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Starting As A New Novice (Race Report To Laugh Or Cry About)

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early warning: some whining involved


It's quite interesting how things change over time, but for the sake of getting to the more entertaining (and giving everyone something to laugh about), I'll just shorten the whole story and say after being hassled by a friend since Nov of last year, I finally did novice school last friday (4/19) at portland int. raceway.


My novice class is the first time I've touched a bike since Oct of last year, running GPA's and it was raining the whole day. I went sideways a few times but nothing crazy since speeds were slow and I'm sure the instructors cut me some slack especially after seeing me go sideways at anything more than about 10'ish degrees of lean, and so I passed and got my novice license.


Sunday I missed my first practice due to not having bike ready in time. I forgot my key at home, didnt have kickstand off the bike yet, didnt have my #'s, etc. Second practice comes around and I'm ready to go.


Practice: so we all take off from the hot pits in the same time and I'm in the middle of the group. I hit about 110'ish, hit breaks where I think would be a good place, and everyone behind me goes right past. As I'm riding, I start noticing I'm having a LOT of problems. I cant keep track of what gear I'm in (no gear indicator either), I'm very tense, I cant relax, and I often completely forget to change gears. Not changing gears was really nice slowing down from near top of 6th gear going into turn one, on the breaks and not downshifting. Somehow I survive without crashing my practice session tho and head back to the pits. I take a look and my best lap was 1:32.


Race: About an hour later my race is called. I get everything ready, pull warmers off, take stands off, throw a leg over bike and start falling down on the left. barely caught bike, and with someone's help I'm officially on two wheels and ready to go (aparently my r1 is too tall for me haha. now I'll know to use a step). we do our first lap and get ready on the grid. Green flag drops, I have a decent start, but again I break too early and everyone behind me passes. two laps in and someone crashes on the back strait (later found out he looked behind him and with the turn being off camber it pulls you out especially when you're doing over 120mph). As I pass turn 9 (last turn at pir), I see the red flag with the letter G for grid. so I hold my left hand up and get back on the grid with two other bikes. At this point everyone starts screaming at us to go. A bit confused, but the 3 of us take off. As we're going around turn 7 the flag now says P to head to the pits. Announcer gives a short lecture about how if it's P to head to pits, tho this was their mistake, so the three of us pretty much shrugged it off. Five minutes later we get called back. We're told we get 8 laps (omrra now only runs 10 laps instead of their previous 12). We get green flag from the hot pits this time and all take off in same time. This time I make a conscious decision to keep track of my gears. Most of the guys take off, but there's someone that seems to be running a similar speed as me. I put my sites on him and decide at the very least I'm going to pass him. First two laps go good enough, and that rider cant get away from me so I decide it's time to set him up for a pass. Third lap comes and I'm right on his tail, take turn 4, shift into 2nd and all I hear is engine revs, yup, I got neutral instead of 2nd gear. Well that didnt work, next lap I set him up again to pass him at turn 4, again I shift into 2nd gear only to bounce off the rev limiter. Obviously not my day, but still I'm determined, so next lap I again reel him in, but this time I set him up for the last turn. I get a much better line and drive out of 9 and pass him. That lap I started noticing I'm having problems again. It felt like I was pushing a 50lb weight with my fingers just to get to the clutch, much less pull it to downshift for turn 1. I noticed I became much stiffer and no longer leading the corners with my head, I couldnt even get off the bike to turn properly and became crossed up. needless to say he passed me in turn 8, I got a lousy drive out of 9, and I see the checkered flag up ahead. As I'm getting closer to the checkered flag I get passed by 2 bikes, one on either side of me. I do the parade lap and see another bike crashed in turn 3 getting picked up. Yay I SURVIVED my first race.


So I put bike back on stands, take gear off and head to look at times. Best lap was 1:28, first place guys were both 1:15s. than I noticed something interesting. next to my name it says DNF. I head to the tower to question it and it turns out the checkered flag was for the guys that passed me, not for me. DOH. so we had a short talk about the rules where it says you have to at least complete 80% of the race and sure enough they look at times and laps, than change my DNF to 5th place. Still the slowest and LAST person that didn't crash.


