many of the cowboys crash out in the morning sessions, and the heat takes its toll, so that by the afternoon, groups that were 40 to 45 guys are often down to 20 to 25 riders. Much more manageable.

 

What I would really like to see would be track clubs putting some sort of training requirement on members before they let people loose on the track. But, for obvious reasons, that will never happen. And that's why I'm signed up for all 13 CSS days at Thunderbolt this year. I'd rather spend a bit more money and do track days with CSS then duke it out with the cowboys at club track days.

 

Elton

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I ride with NESBA, Absolute, Roger Lyle, and TPM, among others. It's always the same:

 

Three groups. The Novice Group is filled with first timers and people with little or no track experience. This group is nerve-wracking because people with little or no experience are completely unpredictable.

 

Then there's the intermediate groupe. This group is filled with, a.), a bunch of novices who don't want to admit they're novices, so they signed up for, "intermediate," b.), some intermediate skill level riders, almost all of whom have had no formal training, so they're all riding way over their skill level and creating an inherrently dangerous situation by riding too fast for their ability, and c.), some back-of-the expert-class guys who would rather be the fastest guys in intermediate than the slowest guys in expert, so they're out riding like they were in the expert class, scaring the Hell out of the the beginners who lied about their skill level to ride in intermediate. A frickin' zoo!

 

And then there's the "expert," class. Filled mostly with a bunch of cowboys who think they're Casey Stoner, except allmost all of them have no formal traiing whatsoever, and are riding waaaaay over their ability. Not for the faint of heart.

 

Add to the equation the fact that even though it's not a race, most everybody in every group is riding like it is. And most clubs put 40 to 50 riders in each group. That's a whole lot of untrained, poorly regulated, high speed traffic to contend with.

 

I don't like any of the groups. Each has it's inherrent dangers. I ride in the, "intermediate," group where I'm typically in the top third. On several occasions, CRs have told me they're bumping me up to, "expert." I politely decline. Of the two, I feel safer in intermediate than expert.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love track days, (currently signed up for over 30 this season!), but the way they're, "run," is maddening and often, downright dangerous. One trick is to wait until the afternoon. Attrition plays its role. Many of the cowboys crash out in the morning sessions, and the heat takes its toll, so that by the afternoon, groups that were 40 to 45 guys are often down to 20 to 25 riders. Much more manageable.

 

What I would really like to see would be track clubs putting some sort of training requirement on members before they let people loose on the track. But, for obvious reasons, that will never happen. And that's why I'm signed up for all 13 CSS days at Thunderbolt this year. I'd rather spend a bit more money and do track days with CSS then duke it out with the cowboys at club track days.

 

Elton

Elton;

This is an excellent summary...one that I have experienced as well. I have been a member of three different clubs over the years and share your enthusiasm of the CSS Experience. There is a pretty significant gap between the three Clubs I was a former member of but the essence of your description is spot on. Although it is the easiest way to get track time I did not renew with any club last year; fortunately I did attend a number of CSS events at Laguna, Sears and NJMP.

 

Rainman

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Elton awesome report!!! I have a couple of other comments to be taken into consideration.

 

The cost of some providers plays a part, often because they don't get alot of riders they drop the price down,are furhter away, or dont have the name of some of the well known tracks. I know for me that cost is a big factor eg 2 major providers in australia 1 is $100 cheaper, and has leant me into going the cheaper option. Location and facilities are going to play a bit here aswell.

 

Adding a bit more onto Eltons idea, there probably should be a national set of rules and requirements for any/all providers. This may sound a bit to far, however; everyone would be on the same page in regards to providers and more importantly us, the riders. Things like all flags mean the same, groups are all named and have rules the same. As Elton said have a test/assessment that riders could take online or on the day to see if they're in the right frame of mind,are they just going to be a 'cowboy' and if they have enough basic skill maybe an intermediate or advanced riding course? This may put the responsibilty back onto the provider to ween the cowboys out as Hotfoot mentioned Keith removing one from the track day, thereby providing a safer environment for us to learn and practice the skill schools like CSS have taught.

 

I love my track days but I dont want to remember a track day for the wrong reasons like for example; lap 3 first session beginners group a guy tyres not warmed up not really confident at his first track day goes out too hard too soon and crashes breaking his arm. Would any of the comments I made above make a difference? Who knows but it might.

 

Dylan

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Our advanced group has plenty of riders without proper training, but they are all pretty safe riders. I'm in the intermediate group just below it, but if they needed lap traffic to practice racing, I'd trust every one of them except the trackday organizer (least safe rider out there) to safely get around me.

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I ride with Team Promotion, NESBA, Sportbiketracktime and Tony's Trackdays. Save Tony's Track Days, some of the other events that I have been to have been wreckfests. I am finally an intermediate level rider and have noticed that while the intermediate level guys and gals are quicker than the beginners, they are often more unpredictable. The bad: intermediate level riders brake way too late and kill their drive to the apex (forget about the exit) hence sloppy apexes, poor throttle control, hence sloppy apexes and overall impatience. Some intermediate riders don't know not to jam on the brakes when they see the checkered flag!!! The good: by the end of the year strict enforcement was in effect. If a rider goes off track but remains upright s/he must come into hot pit and explain his/her actions. Off track but upright again and you sit out a session. Off track but upright a third time and you go home. Or, effectively a three strikes policy. By October, it got so bad that they announced a two strike policy! If you crash one time and you're okay, you must explain why you crashed and sit out a session. Crash again and you go home! For 2010, there will be 4 groups on the weekends to help curb some of the impatient riders and help police the larger group. The track day providers are getting better dealing with the unskilled, aggressive rider but nothing beats riding with someone who has been schooled in the Art of Cornering!

