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A student sent me a note after a school, I'm sharing part of it:

 

I did my frst round of Novice racing with WMRRA at the Ridge the weekend prior to class.  I did my next round over Labor Day at the Ridge and saw my lap times get almost 17 seconds per lap faster, and my comfort level was WAY WAY up!  I can't wait for the next race!

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Pretty cool :).

 

CF

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Nice! If I dropped 17 seconds a lap I might qualify for the B group...:P

 

 

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Here is the rest of the story. With some encouragement and urging, I am adding more details to some of the story here :-)

 

 

This is my first season as racer, coming into it fairly late, call it my mid-life crises. Due to work and military reserve commitments, I only got to do two rounds so far, but I am energized by it and ready to hit the track again for the next round. In May, I raced my first Novice races with the Washington Motorcycle Road Race Association (WMRRA) after completing the on track and classroom schools required to obtain my license. It was an awesome experience, and very thrilling...even though I finished dead last in both the Saturday and Sunday rounds and was relegated to wearing the "slow guy" orange vest to warn the fast guys that would eventually all lap me. It was to be expected as I had not been on the track for nearly 9 months and it had been more than 18 months since I last had a real track training session (the Novice WMRRA is really about the rules). But, I was determined to improve.

 

The very next day (Monday) after that round ended, I was back on the same track for the Level 1 and Level 2 2-day school with the California Superbike School. This is the first time they have come to Washington, and the track is brand new this year, so it was a very good opportunity not to be missed. I have wanted to take the course for a long time, but with the event only 30 miles from home, how could I let the opportunity pass? I learned a ton, and got even more comfortable than ever, reinforcing the lessons I had learned at Skip Barber in 2010 (now defunct) and Freddie Spencer in 2005 (also defunct). I was eager to get back out on track and see what improvement I had made, but I had to wait since I had military reserve duty and Labor Day was the next round I could race...but it was back at the same track so I would be able to compare my results directly.

 

The day before the race round I had another track day, this one really just a practice for the races, and most of the riders were there practicing. Thsi was a great chance for me to get back on the track and find my reference points, reinforce the vision techniques and work on some of the other pieces I learned in class since the race day practice is not long enough to do those things. I only get time for a few track days and I need to make each one count, and choose specific items to work on for the races.

 

For Saturday, we got two practice sessions, one in the morning for 15 minutes, and another before lunch for 20 minutes to set the grid positions. After the first practice, I could tell I was getting more comfortable and checked my lap times. I was getting quicker and even more, I was being consistent. Also, my laps were running 10 seconds faster than my first race lap times and six seconds faster than the second race! The second practice times showed additional improvement and I was now an additional 3 seconds per lap faster than the previous session, and my grid position was NOT the slow guy...no more orange vest! I was eager to race!

 

Race 1 was an exciting start, with almost 30 bikes on the grid we did a quick wave start. On my 600, I was slower in the straight than many f the others riding 750s and 1000s (Novice is not broken down by class). But, I would catch up the larger bikes at the turns, and this track has 16 turns and lots of elevation changes. My main goasl were 1. to finish the race (you have to complete 10 races to graduate) and 2. not to be last.

 

I set up my targets on the rider in front of me and it took two laps to find my spot, but I took the inside line away going into the slowest corner on the track, a 135-degree left coming off a full throttle uphill run. I took the line and immediately pulled a gap to the next turn, a 90-degree right before running up to the next slow bit, a severe downhill s-turn (ala corkscrew) into an immediate double-apex left onto the front straight. The pass held, but some of the other racers didn't. I got passed by the leaders on the next lap and then the red flag came out for a fallen rider. But, the race was over halway and therefore I was officially 19th out of 22 who finished. I made my goals. Better still, my lap times were very consistent and were another 2 seconds faster than my previous practice session!

 

On Sunday, Novices got one practice, the very first group out n the morning for 20 minutes. I was eager, probably to pumped, and not comfortable finding my lines or hitting my apexes. After three or four laps I finally got my line but felt slow. Checking the lap times though showed that I was still a full second faster than the previous morning times! OK, something to hang the hat on, and I was still not the slow guy, so another positive.

 

The race kicked off with 22 riders, and once again I did not get as fast a start as I need, but I was with the pack going through turns 1 and 2. Going into turn 11 (the slowest) I was in the back of a 4rider pack with not many options and got shuffled back. Not what I wanted, but I knew I could get at least one or two of the larger bikes ahead of me. I set my sights and took one more lap to find my spot. The rider ahead made a mistake under braking going into the corkscrew and I took the inside line away, diving into the downhill corkscrew. The pass stuck and I set my sights on the next rider, even though his 1000 walked away from me on the front straight. I caught him up at turn 1 and trailed him, trying to find my pass, but he defended the line and I could not get him. He walked away again on the front, and I delayed my brakes just a hair longer, catching him up again. Once again I found my spot when he didn't go full throttle up the hill to the slow point on the track, and I took away the line on him and did exactly what I had done the previous day. Two passes, and now I am targeting the third guy...but then the white flag came out and we ran out of time. Still, I finished 17th, well ahead of the last place runner and my lap times were another 2 seconds faster than the previous race. Now my lap times are almost 17 seconds faster than the previous race round and my comfort level is up....I can't wait for the next race!

