This quick article comes in the middle of a series that addresses common mistakes that continue to plague new-to-the-track riders, or part-time trackday riders. Mark Schellinger, Louis Ferrari, and I often coach the C Group (the newest group) at the Legion Moto events in and around Colorado and have called “mandatory” riders’ meetings when we see problems. In our sport, problems lead to crashes and crashes can lead to non-riders. This series is a chance to share the problems and solutions with as many riders as possible. (Several trackday organizations have asked if they can share these “Mandatory Riders’ Meeting” articles and the answer is “yes, please.”)
Even after discussing how to never cross the “blend line” (the white line that separates pit exit from the track) as we enter the track, to stay off-line until the first corner, new riders will exit the pits and jump across the blend line onto the racing line. Why? Because they know that the green flag just waved and assume that they are among the first onto the track for that session.
Bad assumption. Because on this lap:
– A rider in the last group missed the checkered flag.
– Two big-time MotoAmerica stars were told they could run laps anytime and are already on track and at speed when a session starts.
– A Control Rider/Coach has carte blanche and ignored the last session’s checkered flag.
It’s a huge crash as the slower rider swerves onto the fast line; the difference in bike speeds make it an ugly scene as the slower bike is torpedoed. Both riders will be hurt, and a red flag will come out for sure.
As we enter the track for our session, we must check for traffic and never enter the racing line until after the first corner. This mandatory habit really makes sense if we enter our session late, or re-enter after a stop in the pits.
Since we don’t run turn signals or even brake lights at trackdays, our left hand up off the handlebar or a foot off the footpeg is the only way we can let others know of our intentions to pit.
These actions, a foot off or left hand up, must be made at least two corners before the pit entry. The best riders quickly dangle a foot even earlier, even while they’re still at pace, to let everyone behind them know their plans nice and early.
On our pit-in lap, we shouldn’t slow drastically after we raise a hand or dangle a foot because sudden changes in speed are tough for following riders to deal with. We must get off-line on the side of the pit entry, but not slow much more than 15 percent of our previous pace.
We see sloppy and dangerous pit-in maneuvers because:
– The rider suddenly decides they need a drink and swerves into the pit entry. We might suddenly feel thirsty but must never swerve off the track without significant signaling. The suddenly thirsty rider must take another lap and pit correctly.
– We see the checkered flag and think, “Session’s over, we’re all pitting, so why bother signaling?” Why? Because one rider missed the flag as they were drafting for a pass, so they’re still at full speed.
– The rider signaled once and then rode the rest of the lap with their hands on the bars. We must continue to signal until we enter the pit lane.
– Riders slow down far too much on the checkered-flag lap, surprising faster riders as a line stacks up behind the dawdling rider. Keep efficient speed on your cool-down lap as you signal; the trackday runs more on-time with this habit.
– Riders continue to run at full effort after the checkered flag and can be surprised/caught out by riders who have correctly slowed and are signaling. None of us want to be strafed by a rider at full speed after the checkered flag.
– Riders run a perfect line and apex the final corner, then swerve off the track. We want to get off-line before the final corner or a faster rider may try to pass us at the moment we swerve into the pit lane.
Back in the day, if you apexed the final turn at Willow Springs and then swerved into the pit lane, you would be asked to leave because turn 9 is a fourth-gear corner and errant pit entries could spell disaster with a capital $.
I’ll close this Mandatory Riders’ Meeting with two habits that can bring significant safety to quick riders, or those riders who are among the fastest in their groups.
Habit 1: As you catch a slow rider who will force you to curb your pace to plan a safe pass, and particularly a slow bunch of riders, make it a habit to dangle your foot off the peg before you slow. This quick foot off is a warning to anyone chasing you that your pace is going to change momentarily. Quicker riders often have other riders tailing them, so this foot-off habit before you slow will alert them to your speed adjustment.
Habit 2: Decide to never pass a slower rider between them and the pit entry. Yes, it might hurt your lap time occasionally but that is nothing compared to the pain of hitting a rider who has closed the throttle and turned directly in front of you.
Yes, they should have signaled. Yes, it’s their fault. But you are probably in the hospital and your bike is probably totaled, if my observations are anything to go by.
At a sanctioned race, it’s pass where you can, but at a trackday I urge you to check your speed (quick foot dangle prior) and follow other riders past the pit entry before you pass. Anyone who has seen riders swerve into the pits with no signal will understand this fast-rider habit that we insist on at YCRS.