2018 MT 09
I had my first ever track day this last Sunday 9/12/21 at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Leading up to the event I was very excited and anxious about how things would progress, how I would perform, and my ability to catch on to all the new situations. I would definitely suggest anyone considering going to their first tack day tag along with an experienced person. This would alleviate all the unknowns and the stress that comes along with that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t line my schedule up with anyone I know to do a track day within a reasonable distance from my house. So instead of continuing to put it off as I have done in the past, I bit the bullet and scheduled with N2 to go by myself. The Facilities at PittRace are excellent. The track surface itself is in very good condition. The buildings and grounds are super well-kept and maintained. The bathrooms / showers are amazing. There is plenty of space for Tents, toy haulers and RVs.
My trip planning was a little off from the beginning. It took me longer than anticipated to get all my adjustments to my bike made, provisions picked up, and supplies and tools pack than I had anticipated. Definitely my fist lesson learned was to give myself a whole day to prepare for any future track days so that I’m not feeling rushed and arrive with plenty of time to unpack, set up and relax.
I ended up rolling into the complex at about 8:30 pm Saturday night. Needless to say, that it was already dark which made navigating the complex difficult. I wasn’t really able to wander about and scope out the whole complex and pick my preferred place to set up. I followed the advice of the lady running the gate at the entrance and setup my pitt area up by the event center on the northeast side of the complex. It had a nice grassy area for me to set up my tent and a nice section of parking lot for my pitt area. I was finished setting up within an hour. The pros of this location are that it was quite and away from all the noisy generators of the of the RVs and Toy hauler crowd. There was a great view of the start/finish straight away and the back of the track coming down the hill out of turn 14. It was also right next to the bathrooms. The cons were that it was very difficult to hear the PA system from this location and that it was away from all the action and vendors.
My food choice worked out well for me. I had decided to pick up two large DiBellas subs that would serve as Saturday and Sunday dinner, as well as both Breakfast and lunch on Sunday. This worked particularly well as it didn’t require too much work, there was no track side preparation required, and was easy to eat while in full leathers. I also had purchases four Body Armor lytes, a six pack of Propel water, and a 24 pack of plan bottled water. When I got home Sunday night, I only had about a dozen waters remaining. I would say this was the right amount of hydration products.
Things that I learned about my base camp setup and would choose to do differently are as follows. I would probably try to find a location that I can better hear the PA system. This way I don’t miss anything. I going to finally ditch my air mattresses for good. I suffered from a hole in mine and spent the entire night sleeping directly on the ground. At least the grass I set up on was nice and dense and there really were no rocks. It never fails that they inevitably get a hole in them. I’m officially upgrading to a camping cot! I would bring a serious box/industrial fan. I was fortunate that I had set up on top of a hill and it was a nice breezy day, but after spending the day in a full set of leathers I can definitely see the value of having a really good fan that can move a significant amount of air. If I become a track day junky, I would definitely add an electric scooter, a generator, and a radio. Lastly, I would bring a more diverse range of snack foods and easy things to munch on during the day.
I will say my neighboring riders were super friendly and helpful. Two guys across the way came over an introduced themselves as I was setting up and asked if I needed any help. We chatted for a good 20 minutes and they ended up being a great help throughout my whole time at the track. They assisted me with understanding the schedule and making sure I made it to tech inspection and the riders meeting. Another guy, who I had met when I was lost trying to find my way in the night before also came up in the morning to make sure that I understood the registration and tech inspection process. My neighbors were invaluable in helping me putt on and take off my leathers, and even provided me with some motor oil. My oil light came on during my first session. I’ve never had that issue and my oil level looked good, but I added a bit more to bring it up to the top of the sight glass. I even had a fellow novice come up and find me asked me how my day had been going. He said he saw at the riders meeting that I was brand new to the track. We ended up chatting here and there the rest of the day. It was nice to have a rider to go line up for the sessions with.
