Yamaha Champions Riding School Moves to New Jersey Motorsports Park

Expert Advice, Skills -


Yamaha Champions Riding School

After several years splitting time between Miller Motorsports Park in Utah and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California, Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS) has a new home at New Jersey Motorsports Park, with sessions running from April through October. Winter locations have yet to be announced.

YCRS grew out of the Freddie Spencer High Performance Riding School, and has trained thousands of riders since 1997. Lead Instructors Nick Ienatsch and Ken Hill put together teams of world-class professional instructors and guest instructors, drawing from the highest levels of the motorcycling world. Scott Russell (“Mr. Daytona”) and Lary Pegram are permanent guest instructors, and celebrity instructors like Josh Hayes, Josh Herrin, Tommy Aquino, Ben Spies and Eric Bostrom are often on hand. Class sizes average about 22 students, with a student-to-instructor ratio of 5:1, so there’s plenty of individual attention.

Yamaha Riding School

Yamaha sponsors the program, supplying a lineup of R6s, FZ8s, FZ9s, FZ1s, and a few R1s. Dunlop Q3 tires are supplied on each bike, ensuring appropriate grip at all levels of training.

Last summer when the school was still headquartered in Utah, Yamaha invited me to take a slot in their two-day class. Over two days of classroom and track work, I had the opportunity to build a base of new skills and a new approach to riding that I’ve been able to apply to my everyday life on two wheels.

Yamaha Riding School

Day One began with a classroom session. Ienatsch has latched on to the phrase “Champions’ Habits,” and he extolled the instructors and guest instructors to share theirs with the class. Each instructor came prepared with a practical, incisive piece of advice, a nugget that went beyond the obvious or philosophical. “Have a plan,” advised Scott Russell. “Lean angle equals risk,” said Shane Turpin. “More speed, more brakes,” was the statement from Bradley Smith, the 23-year old Superbike racer from the UK. Ienatsch conducted the classroom session like a maestro, coaxing details from his instructors and guests, then summing up with bullet points and clear direction. Students are encouraged to take notes — indeed, a notebook and pen are provided. Lots of information is exchanged in each session, and notes help refresh and clarify recollection.

Yamaha Riding School

Finally, it was time to get out on the track. We geared up, and Ienatsch divided us into riding groups by ability and experience. My instructor on Day One was Ken Hill, a tremendously gifted rider with great patience and teaching skills. We worked on specific skills on each circuit of the track — smoother braking, more assertive acceleration, finding the apex to each corner and maintaining the “umbrella of direction.” I felt awkward and slow, watching the faster, more experienced riders in the group excel at skills that I had yet to acquire. Hill was supportive and direct, providing feedback, encouragement and tips that kept me focused on my own experience.

Continue Reading: Yamaha Riding School Moves to New Jersey Motorsports Park>>


  • Dan

    Nice article. The head of my local track org is a former AMA racer, and he takes folks out on the back of his ZX10 if you ask nicely. Riding on the back of his bike was one of the greatest riding experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve never gone faster, or felt safer. Really showed me what is possible on a bike.

    Can you tell us what the student-to-teacher ratio was at YCRS?

    Do you have any experience with other riding schools? How does this compare? How much track experience did you have before the class?

    • James Jamerson

      “Class sizes average about 22 students, with a student-to-instructor ratio of 5:1…”

      • Dan

        Whoops, thanks. Still interested in the comparison to other schools and the author’s pre-YCRS track experience.

        • Jason Fogelson

          Thanks, Dan — As stated in the article, I’ve been riding for 30 years (I’m old), and this was my first track experience on two wheels. I can only compare to various MSF Expert Courses and riding seminars that I’ve taken, all of which have been valuable in their own ways. I am a big advocate of continuing rider education. There are plenty of ways to maintain and improve your skills without getting on a track, but this was a great jolt of information and experience in a very concentrated time, and I found it very enervating and useful. I hope to get the opportunity to do some comparison testing with other track-based schools. Anybody reading who wants to invite me, please get in touch.

  • John

    Great article. The detail about the riding school is useful, as I’m now inclined to attend. But the technical skills info is of immediate value. I can apply this to my riding today.

    Please, more of this content.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Glad you liked it, John. Let us know if you decide to attend – would love to hear your feedback to the course.

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Ken Hill and Nick Lentasch have a side project that’s pretty good at fastersafer.com I probably wont see them running around the paddocks as much but I’m happy to see their efforts growing and in a place that will benefit greatly from it.