Motorcycling Queensland’s Media Officer, Eliza-Jane Mann, was invited to ride at her first track day, hosted by the Motorcycle Sportsmen of Queensland in June. She updates us on the experience:
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of grazing your boot on bitumen halfway through a tight turn on Morgan Park Raceway.
Last weekend was the first time I’d experienced this feeling. Up until March, I’d never ridden a motorcycle. I’d never even been in control of a geared vehicle.
Growing up, I had those sort of parents who told you motorcycles were dangerous. They used to tell me that anyone who swapped four wheels for two was nothing more than a Temporary Australian, or T.A. for short.
In March, I decided to ignore my parents' advice. I did my Q-Ride, got my licence, got addicted, and bought a Kawasaki Ninja 300.
When Motorcycle Sportsmen of Queensland President Paul Dawson got wind of my bike purchase, he invited me out for a track day. I said “yeah sure”, but didn’t think anything would ever come from it.
With less than 2,000 Ks on the Ninja’s odometer, Paul got in touch again, letting me know that there was a rare Sunday track day coming up on June 28. He said I should have a shot.
I was in two minds about the whole thing. I’d never pushed my little Ninja to its limits, and would love to test it out on the safe, controlled confines of a race track. At the same time, I didn’t have all the equipment I’d seen at the Queensland round of the ASBK- no motorbike trailer, no tyre warmers and my bike was far from race ready… whatever that was.
In the end, I decided to give it a go. Why would I turn down the opportunity to take my bike onto a nationally renowned race track? I loaded up my bike, strapped everything down with plenty of occy straps, and rode the two hours to Warwick.
Paul had invited me to stay with Motorcycle Sportsmen volunteers in Warwick. Some of these guys had travelled from as far as the Gold Coast just to flag, conduct timing, or do whatever jobs were required to run the day. They were a dedicated bunch, and loved what they did. You’ve really got to respect what these guys do, week in and week out.
The morning of race day, I rocked up to Morgan Park bright and early, and pitted with Paul, his partner Kelly, and Road Racer/ Supermoto rider Michael (Mick) Carlsen. I quickly realised I didn’t have the right tools for the job, so Mick helped me remove my number plates and mirrors, tape up my lights, and check my tyre pressures.
And Mick wasn’t the only one willing to lend his hand at the race meet. I was surprised by the generosity of everyone in the pits. When I struggled to push my bike up a hill, someone would come over and push it for me. When I didn’t have a tool I needed, someone would rush to hand one over.
“We always see competitors helping each other out,” Paul and Mick told me.
“Even at serious race meets, competitors will lend spare parts to championship rivals. They’ll sometimes even lend each other a spare bike.”
I’d experienced this generosity prior to the weekend as well. Andrew Smart from Ricondi
was kind enough to lend me some Ricondi race leathers to wear for the track day. I felt like a proper racer in the suit, even if I didn’t look like one on the track…
When I was all geared up, and my bike was race ready, I lined up with the other riders in my class, and got ready to be overlapped. My little 300cc bike was nothing compared to some of the machines entered on the day. But I wasn’t there to race
. I was there to test my skills and build my confidence on the bike.
A green flag was waved and I followed the bikes in front of me onto the circuit. My nerves disappeared and my mind focused on only the smooth bitumen in front of me. I clicked up the gears until my bike was pushing as hard as it could.
Was I allowed to go this fast? One bike, two bikes, three, passed me, and disappeared around a bend. It felt strange not being able to look back and see them in my mirrors. It was hard to forget all the things you needed to do on the road. No head checks, no indicators, no speed limits. I just had to go my own pace, set up for corners, and follow my line. If someone wanted to pass me, it was their responsibility to do so safely. Marshals and coaches rode with us during every session to provide on-track assistance if we needed it.
I came off the track feeling a kind of adrenaline I’d never experienced before.
After my first ride around the circuit, I relaxed a little. I chatted to everyone in the pits between sessions, and geared up whenever the five minute call for my group was made over the loudspeaker. Ride, chat, ride, repeat.
Every bike was fitted with a timing transponder, making it easy for the club to allocate us to the group that would best suit our abilities. These transponders also let us keep track of our times during the day. I constantly trailed everyone else in my group, and the best time I completed the almost three km track in was 2:18:28. Nearly a full minute behind the top riders in my group.
Simon Dickson, Vice President of Motorcycle Sportsmen and Team Tiger
racer, gave me some tips to get my lap times down. “Tits to the tank on the straight, and bum off before you brake,” he said.
I tried moving around on my bike as per Simon’s advice, but I still couldn’t get my time any lower.
I came off the track after four sessions, feeling like I’d just run a marathon on three hours sleep. “It’s important to know your limits, and when to call it a day,” Paul said.
I left the track feeling exhausted, satisfied, and way more confident in my abilities on the bike. I’d learnt more about motorcycle handling and cornering in one day on the track than in four months of riding on the road.
I also learnt just how accessible track days are. You don’t need tyre warmers, a race ready bike, or a pit crew. Just bring along some tape, some tools, and the guys in the pits will be more than happy to help you out.
A big thanks to Paul, Simon and the rest of the crew at the Motorcycle Sportsmen of Queensland for an awesome weekend. I might see you guys at the track again soon… I’ve still got to get that knee down!
The Motorcycle Sportsmen of Queensland’s next track day will be held on July 31. For more information about the Motorcycle Sportsmen of Queensland, head to their website or Facebook page.