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Mean Streets

Monday, June 05, 2006
I did my first trackday at Willow Springs Raceways Streets course on 06/02. It was an amazing experience to be on the track. I went with Cammie and Owen, Owen was doing the trackday with me, Cammie was our support person.

A lot of preparation went into this day. First it was getting all the gear needed for the track. A leather suit is a must for protection. So over the last year I have been getting everything needed. First it was the boots, then the leather pants I got at a closeout sale back in December. Then it was figuring out what jacket I could get that would zip to the pants to make it one piece. I actually took the pants to a motorcycle shop and tried different jackets till I found one that would work. Luckily, Joe Rocket jackets did, so I got one of those. Finally, I got a pair of gauntlet style gloves.

Now I had to get the bike preped. Not too much there to do, just basic maintenance. I had to replace the chain and sprockets, brake pads, and change the oil and filter. The only track specific thing I had to do was replace the coolant with distilled water and an additive called water wetter. Antifreeze is very slippery so they don't want any of it leaking on to the track surface.

The night before I drove to Cammie's house to put the bike on a trailer. Once there I taped over all the lights and license plate. We got my bike and Owen's on the trailer and I headed home for the night.

I got up nice and early and they picked me up about 6:30, and we get up to the track about 8. We get the bikes off the trailer and go register and get the bikes tech inspected, no problems there. Next is the riders meeting where they give you information on how the day will be run, and what the flags mean. Being a new track rider, I stayed after the mandatory meeting for a new rider orientation, while Owen went back to get ready to go out on the track. He was in a different group than me being that he has track experience.

After the new rider orientation, I get back to the pits and find out that Owen had crashed on his first session out. He seems to be ok, standing out in the middle of the track waiting for the session to end. I have to get my gear on and head to the grid for my orientation laps.

The orientation laps are where you follow an instructor around the track at a slow pace, just getting to see where the track goes. Back on the grid, its time to go!

I start off slow, probably too slow, around the track. I don't know the track at all, and don't know the limits of myself or the bike. Other riders are just blowing by me. So I decide I will just try to take it easy, and take the most inside line around all the curves, and not accelerate hard down the straightaways, basically stay out of everyone's way while I learn the track more. The first session ends without incident, and I head back to the pits.

Back there I find that Owen is ok, his leather suit did its job. His bike is not however, and he is done for the day. When his bike slid, it broke off the shift lever, and nothing could be done about that quickly because it is a special order part. I relax for a while, reflect on my first session.

I'm feeling outmatched on the track. I have only ridden 1 twisty road in the last 6 months and am out of practice. Everyone seems so much faster than me. Maybe I should have prepared better for this, ridden more canyons on my days off. It was fun out there, I'm just having doubts about my ability.

5 minute call comes for my next session, so I get my gear back on, and head for the grid. My goal is to relax a litte more out there. I take off and get around the first curve and the red flag is waving. That means slow down, don't pass anyone, and head back to the grid. I get around turn 3 and see why, someone has gone down. He seems ok, standing by his bike. So they pick him up, and we start out again. Same thing happens, I get around the first curve, and another red flag. Same thing, someone has gone down. He also looks ok. So out again, no more accidents in the session. I do relax more, starting to feel better, pushing the bike more, but still staying out of everyone's way. The session ends, and I head back to the pits.

Back in the pits I put Owen's lap timer on my bike. He wants to see if it will work, he just got it before the trackday, and since he was done we put it on mine. I have an excellent lunch prepared by Cammie, and wait for the next session.

I head back out for session 3, and this one goes by with no accidents. I'm feeling better, enjoying the track more, but trying to stay out of the way. I don't want to hold anyone up, so I'm still sticking to the inside of all the curves, but am starting to accelerate hard on the straights. Session over, I head back in.

Back in the pits, Owen says to me, "You are worrying way too much about everyone else out there. You paid your money, screw them." I start to think about this and he is right. Why am I screwing myself up, worrying about giving people so much room to pass. They stressed in the rider meeting that it is the responsibility of the person passing to make the pass safely. I decide this next session will be my last, its pushing 100 outside, and I'm feeling it.

Back on the grid, I'm feeling better. I'm not going to worry about everyone else. We go and I start taking better lines around the curves, accelerating harder. I'm worrying less about everyone else, having more fun. The session seems to end more quickly, probably because I'm more relaxed.

I head back to the pits, get my gear off, get ready to pack up and go. I check the lap timer, I was 4 seconds quicker on that session than the last. I felt better out there and it was nice to see the proof. We pack up, get the bikes on the trailer, and go. Boy, the AC in the car feels good.

Reflecting back on the day, I wish I had stopped worrying about everyone else. I felt outmatched at first because it seemed like eveyone was passing me. I felt I needed to stay out of the way. Once I relaxed things went better, but I feel I could have done better.

All in all it was a great experience, aside from Owen crashing. I have more insight into how it feels to be on a racetrack. Next time will be better. I can't wait!
Yay! Another track addict. :)
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Location:Los Angeles, CA

I'm laid back. I enjoy riding and spending time with friends.

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