A few notes about track day etiquette.
Track day etiquette...
In recent years there has been a lot of growth in the motorcycle track day industry and there are more and more organizations these days and that has opened the door to many more new and first time track day enthusiasts, as well as more events for those seasoned track junkies to take part in.
Those that have been participating in track days for a while have a clear grasp of the rules and etiquette of going out for a day at the racetrack. But with so many new riders and those that aren't such new riders but new to track riding there are definitely things to be learned. An event that happened this past weekend at the track has led me to write this, so if you're thinking of taking the leap to track riding, there might be a few things you can take away from this.
Let me start with a few basics. Then I'll move on to my story of what I witnessed this weekend.
First and foremost... Always show up in time for the riders meeting. At the riders meeting you will get the basic information needed to have a fun and safe track day. The organization will go over things like; Which direction we are running that day, where to pit in and pit out, where to locate control riders and coaches, which flags are used for which reasons and so on. The information in the morning riders meeting is a HUGE thing for a first time track rider. Without some of the basic information a rider new to track days will be completely lost. So listen carefully to the organizations rules and procedures. For instance.... how to bump up to the intermediate group if you're feeling you're ready to move up from the beginner group.
Next... Always make sure your bike is ready to run at the track. There are many different tracks and organizations out there, so there will be many different ways of doing things, but most of the time the way they ask to prepare your bike is the same. Fresh tires (or decent tires - within reason), No leaks, no body work flailing about in the wind, wheel weights taped down, etc. Almost every track day organization asks the same things for prepping your bike. Some DO ask that you have everything safety wired. Always consult the track day organizations website for their requirements when it comes to prepping your bike.
ASK QUESTIONS! At a track day there is no such thing as a stupid question. Those of us that work for track day organizations have heard it all... and when it comes to safety and people enjoying their day there is no question that should go unasked. If you are not sure about something... ASK! Chances are you're no the only one wondering about something. "What tire pressures should I be running?" is one of the most common questions. Keep in mind that it isn't a stupid question if it means keeping you and other riders safe while out on the track.
Control riders are there for YOUR SAFETY and the SAFETY OF EVERYONE ELSE. Listen to them. If you are being black flagged, there is a reason for it. If you are being approached by a control rider after your session there is a good reason for it. In most cases it is to let someone know that they are doing great but there might have made a pass that was a little too close, or maybe they lost a clamp to an exhaust or something and we are letting you know for safety reasons. Most of the time control riders are going to be stern but fair when getting on you for something that they might have seen you do that was inappropriate. Do no take it personally... take it as it is... a reminder to be safe out there. In almost EVERY case... something was done to cause the control rider to approach you. So have an open ear and an open mind... and cop to it if you know you got busted.
Action cameras (Added this after first post - because this was much of the cause in my opinion.) - If you are running cameras trying to capture footage of yourself or your friends... don't worry about the camera, your friends, or how you all look on film. That can all be done later when watching the footage of the session. The story below starts with some guys wanting to get each other on camera. If you're too concerned with your buddies and who's on cam or trying to be captured on cam then you're not paying enough attention to the situation around you and are now a safety concern. Stay on point and forget about the fact that a cam might be rolling.
This next part I'm going to go into some details about an experience I had while control riding over the weekend. I am writing this write-up because of this incident that I witnessed before my very eyes. I'm going to be a bit long winded in describing what I saw and what happened afterward, but only to make a very big point when it is all said and done.
So it was Monday, Labor Day, and me and MoM went out to Buttonwillow... I was going to be coaching/control riding all day and she was going to be the track photographer again as well as get a few laps in on the R6.
About the 3rd session of the day I got in behind a guy in the 'B' group who was looking back at who/what was behind him out of almost every turn. This was taking away from his concentration of what was in front of him and it was causing other riders to have to change lines, brake harder than the should, etc... it was not conducive to safe riding, so I followed him into the pits and let him know he needed to keep his eyes front and not worry about who or what was behind him. He was a little bit on the snotty side but after a minute or two of explanation as to WHY he should keep his eyes front, he was happy to admit that he shouldn't have been looking back 10 times a lap.
I was going out to control ride one more session before taking a break for lunch. I had been riding in 'B' group and 'C' group all morning and this would be my last session for at least an hour or so. I headed out after a pack of about 5 bikes at the grid. As I followed them for a bit the group came up on some slower riders. I gradually made my way to the front of the pack to help lead a couple of them around the slower guys and try wrangling the slower guys to a part of the track that would allow the faster guys to get around them safely. After getting around this small group of 3 bikes I led the other 4 through the last few turns before the front straight. When I turned onto the front straight I pulled far to the outside and waved this pack by.
It wasn't but a few seconds later going into turn 1 that I noticed another guy looking back at his buddies. Then he'd wave one by.... then look back again... then get around the one he just waved by. This went on for an entire lap. Of the 4 riders at least 2 or 3 of them were together... meaning they were probably friends out on the same session.
Second lap - We come into turn 1 again and this guy is looking back again. He probably looked back at least 10 times during the last lap and by this time I was literally screaming in my helmet "QUIT LOOKING BEHIND YOU JACKASS!!!" His lines were erratic, his throttle control choppy, and he was not paying enough attention to the other riders around him and it was creating a safety hazard. One that I was going to inform the flagman about when I came back around to the pit lane. I was about a half a lap from pitting in to have the one guy black flagged when it happened.
"Riverside" is a long, sweeping right hander that you are coming out of at over 100mph (A group) and at least 90 (b group).... this turn opens up to a short straight before it kicks left before shooting you into a blind right hand turn that goes over a slight hill.... this turn is called "Lost Hills" and is one of my favorite turns on this track.