I have to thank @MK3Brent and @Darf for helping me prepare for tech inspection.I'll Registration and tech went supper smooth and I passed with flying colors. I was worried that I was going to have missed something or messed something up. The main riders meeting was interesting as a lot of what they said when right over my head, but novice had a second meeting following that which was a big help. Apparently, the prior day had been a bit challenging with a lot riders quite vocally complaining about other novice riders doing stupid things on the track and passing dangerously. This did not instill a lot of confidence and had me worried about what I gotten myself into.
Including me, there were three brand new to the track riders and we were supposed to meet up with one of the coaches at the start of the first session to learn how to get on and off the track. This sounded like a great idea had I made it to the first session on time. I had difficulty getting all my gear on and ended up missing about half my first session. I officially need a second set of hands getting into my leathers. I just need someone to pull the sleeve so I can get my second shoulder into them, hopefully they stretch a tad. I also learned that I should zip my calves and do up my boots prior to putting my leathers all the way on. As its super difficult to do them in the stiff leathers.
I had several preconceive notions about how my track day was going to go. I was convinced that I would immediately go out and ride faster on the track then I do on the street. I thought that I would be among the faster riders in the novice group. I specifically wanted to work on my body position and braking. This all went flying out the window at the beginning of my first session. Having had problems getting ready and being late to my first session, I had to navigate entering the track alone and try to figure out the race line without any guidance. I also had to learn to ride in full leathers as this was a whole new experience. This was super scary to say the least. I went from confident to just trying to survive. I got in about four laps. I had to learn and remember the hand signal, what the flags meant, figure out how to see the corner workers while also riding. Since I really had no idea the race line or what I was doing I had more experience people blowing by me on both sides and I was terrified, lol. At the same time, as I mentioned earlier my oil light came on. The first session ended and my mind was blown. It was super intense and very overwhelming and a lot of that had to do with my poor planning. I probably should have done couple more dress rehearsals with my gear and probably gone out on at least one ride wearing it.
I have to say the N2 coaches were super helpful through out the day. Even though my first session didn’t go as planned, the remaining day got better and better. One of the coaches, Nate, who happened to have his pitt set up right down the way from me, stopped over after the first session and had long conversation with me about the race line on the track. Apparently, and expected I had been offline and was confusing other riders which also added to my discomfort due to being passed on both sides. I decided that my main focus for the remaining morning session was just to try to stick to the race line. I was finding this a challenge because of a lot of habits I have formed street riding. The first thing I was having difficulty getting used to is that the track was only one direction of travel and that the whole track can be utilized. I was slow to track to the race line to the left side of the track, hanging out in the middle because my brain kept fighting me having been conditioned to expect traffic. I was also having difficulty getting close enough to the apexes. What I found was that on the road I typically give myself room from the apex going right due to road debris (gravel) and going left due to traffic (double yellows) coming the other way. I had to overcome these habits that had become automatic for me street riding and convert my knowledge over to track style riding. The second session and thirds session I spent alternating between following two separate coaches and having them follow me. They were helping me work on seeing the race line and improving on sections of the track that I was still struggling with my street habits. As we did this, I started to understand the cone system that was set up on the perimeter of the track. They denoted breaking zones, tip in point, and apex location and angle.
Following my trend of not being clued in on the “pace” of the track day schedule I missed my last session before lunch. Somehow, I thought lunch was going to be at noon but ended up being at 1 pm. I think this actually worked to my advantage. It allowed me to get an extra-long mental break and process everything that had occurred in the morning sessions. That left me with three afternoon sessions where I think I finally started to get it. I was the only non-super sport bike in novice that day. I found that I was pushing upwards of 110 mph on the straights and that there were far few bikes passing me. I also found that I was being held up by some other riders in the turns on the track. I finally felt comfortable with knowing when my session was going to be and started coming to expect it in concert with the actual timing.
I packed up and said good bye to my new friends. I embarked on the two-hour ride home and unloaded all my stuff. I was exhausted and was in bed and asleep by 9 pm. I can tell you today I am sore and used muscles I didn’t even know that I had. I am glad that I went and I am looking forward to doing it again. I hope that some other may learn from my story and plan a little better than I did. It is definitely intense, overwhelming, feeling odd being the new guy, but that is all paid off by the fun of the experience.