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Good point on the checkered flag. We have 4 groups, and even being in the 3rd group there are riders who will get on the brakes even if they just went past the pit entrance and still have to get around the track.

 

I like the "explain why you wrecked" policy. That sounds great. When I went off track at CSS (dodging a slower rider) I pulled into the pits and had to explain what happened. It's weird because what was safe for me passing slower riders was way too dangerous for them (I got the dreaded black flag once). Maybe where I ride IS dangerous, I just might be so used to it I don't notice. Not many wrecks in a day, though.

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When I went off track at CSS (dodging a slower rider) I pulled into the pits and had to explain what happened. It's weird because what was safe for me passing slower riders was way too dangerous for them (I got the dreaded black flag once).

Jason;

My guess here is that "what was safe for [you] passing slower riders..." was not a question of how you felt that you should pass as much as it was your losing your wide view that sent you off the track. You sound like you lost where you were in relationship to what else was out there on the track.

 

I learned the hard way in a race practice at Loudon when my speed entering a quick right-left chicane was much higher than the bike in front of me. In an effort to avoid him once I realized my mistake, I compounded it by grabbing too much brake at full lean and slapped my bike (and my head...can you tell?) against the pavement in the blink of an eye. If I had kept my wide view I would have adjusted my turn entry point and it would have all been good. Wideview is such a benefit to so many cornering issues that I should have chimed in the thread about the best thing I learned in School.

 

Rainman

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Another track day survived on Saturday and I went up a group. Again all the points we have discussed in this forum so far have all come out....again. After the recent Fatality at Phillip Island, day after WSBK, I was expecting things to be a bit more sedated, which it was.

 

The Track providers were a little wary as it was a tad wet, but it dried up nicely, novice group had a few crashes, nothing too bad some sore heads and a few bruises. The other groups were pretty well behaved and only a couple of people that maybe should have remembered it was a ride day not a race day. So again the odd person charging corners and runing off track, straight line champions etc etc. The rule of coming in after going off track is a great idea and at my next track day I will have a word with the providers and raise that point.

 

I find that like the checkered flag the Yellow can also be a problem. My last Phillip Island a yellow came out on the straight and the 4 bikes in front just all stood on the brakes and basically stopped, I was lucky cause my throttle was pinned and I managed not to hit anyone by using a little gap. Reducing speed gradually while being more aware of an incident is the safer oprtion.

 

After 5 or 6 sessions I find I can get quite tired, before I didnt want to waste my money by not doing the last session and found that little mistakes crept in and my situational awareness wasnt as good. If I feel tired now I pull in and pack up. I see this at most track days, tired people in the last couple of sessions trying to go even faster than the earlier sessions when theyre more tired and less alert.

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Good observation Oz, tired is a big issue.

 

One thing that can help is hydration and electorlytes (discussed at length elsewhere.

 

A recent bit of information I got was, the body needs 1 quart of water to just handle the bile produced by the liver, much less a hot day in one's own private sauna (leathers).

 

CF

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Just did a trackday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, my first trackday outside of CSS... I ran in the intermediate group with a sea of Ducati's (Ducati sponsored the day)... Had a great time, ran towards the backend of that group but would have been in the top 5 or so in the slower group..

 

I was pretty amazed at the differences between this day and CSS.. They said they had a good day before with only 4 riders going down but while on track I was shocked at the amount of guys blowing turns (nice that there was a lot of runoff around most of the track).. Passes were supposed to be 6 feet, I think you were lucky if you got 3 or 4 feet many times it was barely a foot, and guys blowing past you only to hit the brakes hard in front of you..

 

I had guys fly past me going into corners only to look behind on the exit and see that I was right on their wheel as well as those whose drive out of the corner took them into the dirt and grass.

 

Looking forward to next month with CSS for more structure as well as a environment where I can really focus on those drills!

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Good points all. My bottom line is that I wouldn't send my wife or kids (if I had 'em) to a track day but I'd demand that they rode with CSS if they were to ride a motorcycle at all.

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It depends on the club, but even the best club with best rules can't guarantee there will be no idiots running in them. I learn to ride, got my M class for the pure reason so I can do trackdays, keep my fast riding at the track and so I don't have to do it on the street. There is an obvious reason to the "passing on the outside" rule. If I want a low risk activity, I can resort to oversize vacuum tube spectating and I am not saying it because I am 22 and think I am invincible. I simply think if you want to ride fast, you should keep it off the street and take it to the track.

 

Until the day people can think of a fail-safe way to run a trackday or school where you do not need to sign any release forms and can guarantee you won't get hurt or no one will crash, don't see how it can get better.

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Well I have to admit, as someone who has yet to have done any track days, I'm quickly becoming even more hesitant then I have been based on this thread. My largest concerns outside of just never having been to one is fear of doing damage to my bike (that OEM plastic stuff is freaking expensive!) and was starting to think of just getting a track only bike going for such things.

 

Now, it sounds like too often, too many idiots on the track makes for some serious danger and frankly is it even worth it? I'm most certainly not afraid of taking a hit but @ 100+ mph, someone ELSE could take me out! :blink: Unfortunately, my butt's worth more alive then dead, still need to get two more through college! :lol:

 

Anyone have any experience of the track days over at Summit Point in West Virginia?

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