Track days are the safest way to experience the full performance of your motorcycle, but visiting a a track you've never been to before can be intimidating and challenging. Here's how to ride a new race track for the first time.
1. Hit The Books
Look up a map of the track online and, if possible, review a race that's taken place there. You can also find GoPro footage on YouTube from a fellow track day rider. Some people like to play realistic racing simulators like Gran Turismo as well, but I've never had much luck transferring that experience to real life. What you're looking to do is just get a general idea of the layout, any unique challenges the track presents and any particular tricks or tips that may be helpful. For instance, Laguna Seca's Turn 1 hooks to the left over a blind crest in top gear. Sounds intimidating, but a friend told me the trick is to split the 'Z' and 'D' in "Mazda" as you pass under the bridge while approaching the corner, then aim for the third telephone pole on the horizon. Doing both puts you on the right line. Armed with that knowledge, I was faster than most other new-to-track riders when I visited it for the first time.
2. Be Aware Of Local Restrictions
Does the track day organizer require lockwire and water-only in the radiator? Do you need a bellypan designed to catch oil? Stuff like that can vary across even different organizers at the same race track. Noise limits can also vary. Its a pain to take time off work, drive for hours and prep your bike, only to show up to the track and be told you can't ride because your bike is 5dB too loud. So take the time to really make sure you know the day's regulations and that your bike complies to them.
3. Show Up For The Rider Briefing
The track day organizers will put on a rider briefing in the pits before the first session of the day. In it, they cover flags, any chicanes or other alterations which may have been added to the day and any special conditions or challenges that may have arisen due to weather or similar factors. Flags can vary a little bit track to track and country to country and you definitely want to hear about any potential hazards. Wake up a little earlier and show up for the briefing on time. It's also a great place to ask questions or find an instructor.
4. Take It Easy
Don't feel pressured to be one of the fast guys right away. Local riders may have ridden this track dozens, if not hundreds of times. Treat the first one or two sessions of the day as a scouting mission and just go out there and try and figure out which way the track goes and when. Learning a new track, you'll be spending most of your mental capacity on navigation. Devoting all of your efforts to learning the track early in the day frees up your brainpower for riding in the following sessions.