So there is the one guy looking back constantly... then an R1 behind him, and a friend of the dud looking back all the time behind the R1. One more guy behind all of them... and me... tailing all 4. R1 guy makes a VERY clean pass through the little left hand kicker and as he is about to tip into "Lost Hills" I see the carnage.... the R1 high-sides and the rider goes down hard... the guy that kept looking back goes off the track, and the 3rd and 4th bike, and me behind everything, are hard on the brakes as the R1 slides off the track. I am the first person on the scene obviously and I parked my bike on the side of the track... looking up ahead of me I see #2 rider still upright but had gone about 100 feet off the track into the dirt. Shut the bike off and look behind me to see a mangled R1 and its rider slowly rolling around in the dirt. I ran up to him... asked if he knew what day it was (He did) and asked if he needed an ambulance. He was slow to answer... that means... I threw a big "A" with my arms over my head to the nearest corner worked to summon the ambulance. Then I told the rider so stay put and not to move.
I was replaying the scene in my head the entire time when the ambulance got there. I kept asking "What if the hell just happened?" "Who was the cause?" "Was there something I missed?" All of those answers would come soon.
I spoke with the lead grid guy/crash truck guy and told him I saw it all go down and that another rider was involved, but that he had left the scene while I ran to help the downed R1 rider. I told him I was going to head in and cruise the pits for the bike I remember seeing and following for almost 2 full laps.
I cruised into the pits and began slowly cruising through the paddock looking for a bike with a yellow tail section.... I soon found it. And the other bike as well. I rolled up and asked "Who is on this bike?" (Pointing at the bike with the yellow tail). To which a guy replies "I am..." while stuffing his face like it was a cookout and nothing was wrong. I continued, "You need to keep your eyes front man... you must have looked back at least 15 times in the lap and a half I followed you guys. And now there's a guy getting an ambulance ride back to his pits and there is a demolished R1.... this guys track season is over. Who hit him?" (I had asked 'who hit him' because the guy on the R1 said right when I got to him "Someone fucking ran into the back of me man...".
So guy with the yellow tail section says "Dude... I went off the track because someone hit me too!" To which I respond "Well there were only 4 bikes.... yours, your buddy on the ZX6 and one more that went through after the R1 hit the ground.... I watched everything go down right in front of me... so I'll ask again... did you hit him?" "No man... I didn't... I swear!"
Meanwhile... another staff member rolls up next to me as I'm questioning the group. As I'm about wrapped up I turn to him and say "Ya know what pisses me off Mike? When people cause a crash and don't cop to it... that shit really pisses me off and there's a dude in an ambulance that I'm sure wants to know what happened.... but people don't want to come forward and admit they fucked up." Mike nods his head and we leave.
I find MoM and we sit down for lunch. All the while the owner of the organization is asking around for info on what happened... I tell her I watched it all go down and someone, and that I am 99% sure that the guy on the bike with the yellow tail piece hit the R1.... this same guy that had been looking back at his buddies for almost 2 full laps. She then takes it upon herself to start investigating.
Some back story.... the guy on the R1 was fine... but did suffer a pretty banged up ankle. I saw his boot later than day and let me tell you, if you don't think boots do any good... you need to re-evaluate how you think about this. This guys foot could have been mangled. His heel on the boot was ground down almost all the way through. When I teched his and his girls bikes that morning they informed me that they had their bikes stolen that very morning but were lucky enough to get them back and the thieves arrested within about 15 minutes.
It was a rough day already for these two folks. And I was determined to find some kind of closure to this last event of their day. It was even HER BIRTHDAY!!!
After about an hour or so I happened to be riding through the pits on my way out for another session when the owner flags me over and gets me up to speed. She had found out that this group was swapping stickers from one bike to another. Letting their C Group friends have B group stickers... letting non-paying people have stickers to go out and ride and a few other things. These are people who were not at the morning riders meeting. These were people who had not signed the release of liability. These were friends of 4 paying customers... not paying attention to the rules... now being ethical in their decisions to take this kind of thing seriously. Also... the owner of the organization, while questioning the folks, said straight to the guy on the yellow tailed bike "I know you hit the guy on the R1." He was a C group rider with a B group sticker. These fools had ruined a day for themselves by being stupid.... not only that... but they ruined the rest of a really great guys track season... and toasted a pretty bad ass R1 in the process. Now this guy has to heal... and put together a new bike.
There was NO accountability in these people. Not only were they practicing unsafe methods of getting into faster, more experienced groups, they were lying to the faces of the control riders (me), the track day organization owner, and the guy that crashed his R1 when some idiot ran into the back of him.
This all brings me to my last point when it comes to ethical track day practices. If you are the cause of a wreck... go straight to the grid and tell someone. You're not going to get into trouble. You might be asked to sit out the rest of the day or maybe a session or two... but you won't be kicked out of the day... you won't have your names sent to every track day organization in the area with red flags next to them, and you'll probably have a laugh later with the guy you ran into.
If you cause a crash, accidentally or otherwise, stick around the scene or go let someone know... and then hopefully... find the person you crashed into and apologize. It is the right thing to do.
This was the first time I had been on the scene of a major crash first. The first time I'd had the thought cross my mind that this guy could be seriously hurt. And the first time I have ever seen a group pulling such unethical ass-hattery. This had me furious... it was on my mind all day long as to how someone could actually not have a good conscious and let someone know they were the cause of someone hurting themselves.
A day at the track should be fun. It should be something you remember for the great time that it is. It shouldn't have you leaving with a broken bike, and a hurt body wondering what the hell happened and not knowing the facts.
The rest of the day? Well... pretty damn epic aside from that 90 minutes of utter confusion.
Thanks for reading. And hope to see you at the track sometime!
Last edited by PowerGroove; 09-03-2013 at 12:13 PM.