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Scary Sighting Laps


Hotfoot
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When I was at the school at VIR last week, a student I met there mentioned how he was really having fun at the school and felt very comfortable learning at his own pace. He talked about going to other organizations or track days and feeling rushed and intimidated right from the beginning, in the sighting lap.

 

I have had this experience, too - it seems like a lot of organizations run their sighting laps WAY TOO FAST. Are others out there having this problem? I have a fair amount of track experience, but on my first lap on stone cold tires on a new track (or even sometimes on a familiar one!), I often get intimidated by the pace in the sighting laps, and also end up riding faster than I want to because I don't want to get left behind. It's a tough way to start the day! Is it me, or do you find that most trackday groups run the sighting lap faster than they should?

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Odd reading this from an Aussie perspective... No Trackday org out here that I know of run sighting laps!

 

I do relate though.. there (was) one organization here who called themselves a school... the first session of the day was a grading to see which level group you'd run for the day... so cold tyres, cold track, cold riders of all mixed riding skill levels on an all-out qualifying session with transponders strapped to their bikes!

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... the first session of the day was a grading to see which level group you'd run for the day... so cold tyres, cold track, cold riders of all mixed riding skill levels on an all-out qualifying session with transponders strapped to their bikes!

...How FUN was that!

 

I am a former member of three different track clubs in the US (I won't mention names) and found them all to operate along the lines that Hottie described. To be fair, when I joined one they required me to start in their Beginner level (despite having a CCS license and numerous track events in my experience) and they were more safety conscious the other two but it didn't change the tone of how these groups operate IMO. It's one of the reasons why I am a former member. There is such a huge discrepancy in rider experience, rider ability and most importantly rider attitude that the safety briefings at the Riders meeting always turns out to be so much Blah-Blah-Blah!

 

That said I don't know how you could organize a track event that "worked" for everyone unless all of the participants had complete buy in to the events parameters beforehand. I am fortunate to be in a circle of riders who once a year rent a track for our own private track day which is about as good as it could get. We decide as a group how the day will proceed and we change it on the fly if we need to tweak it so it's all good.

 

Rainman

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My limited trackday experience in Northern California has been with Pacific Track Time, or PTT. The first two laps (sighting laps) are run at about 50% and 75% behind staff riders at the beginning of the day, at least in the novice catagory. The staff riders then exit, or get out of the way, and off you go at your own pace. Helps to learn the track, locate braking, and turn in points too. I have no affiliation with the organizer, but have found their safety culture is good and consistent.

Mark

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I've ridden with both good and bad track organizations and have to say that they're not like that at all. Nicely paced sighting laps and you've got to get cleared to move up.

 

When they watch you, if you're too slow, they'll tell you to move down into a slower group. A friend of mine had to remove his damper for some new plastics and, when they noticed he was way too slow, they moved him down.

 

I DID have a friend who was told to move up into a faster group and he and a friend jumped back down, for some reason, to a slower group to record him riding, and his bike is still sitting in my garage with a busted radiator, some shredded rearsets and a broken clipon. A slower rider pulled up in a tight corner and he wrecked into the dude at a much faster pace. Too fast in a group is dangerous for the slower riders and stupid for the faster riders to be in.

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It's not just you, maybe as many as half the track days I've been to seem to run sighting laps pretty fast. I'm mainly in the intermediates these days. I do take a few sessions to settle into it and build up speed, plus first time out the bike is cold and so am I so the pace of them is a bit too much sometimes, though thankfully they don't go flat out down the straights so I have a chance to catch up again.

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I've never been to a track day--and won't go to one until I've been through all the CSS levels.

 

What would happen if you just took your sighting lap at your own pace?

 

How do you know what group is right for you?

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What would happen if you just took your sighting lap at your own pace?

Crash;

If it is on a track you have never been on before, you'll miss out seeing where the line is if you lose touch with the group going out...on some tracks this can be a bit unnerving especially where it involves turns with blind crests or multiple radii.

 

How do you know what group is right for you?

Clubs all have different policies in this regard. You will need to check them out individually (they are all on line) but you may find one or more to your liking.

 

Rain

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Good points Kevin, I'd like to just add 1 more advantage of doing a slow sighting lap in that it gives you time to identify the flag marshal points which you'll need to monitor during the day.

 

On the Ride days here the riders are offered a similar thing to a sighting lap(s) with a CSS coach in the lead. He'll cruise slowly around the track staying on "line" (where we'd normally set turn points for a school day), pointing out the flag points.

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it gives you time to identify the flag marshal points which you'll need to monitor during the day.

Jason;

Considering I am an Northeast (US) Corner Worker for the School, please don't tell Trevor Pennington (CSS Course Control in the US) that you needed to remind me that I missed this point! unsure.gif

 

Rainman

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HA hahahaha, nice one!!!! :D I only thought of it since this morning I'm putting together a to-do list as I may be the CSS lead rider in next weeks trackday, otherwise I'd have been in the same boat mate :D Hopefully Trevor's having too much fun to see this somewhere between VIR and Thunderbolt.

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Crash106, don't be afraid to get out on track before you've been to the CSS. You'll start in the novices group anyway, which tends not to be too fast but their lines can be unpredictable for those that know what a racing line is, and sometimes there are a few ringers who like to feel like the fastest or just couldn't get a place in one of the other groups.

 

Learning to ride fast and be in control is an iterative process. I've found that some of the things I've done on the track and problems I've run into are things I can then talk about when I've been at CSS days; I've got something I want to conquer, or I've read some of the book(s) and not got the hang of applying it, or I've found things that need improving that wouldn't crop up on the road because you don't go at that sort of pace or with the same aims as track riding. Equally (and unfortunately) visiting CSS isn't like in The Matrix where they get loaded with info and go and kung fu someone's ass, you'll be taught various things and some of them need a lot of practice. Worst case is you ride like you do on the road but faster, but a little track time won't teach you a load of bad habits that you can't undo.

 

 

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From my limited experience of riding go-karts, I'd probably only be a couple of seconds slower on my first flying lap compared to what I could manage after 30 minutes of practice. Most likely because I tend to easily go to my limit of comfort but are lousy at learning sad.gif So in one way, a fast out lap probably wouldn't bother me (within reason, of course laugh.gif ) but on the other hand if I wanted to actually listen and try and learn something instead of being stubborn and daft, a fairly slow and controlled and highly accurate sighting lap would seem far more ideal than a quick blur where all you can do is try and hang on to the group.

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One of the most important things to do your first time on any track is to find a "good line" through the corners. You have to know where you want to be on the track before you can put yourself there, and knowing a good line is essential for being able to brake late, carry good speed, and get back on the gas early.

 

Some trackday groups mark the "ideal" entries and apexes with cones. Others have programs where they'll take new riders around the track at a slower pace and show them the lines. Others operate more like what you said...where if you lose sight of the control-rider ahead of you, you could be left to fend for yourself. However, usually if you find a CR and ask him to show you around the track, they'll be more than happy to get you up to speed.

 

I know how you feel...I did VIR South last weekend and the pack I was following got out ahead early, leaving me lost and bewildered on a track full of off-camber hairpins and blind switchbacks. But I found a CR and he showed me around the track, which helped me figure out good lines. Once I knew where I wanted to be, I started finding "reference points" and did a little bit better.

 

When I got to North, having ridden it before with CSS, I already knew most of the track, so as soon as I got out there, everything came back and I got "flying" early.

 

Don't expect to jump on to ANY track you've never ridden before and just be able to "go".

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