How To: Track Day Strategy

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Strategy at the track is key to a podium finish. While we'd all like to sprint towards the finish, as most do in our dreams, a plan of attack will help ensure your safety and success.

Diehard racing fans know all about race strategy. We marvel at our heroes’ ability to plan passes laps ahead of time, conserve their tires, and know when to try and make a break from the field. And they can do all of these things while rocketing around the track at speeds that would make us mortals soil our leathers. Over the years, what has separated riders like Valentino Rossi from the endless horde of also-rans left fumbling in his wake? Strategy.

But when we roll our own humble machines onto the hallowed tarmac for a track day, are we employing the same techniques? For some, the goal of going to the track is simply to have fun, but for most of us, it’s to learn how to go faster. You don’t pay all that money for registration fees, travel costs and sticky rubber to go tool around in the middle of the RPM range, at lean angles you can reach in a department store parking lot. You do it to go as fast as you can, to find the limits of your abilities, and to improve them!

So what’s your game plan? You can start creating one before you ever get to the track, just by analyzing your riding. What areas need the most work? Where on the track are you most uncomfortable? Is it braking, midcorner speed, corner exit? Do you struggle with your downshifts? Do you have trouble finding good brake and turn-in markers? An honest assessment of these areas easily becomes a checklist for your next track experience.

Real Riders Southern Migration Pete Hitzeman

Even if you answered “yes” to all of those things, it won’t help you much to try and work on all of them at once. Pick one area, and work on that and only that for a whole session, or a whole day. Write it down, and remind yourself of it when you strap on your helmet before every session. Then, forget about everything else. If your goal for the day is to learn how to look through corners better, then turn off your lap timer and just do that. As much as it may pain the ego, even try bumping down to the Novice group to work on it. Go as slow as you need to (within the obvious bounds of safety), and treat each lap like a skills drill, instead of superpole.

Take a similar approach to learning a new track. The pros have sophisticated software that breaks each lap into segments, to identify problems with bike setup or rider technique. While you many not have the gadgets, you probably know the areas on the track that are tripping you up. Try just focusing on them, instead of going balls-out for each and every lap.

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