New Racer A to Z

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - I-90


New Racer A-Z

Taking Your High Speed Thrills Off The Street And Onto The Track

By Simon-Pierre Smith

Way back in the happy-go-lucky '60s, an era of air cooled 2 strokes and wire wheels, any rider who wanted to twist the throttle without backlash from "The Man" had only one choice: go racing. Racing was a simple thing then. Wire a few bolts, pull the lights, tape your jacket to your pants, and off you go. A number of club level classes offered moderately priced competition to the weekend warrior. As time went on, costs were driven up by safety requirements. Erratic riding led to separate novice races and a required New Racer Clinic. Equipment improvements led to a requirement for back protectors, and duct tape became frowned upon for abrasion protection. The proliferation of fairings led to the requirement that they be sealed to hold spilled oil. Advances in electronics brought automatic scoring and accurate lap times, at the price of a transmitter purchased by each racer.

above: Your author at a track day, preparing to lead a group on their first lap around Pacific Raceway.

The combined effect of all these changes is that it can cost about $2,000 to go racing, not counting the bike and the truck to get to the track. This is a big hurdle for a street rider who may not be sure that racing is really where they want to waste their money. But this is a new millennium, and solutions have sprung up right and left. Various organizations provide instruction, or just track time, to everyone from seasoned rider to wobbling novice. The following is a relatively complete list of the people and organizations that will get a Pacific Northwest street rider on the track. But before scanning down to find the cheapest or closest group, take the time to ask yourself some questions, and come up with believable answers.

How much do you want to spend on this? Serious racers, or even serious track day riders, find they need a separate track bike and street bike.

How much safety equipment do you have, want, need? Buying full race leathers for one track day is a bit much. Hitting the track in jeans isn't going to fly. Buying a nice 2 piece street suit, then realizing you should have sprung for the full race setup can hit the wallet pretty hard. Some instructors loan or rent equipment, but you'll eventually want to get your own. They won't smell any better, but they'll smell like you.

How well can you handle a crash? Imagine watching your newly purchased machine tumbling end over end. If your emotional response goes no further than "That would suck," you'll be O.K. If your bike is your baby, or your only transportation, forget it. Now imagine yourself tumbling end over end and missing some work from it. I'm not trying to freak you out. Not everyone crashes, and not all crashes hurt, but it does happen.

If you want to try racing, the typical choice is to take one of the New Racer Clinics. OMRRA in Oregon, and WMRRA in Washington, both run classes. You'll need a fully prepared race bike and race gear. The first day is a classroom session covering rules, riding, bike setup and race day operations. Day two, usually a week later, is at the track learning to be fast and safe. Successful completion earns a novice race license. The day after the track day is a regular sprint race where you and all your classmates get to "battle, hammer and tong". A novice license gives you the ability to enter any race club's novice races, practice days, and rent some racetracks (like Pacific Raceways) privately. Club practice days, crowded in the early season, become great values as the year wears on.

If you aren't ready to cough up for the whole race outfit, start out with "The Taste of Racing". This little outing lets you go tour the track at a regular race day during lunch, on your street bike. The idea is that fans get to see the track from a racer's point of view, and just might get addicted. Both OMRRA and WMRRA plan TOR events this year, but not necessarily at all race days.

The next step up from the taste is a full track day. This is a private event, usually run by an individual with a loose relationship to the local club. It is typically run as a series of practice sessions with 3 groups; street, quick, and racer. The groups are usually loosely defined, and since no one wants to be in the wrong group, loosely enforced. Most will have an ambulance and corner workers present, a worthwhile investment. Mario Alvarez's "Adrenaline Junkies" is one of these. It also doesn't hurt to ask around some of the local sport bike shops like I-90, RMC, SB Motorsports, Brother's, or any Ducati shop. They sometimes team people up to rent out a track. Restrictions, cost, and details may vary.

Some people don't just want to tool around on the track, they want to be instructed by a master. Again, the opportunities are plentiful. Local fast boy Mike Sullivan runs classes for everyone from street riders to pro racers. As a bonus, graduates from his Beginner Racer Class qualify for a novice license. Another group rife with local talent are the Pacific Super Sport Riders. Keith Pinkstaff, Shawn Roberti, Danielle Saxman, and Jimmy Moore, champions all, gang up to teach you the fast line. Reg Pridmore, as famous for his track lessons as for his racing, runs the "Class" schools. His instruction is oriented toward street riders rather than improving racers, but is quite highly regarded. The Suzuki School, run by Team Hammer's Michael Martin, is your chance to be instructed by an endurance race champion. Fast guest instructors have been known to drop in on the Suzuki Schools occasionally.

Finally there's a class that's a little bit out of the ordinary. It is designed for street riders who want to try to go faster by riding slow bikes in the dirt. American Supercamp is a training school that uses little Honda XR 100 and 200 machines in a small covered arena to teach the mechanics of sliding a motorcycle. Usually taught by a list of high level flat trackers and road racers, the classes send riders away exhausted, delighted, dirty, and fast.

What follows is a table of classes and contacts. Be sure to contact the organizers early and verify details. Many of the dollar amounts vary depending on facilities. If it says leathers aren't required, that just means a full race jumpsuit with back protector isn't required. Don't expect to ride in flip-flops, shorts, and a baseball cap on backwards. SR!  

For a detailed Grid of Upcoming Clinics and Track Days Click Here  

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