Back in March, I was the lucky winner of the Westcoast Superbike Racing School at the Daytona Party. I have always wanted to take advance rider training or a racing course. I never took a course before because I always spent my money on weekend trips and LD trips. Now, I have the ideal situation, FREE. I signed up for the course running in June. The first part of the class was an evening meeting about prepping a bike for racing. Troy & Gio went through a fully prepped race bike outlining
everything that needs to be done for it to pass tech inspection. It is definitely not easy! The bottom fairings of the bike must be removable and hold two liters of fluid. Everything must be safety wired together to minimize bolts and screws flying off the bike. Through my years of corner working I knew the bikes did require a lot of prep work for racing but never in this detail. It would definitely be better to buy a race bike than to convert one yourself. The costs easily go up into the thousands for a properly prepped race bike. I was pleased to know that all we had to do to our bikes was tape over the headlights, taillights, signals, and speedometer. It was also necessary to remove the license plate as well. I could easily see a license plate acting as a guillotine while it bounced down the track. It was a simple enough night, when’s the next one?
Next week we met for another evening session which outlined all the rules, regulations of racing. Again I was quite familiar with them but I still learned a fair amount. We went through racing etiquette, race lines, flags, and the tech inspection process. Both Troy and Gio were excellent at keeping our attention and answering our questions. The evening course was the right length so I never lost interest and I am VERY eager to get out there and try my hand at racing. The next part of the course is a day at Tradex.
Now here is where I run into a problem. My bike was sitting in a shop waiting for a specific wiring part and would not be ready until late June. Crap. My only options were to borrow a bike, which I was not comfortable doing. I could also take the Tradex day a later date which would be after the mission raceway date. That didn’t make much sense so I might just have to miss it all together. I did have a few very generous offers to borrow a few friend’s bikes but was very hesitant about it. Closer to the date I realized I did not want to miss it and I borrowed a VFR. I had to be out at Tradex for 800am. I woke up to cold, wet weather. I almost decided not to show… I sucked it up and headed out there. Once I arrived I looked at the track and I was less than impressed. It was a parking lot with some questionable patches of asphalt. It was getting tough to get excited about this. I taped up the bike and removed the plate and waited for first chance to head out. I decided to join the slow group of riders. Since I was on a borrowed bike, I should at the very least take a little easy! Adam was our instructor and we were to follow his lines and upon each lap we would switch positions with the other riders in our group. Each time we were out we had about two laps in which to follow our instructor’s lines. The time first we went out, I was cold, the track was wet and the painted white lines were really psyching me out! Arriving back into the pits my mood had changed very little. In between our first session we went over his race bike we had to show proper positioning for corners. Soon enough we were back out on the track and it was very nice to see parts of the track drying. Upon our next session, the track was dry and I was feeling pretty good. This modest little made up track was pretty fun! After three runs I was having a great time! Our instructor Adam had a camera strapped to his helmet so he was able to show us exactly what we were doing in each of the corners. I needed to get off the seat more and clean up my lines. He was also able to point out any mistakes we made. It was also great to see myself riding. What may feel right may be wrong and I can see that for myself. Upon the next run I ran into another problem, pegs. I was scraping the feelers on the pegs pretty good. They were easily removed and solved that problem up until my confidence increased again. I found myself scraping the foot pegs and maybe even the exhaust manifold (whoops). Time to get off the seat more and lean into the corners more. Now I have never ever had my knee touch the ground before and I was really trying but still, it wasn’t happening. I felt close but I just could not bring myself to do it. The instructor lead runs were now finished and we were to go out on our own (with the instructors present). This certainly had a different feel to it. I always had this feeling that someone was going to pass me so it kept me on my toes at all times. On my third lap I took the hairpin corner and I felt and heard the unfamiliar sound of my knee puck scraping. Right on! I automatically pulled my knee up since this was such a surprise. My confidence was pretty high at this point and I found myself pushing the VFR harder and harder. I was doing some passing and had some great lines. This track was a blast!!! What was also nice to know was the VFR is a very capable sportbike. It easily sheds the extra 130 pounds it has over the 600cc super sports. I also had a level of satisfaction having the heaviest and slowest bikes in the course with some pretty quick laps. We took a break from the course to practice hard breaking. We were asked to use the rear brake only in a straight line to show us how ineffective it was. Well he was right, but the ABS on the VFR defeated the purpose of the exercise. Still, the rear brake doesn’t do much. No news there. It was cool to feel how the ABS worked on a bike. It is not nearly has noticeable on a car. It was very subtle. On the hard front braking exercise we had to learn to pre-load the brakes then brake hard. Geeze, bikes can stop fast. It never stops surprising me how quickly we can come to an abrupt halt. Back out on the track for a few more laps I was having a great time but my fatigue was catching up with me. I felt like I have ridden over 800kms! I exited the track happy with that I learned and accomplished. I was even happier that I did not bin my borrowed bike! Well I wasn’t in the clear yet, we were now going to practice racing starts. We were all lined up beside each other (like a drag race). Troy would raise the flag slowly and bam we had to hit the throttle hard see how quickly we could take off. Keep the revs high release the clutch slowly and then hammer it. Don’t want it too high or too low. I felt like a natural at this! No one had beat me off the line, and a few of my take offs the front tire was about 4-6 inches off the ground. Perfect! That was the end of the day. A lot to take in but that was the most fun I have had on motorcycle. Can’t wait to take my own bike to Mission.