 

The lessons I learned at CSS made all the difference to me. Using the reference point drill, and the 2 and 3-step cornering, plus a couple tips on lower body positioning made me very comfortable and I am now thinking about the areas on track where I know I can get more speed. My comfort level at speed is much higher, and I recognize and can overcome (most) of the fear response discussed in class. I can hardly wait for the next and last round for this season so I can start planning my next class and next season!

 

Greg Smith

WMRRA Novice 909

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Here is the rest of the story. With some encouragement and urging, I am adding more details to some of the story here :-)

I'm with Kai in offering my congratulations to you for your decision to jump into the deep end of the pool and for sharing with us your measured approach to racing.

Thanks for sharing your experience and kudos on your successes.

 

Rainman

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Congrats Greg! And many thanks for sharing more of your story. There are many different reasons for riding and many different goals for riders but all of us can benefit from each other's experiences.

 

Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes.

 

Best,

Carey

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  • 2 weeks later...

OK, the season in Washington is over, and I havesuccessfully competed and completed six races over three rounds as a first-timenovice. This weekend was a little bit different from the last for a number ofreasons. Here is the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would have said...

 

 

This round was held at Pacific Raceways in Kent. This track is older (by far)than The Ridge, and is shorter overall. Pacific has 11 turns compared to 16 atthe Ridge, but it also has a longer front straight, which is exciting and funas it isn't really straight (neither is the back straight). I have been toseveral track days at Pacific, but only one this year (my last off-trackexcursion). Also, my last track day prior was almost a year ago (9/30/11) whenI low-sided coming out of turn 4. This still had some psychological impact onmy courage, but I eventually got over it. For this round, there was also notrack day prior to the races as the provider that had reserved the time wentout of business early this season and no one picked it up...so I was kind ofcoming to this one cold and a bit nervous.

 

Saturday was the first day of spring, and someone told the weather Gods. Afterweeks of sun and mild temps, heavy dew and light rain fell overnight and cloudsprevented any sunrise as we all set up our pits. The pavement in the pits andon the road was dry, but dew covered the back straight. I decided to leave theslicks on as it seemed the conditions were rapidly drying. The first practicewas dry...except for the entire back side of the track, which didn't help theconfidence running on slicks across a wet track. I practiced smooth throttletransitions and really practiced the vision techniques. My times were OK, butnot great, still I managed to not be the slowest! We all tried to watch theweather, but I got caught out with slicks still on when the next practicearrived, along with a light misty rain. I got my slicks off and some streettires on over lunch and waited for the race. True to Murphy, the rain stopped,the sun came out and the wind picked up just in time to dry everything for therace, but not nearly enough to swap tires back! I gridded up with the streettires and did my best. Even with the Q2s, I was able to get a good start andheld with the main body for a full lap, but back on the front straight, most ofthe bigger bikes left me well behind. I diced it out with one or two othersaround me for the entire race, but could not gain enough ground to make a passstick, because the 1000s would go past me even while I was pinned in 6th withmy bike topped out. The turn 4 demon also cost me as a friend on an R1 passedme going into it and then walked away on the back straight. Still, my timesdropped almost six seconds from practice to race.

 

Sunday dawned a bright, sunny day and I rushed to get my tires swapped outagain. I got them done and warmers on with just 20 minutes to spare before theonly practice session for Novices. I felt good, even with the rushing to getdone, and was excited to get out there. I focused on lower body and referencepoints, and trying to keep my speed longer into the turns. I got things goingfor myself and my lap times dropped a bit more, about 2 seconds faster than theprevious race times. In the race, I got a horrible start (my fault) and lostall but the final position (my buddy on his R1 was behind me). I kept him atbay for 6 of the ten laps, he passed me going onto the front straight, but Ipassed him right back going into turn 2 under braking. I held him off until thenext time on the front and he got me again. As before, I would catch him up andride his rear tire all the way around to the front but I could not get himagain. He finally gapped me when I made an error exiting turn 11 and missed myshift. I tried to catch him, and if I had a couple more laps, even with theerror I would have got him as I was carrying much more speed in the turns. Ifinished last, but not by much and my times dropped another 2 seconds per lap.

 

Though I am still at or near the back, I have plenty to build on. My comfortlevel is way up, my lap times keep improving, and each session the times arenot only better, they are consistent. During the final race, all of my timeswere within 1 second and all were faster than all previous sessions' fastestlaps. I can't wait to get back to school and reinforce the lessons for nextyear so I can get back after it. Next year...

 

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Greg Smith

WMRRA Novice 909

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  • 2 months later...

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