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Road Racing Vs Track Racing

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I spent 4 hours over the past couple of days watching onboard action from IoM and various Irish road courses and were struck by some things, things I wouldn't have noticed before joining this forum.


- many of the racers look too big for their bikes

- many of them look awkward on the bikes, like they do not connect with their machines well

- styles and body positions vary all over the place from one rider to the next

- racing lines vary greatly from one rider to another

- some that look awkward with weird riding positions and that use relatively little lean can go as fast as those using more lean and more conventional riding positions


It would seem to me that having balls of brass is more important that having a perfect technique when road racing. However, speed has crept up substantially over the past decade, and the fastest riders today seems quite sorted compared to earlier. So the same stuff that works on closed circuits obviously also go well on a road circuit.


Still, would you reckon that - since no human is perfect - that there are differences between the two racing types as to what's really important to set a good lap time? For instance, going 6 times over a very long track is not the same as going 30 times around a shorter one - you need to store more stuff in your head to ride IoM well than P.I. You cannot make a mistake around IoM and expect to be around to tell about it, whereas you are unlikely to get badly hurt on a closed circuit, despite Simoncelli's unfortunate accident recently. So you need to be fast without making mistakes, alas you cannot test for the limits like on a closed course - you need to keep a margin for error, but it cannot be large or somebody else will win.


Or put another way; is it likely that Rossi or Stoner would clean up IoM if they decided to start, or would they likely struggle just like road racers usually struggle when they go to a closed racng circuit?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting questions... I was re-watching Closer To The Edge (saw it in the Cinemas in 3D and had ordered the DVD even before it got it's cinema release in Australia), it's an exceptional film that touches on the danger and risk of death that is always present, something that you won't usually find people discussing in the TT paddock... What it comes down to is that everyone racing there accepts the risks. They know full well that they could make a mistake and be killed in a split second. People like Rossi and Lorenzo (I think also Mick Doohan) who have visited the IoM TT and done parade laps have said that they think it's crazy - they would not race it simply because they're not willing to accept the risks. Then you have people like Wayne Gardener who think that road racing and the TT should be outlawed all together...


I think it's a very different type of competition and racing as well - they're really doing a time trial, everyone starts individually and runs their own race. Whereas short circuit racers probably really enjoy the type of close racing and passing and banging elbows that happens when 30 riders leave the grid at the same time.


As far as having the balls... that's probably how alot of people and some racers would describe it, but I'd say that having knowledge is more important that riding each corner with textbook form. The TT racers also have to think about the placement of walls and light posts etc. There may not be as much point in hanging off if it means that you can't take as tight a line, but by sitting up more on the bike (what may seem to look almost 'crossed-up') it means that they can get their bike closer to the wall and take a tighter line. They'd also be thinking of body position to allow for mid-corner body movements, for example when there's a light pole or wall that comes close to the track mid-corner they actually move their bodies to miss the pole/wall so they can keep a tight line.


Also think that it takes at least 3 years just to learn the course, then they can start to really push themselves. All that time spent learning the track is how they know which corners they need to adopt a particular body position to avoid obstacles.


I'd say that their body position would be very 'conservative' as well. What I mean is - why bother leaning off more if you know you're already at the max speed for that corner? In the case of road racing walls, hedges and gutters all factor into max corner speed, so it's not quite as simple as saying that hanging off more or moving a cheek off the seat equals going faster. Or why bother moving your butt to the left side of the seat for a brief left hand kink when there's a big right hand corner coming up? All of that makes a really big difference when you consider that just one lap of the TT can take as long as (or even longer for slower riders) than some entire short circuit races (Australian Superbike races run 16 laps, at some tracks the front runners will set around 1 minute lap times or lower).


So yeah - like you said they are very different types of racing.


If for some reason Rossi or Stoner decided to enter the IoM, I honestly do not think they would clean up. If they tried to race it as a short circuit I think they would actually clean themselves up...

I can't remember where I heard it or saw it, but one IoM racer was talking about when he first entered the TT and was riding it something like a short circuit. One of the other regulars like McGuinness or Joey Dunlop went and spoke to him and pretty much gave him a tap on the shoulder and said that he had to tone it down a bit as the way he was riding was really dangerous and could quickly put him in hospital or worse. But the old road racer Vs. short circuit racer debate... it's like apples and cucumbers.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Interesting topic. I haven't been to the TT yet, but would love to go and watch it live.


My impression, from watching it on TV, is that racing on the streets is more like a land speed record run than a "road race" on the track. The straights are so long, the corners are so big and fast, and the visual field so hectic and hard to read that hanging off and using defense lines and such don't apply. At least they don't apply in the same ways as short track racing.


I also remember watching an IoM TT race as a young teen and watching four riders zip through the same corner over and over. About the third time through, the third rider in line just flipped. Everyone one was in a nice little line, doing exactly what they did last lap, all at the same lean angle and such, then one of them just explodes off the road and crashes! I remember watching and thinking what the heck just happened? I was old enough to know that third rider must have done SOMEthing wrong, something different from the other three riders, but it took me 30 years to figure out what that might have been--probably too much throttle, slip, catch and see ya later!


I wonder if the primary difference is the overwhelming need to SEE so much further down the road when riding on the street. The stakes are higher. The average speed is higher. The view is partially obstructed. So the need to see and process visual information becomes critical. That's my guess.


Has anyone on the board run the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy? I'd love to hear about it.

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