[Fundamentals] RRW #5: Track Dynamics: Putting It All Together
The fifth and last in a series of articles originally published in RoadRacing World magazine.
What stands out for me when rereading this article is how little I understood about the importance of vision skills at the time (around 2012-2013). Sure, I knew vision played a role, just like in any sport, but I didn’t realize what a huge piece of the pie it really was, nor how it could be trained to increase performance. In the years since, working on vision performance and seeking to bring it to the forefront of motorsports training has been somewhat of a hidden agenda for me. One of my goals here on Substack is to help make the basics of vision performance available to everyone.
Overall, this article sums up how basic fundamentals come into play, no matter where you’re at.
Track Dynamics: Putting it All Together
By Ken Hill
I was riding a new CBR1000 for this very magazine testing all the new liter bikes at the Las Vegas Classic Road Course and entering Turn 6, I had the back end hacked sideways trying to keep up with Chris Ulrich. Every rider at that test, but me, had stood on an AMA podium and I was worried about being too slow, am I finally too old to be doing this? The only plan I had going my first session was to lose my mind trying to go fast, and it wasn’t working out.
Back in the pits getting ready for my second session it occurred to me, where was my plan? The first session I had zero idea of what I was going to be doing, beside trying to haul ass. Turns out, “go faster” isn’t a reliable plan at all. For the second session I got focused, came up with a plan (deliberate, strong exits) and went about executing it. I went 1.5 seconds a lap faster with zero drama and, it felt much slower because my plan allowed me to be proactive instead of reactive. My hair wasn’t on fire.
We’ve spent the last RRW clinics giving you a great foundation for your riding, so let’s put into place by executing it - having a plan for your riding. Here’s a typical session-by-session plan that applies everything we’ve gone over.
Session 1 Apexes: Whether you are racing or doing a trackday, hitting your apexes should be the very first thing you are trying to accomplish. Brake pressure, throttle pressure and body position are all about getting you to and from those apexes. Let’s also add a note here about bike set-up, if you can’t hit an apex how can you be consistent enough to even know if your set-up change works or not? When I ride for myself I won’t spend the whole session on apexes, more likely just the first or second lap or until I am satisfied with my bike placement, then I’ll move to the next thing I’m working on. Magazines aren’t going to want you as a test rider if you can’t hit the same few inches on the track lap after lap…
Session 2 Entry/Exit Corners: The second session should be focused on taking advantage of your environment and maximizing what each corner has to offer. This was my exact problem during my first session during the Open Bike Shootout, I was rushing the entry of the biggest exit corner and getting crushed on my drive out. Knowing that exits last longest, I made that my plan and my pace was up and drama was down.
Session 3 Slowest Point of the Corner: As the pace comes up, the seconds get harder to shave off. You can look for that crucial time by seeing where your slowest point of the corner is. Get that track map out and place a mark where you are letting off the brake vs. where you should be letting off the brake and where you are coasting. Adjust where you are using the controls and gain speed and control by having less coasting time.
Session 4 Eyes: Want to know the best-kept riding secret in the paddock. GET YOUR EYES SCANNING! Your eyes tell your brain not only what’s in front of you, but also at the rate of what’s in front of you. If your eyes are down or you are picking your eyes up slowly, it will be very hard to build consistency and speed. (Notice how the word consistency came before speed) Scanning involves continually looking forward to your entry point, your entry apex and to your exit apex and back again, allowing you to adjust brake pressure, turn in point and turn in rate. Another overlooked point is that the faster you go, the earlier your eyes have scan. If needed, look for reference points (that don’t move) further up the track than you think, aligning your entry and exit trajectory as straight as possible. Ex: Out of Turn 4 at Laguna, look for the bridge before turn 5, Out of Turn 2 at Sears Point, look for the corner worker station in Turn 3….
The other major benefit of having your eyes scanning is it slows your thought process down. If the information intake is coming at you slower, it makes it so much easier to process and is the key to getting your thought process ahead of your bike.
Notice how we are working on ONE thing at a time per session? If you try to get everything every lap every turn, I can almost guarantee frustration. I’ve worked with countless AMA riders that may be just bit off the pace and instead of trying to work on every corner, we’ll work first on the segment they are losing the most time in, then once that is cleared up, we’ll go for the next biggest one.
Now get your plan together and go ride!
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