Somehow for next month I need to get to at least 1:17's so I can at least pretend to be somewhat competitive and have a chance at graduating out of novice.


Moral of the story ? 1. I type way too much. 2. your first race is filled with egos and emotions so make sure you have EVERYTHING ready to go the day before. 3. I need to pull a rabbit out of a hat and get back into the swing of things, keep calm, relaxed, remember to breathe, remember what I learned at the schooling and start putting things in practice especially at track days so by race time I have my markers ready to go

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That's rough. GL with your expected improvement. I do timing and scoring out here at the Masters of the Mountains in Salt Lake City and just want you to know I've seen people take 10s+ off in an afternoon so your dream of 1:17's isn't outside the realm of possibility... at least it wouldn't be at Miller Motorsports Park.


I'd have to say the best and most consistent racers in our series are the ones that follow the "6-P" mantra "Proper planning prevents piss poor performance". As I've never raced motorcycles but have logged many a Alpine ski race as a youth I can say that when race time comes and adrenaline is running high you can almost count on your IQ dropping about 50% so just plan it out. You'll be fine if you've covered your bases before the brain-drain hits. Forgetting your numbers, grabbing the wrong equipment, missing your start are all things that just happen to 'novice' people so don't feel bad about finding some speed bumps in your first race. I always have found if I spend some time right when I get to a race just lining out what the 15 minutes right before my race are going to run like a lot of unnecessary worry can be avoided. I used to actually sit in the lodge before I put on my ski gear and write down a schedule of the 15 or so minutes before my race and exactly what I was going to do all the way down to


"T-15 minutes: Consider if I have to pee. (2 minutes of pee time). T-13 minutes: Streching (2 minutes bottom half, 1 minute arms and trunk). T-11 Minutes: Take off warm ups and jacket and begin light warm up to keep body flexible..."


You get the picture. By planning out what I was going to do well before hand (and through a lot of experiences giving myself too much or too little time) I ironed out a good pre-race ritual that allowed me to push out all the ancillary worries about general preparation and focus my brain on what I needed to in order to have a successful race in terms of my actual performance.


Just an idea that worked well for this ol' ski racer. It takes time to figure it out just right but even if you don't get your timing right you'll feel better going into the race just knowing you've got some sort of plan to get yourself to the grid in a mindset that will allow you to consider performing at your top level.


Good luck and I expect another long-winded post after next round telling us of your successes. Keep the rubber down and the plastic up and don't forget you're out there because it's SUPPOSED to be fun.

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Great write-up, this was fun to read! I wish I had seen something like it before my first race, it would have been comforting to know it feels that way for everyone! :)


It definitely does get easier, starts to feel more routine and less frantic as you do more races. Getting everything ready in advance really does help, as does having a very specific place for everything so you aren't frantically looking for earplugs or gloves or something during second call.


Writing down shift points and memorizing them can be helpful, so you don't have to spend attention on what gear you should be in, or time during the race messing around with being in the wrong gear or forgetting to shift.


Good job on getting out there and getting through the race, and thanks for sharing your experience with us!



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Didnt crash= great bike AND rider stability, esp rider psychological pressure resistance :)


I get harassed alot on open roads in my woods, I have to keep my absolute zero degree cool and slice like a molecular cutter when the chance to overtake / get away appears ...


Good to set a goal thou, practice against yourself first , and for race bikes, chat up the top 3 riders and see what hardware they are running. ;)

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  • 1 month later...

You had me laughing with the pass attempts. Thanks for that. The racing part that got me is that in CCS Southwest, CRMA and ASMA, if you're lapped, your race is done when the checkered flag is out, 80% of the race done or not, and it's a complete race, not DNF. That's confusing. I'd at least take a look at the rulebook for that instead of the 80% of the race, because that doesn't sound right. Maybe you can show them and challenge it. And the other thing is that you would have completed 2+7 laps out of 10 (including the first two laps). That makes 90%. I don't know what place you finished in, but something like this could mean points. Granted it wouldn't be a huge deal, but it's points you can say you've earned.

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