Most tracks will have obvious sections that you can string together; a certain set of turns that must be executed as parts of a whole, to be done right. Pick one section to work on at 95%, and then cruise the rest of the lap at 80% while assessing what you could do better. This makes the process easier to manage mentally, and pays huge dividends when you string the sections together later in the day. This is exactly the same process that the top riders in the world use at every track, and it will work for you too.
Now you can put together a real plan. If the average track day has 7 sessions, try breaking it down like this:
- First session: Warm-up. Go out and cruise, look for your lines and markers, etc.
- Second and third: Drills. Practice smooth braking, corner entry, visual skills, etc. Choose one per session.
- Fourth: Track trouble area 1
- Fifth: Track trouble area 2
- Sixth: Start putting it all together.
- Seventh: Go for a fast lap!
If it seems like that’s a lot to try and fit into one day, that’s because it is! It’s to your advantage, when you can, to try and book two days back-to-back, so you can spread out these self-guided lessons, and get more focus on each of them. Spend the whole first morning on drills, and the whole second morning on sections, and your afternoons flying around for the joy of it.
Finally, get help! No, I don’t mean hiring a therapist, although my wife has occasionally suggested it might be necessary. Most track days have coaches, or at least control riders, who are faster than most of the other riders there. Ask them to follow you, so they can watch and point out any huge mistakes or poorly chosen lines. Then follow them, and see what you can pick up from watching. When I first started asking for a tow at the track, I immediately went seconds faster than before.
Better still, cough up the dough for one of the many excellent track schools around the country. They are all expensive, but they have a strong value proposition. If a single track day can give you as much riding experience as a year of street riding (and it can), then a single day at a good track school is probably worth 10 regular track days. The information is distilled to its essential truths, presented by professionals, and methodically practiced. A good school can change exactly everything about your riding, and your approach to the track.
A methodical, strategic approach to the track is one of the biggest areas that separates truly fast riders from those who have only talent. If it works for the fastest riders in the world, it’s worth a try for the rest of us! So the next time you’re taping up your headlights and filling your gas cans for a track day, take a few minutes and think about your plan. If you do, you’ll come away from the experience faster and smarter than you would have otherwise.
What’s your plan when you roll into the paddock in the morning? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!