About two days before the Mission Track day, I picked my bike up. Promptly put a brand new Pirelli Diablo Corsa III on it. Not much time to test it out the bike and scrub the tire! By 700am I was out at Mission Raceway taping up my bike. It was looking like it will be a gorgeous day. Clear, sunny and 20 degrees. I filled out the registration form and pushed my bike through tech inspection. My VFR was a stark contrast from the typical bike in the lineup. After a quick test of the throttle, I failed tech inspection. The tech inspector makes sure that the throttle releases when turned hard to the left and right. Mine didn’t reset. I had to adjust the cable and I was good to go. I was awarded my A+ sticker. Troy had everyone gather together for a meeting which outlined our day and the rules. Our first session was up soon enough and here I was waiting in pre-grid. I was definitely feeling a little nervous. Similar to Tradex we were following the instructor taking turns each lap. I was very hesitant about my bike with the new rear tire, so I took it real easy. Once we completed our session, I checked the back tire to see how it looked and was surprised to see it completely scorched. Easiest break in period ever! 6-7 laps is all it takes. Next session, we followed the instructor again and ran into the same problem of scraping my pegs. I promised myself that was the last time! Third session, Gio announced that it is an open session so they just sent everyone out. However I was the first one out. Having the feeling of 20+ bikes behind you can be pretty intimidating so I gave it as much as I could. Three laps in I started to get passed and my 97 horsepower was quite obvious besides all the liter bikes. Still, it kept me challenged. Next session it was the same thing, except I was the second person out. Had a blast but I totally blew turn 1 and ended up in the grass. It was interesting the moment no one was behind me I didn’t have that sense of urgency to race. Racing is very physcological as well. I exited the session early as I was getting pretty tired. We braked for lunch and spent my time chatting with other racers and seeing what all was involved. It’s such a great atmosphere around the track. After lunch I talked to Gio about being first out of the gates. It’s fun and all but I wanted to do some passing. This round they were going to set us up in a grid and have an official race start. So I picked my spot over to the left pretty far back in the pack. I set my RPMs at 7200rpms (past the vtech point!) and waited for the green flag. I let go of the clutch and my bike leaped forward about a foot off the ground, felt good. It was short lived as I had to damn near stop. The guy two bikes ahead of me was sideways… I had nowhere to go. I had to stop and squeeze by him. The rest of the race was spent working my way through various riders. It is a bit of a gong show riding in such a pack but so much fun at the same time. What a rush. By this time I was quite comfortable dragging my knee. If fact it felt wrong not to have the knee down in some corners. By far the most challenging aspect of Mission was the braking. How late can you brake? I know I was braking way too early, but it still felt like I was on the edge! Coming down the stretch into turn one, comes up much too fast. It’s 200kmh+ to what feels like nothing. I don’t think a muscle in my body has been ignored today. By the end of the sixth session was pretty tired but I had a constant adrenaline rush. I could have done a ‘bonus’ seventh session but I felt like I had pushed myself enough. Mission Accomplished. It would have been nice to have a bit of more involvement with the instructors today but I still learned an incredible amount. Taking off the tape and inspecting my bike and gear. I noticed that both my front and rear tire are scorched pretty good, it is actually shredded right down to the edge. Nice to see lots of wear on the sides and none in the center. My knee pucks don’t look so new anymore, 1/4th of them are just plain gone. They wear down fast.
By 700pm the track was cleaned up, we had our certificates and tshirts. Now was the task of getting home. Whatever energy I had left was used up by tossing hay bales into a truck. I was on the road and it felt incredibly claustrophobic. Gravel, cars, cops, etc. They were everywhere!!! While I still felt the urge to hammer on the throttle, the roads just felt too small to do so. While I won’t be taking up racing this season or next. I will definitely be in for track days but I wonder how long I can resist the urge.
Huge thanks to Troy & Gio of Westcoast Superbike school! And if anyone is considering taking the racing course for fun and to race. Don’t wait, just do it!