Fast Bikes|February 2020
I remember my very first racing meeting and how disappointed I was with the results, although I’d been riding bikes from a very early age; competitive tarmac riding was unknown territory and looking back I was so unprepared. I didn’t even book a track day. My only practice was on a private road in the Lake District, completely illegal, but it gave me a taste for thrashing a 36bhp 125cc Aprilia on what I thought was the racing line. I simply joined a club, applied for my race licence, which didn’t require any examination other than a medical and eye test, paid the fee, and then before I knew it I was on the grid for my first race. I probably didn’t know all the flags at that stage, hadn’t done a race start, and really didn’t have a clue how to string a good lap together. Here’s what I would do now:
Joining a club
Research where you’re most likely going to race and join the closest club, and give support to your local club racing organization. That’s where you will spend a good few years learning the ropes, and without the clubs it would be difficult for anyone to get their first competitive outing.
Applying for a licence can be done on the ACU website. It’s very easy to apply and even easier to renew each year. Once you have submitted your application, you will be required to attend a rider assessment day on a live circuit. This will be a school day and although the team of ACU assessors aren’t scouting for the next Rossi, you are required to show competency and general awareness when on a live track.
An ACU assessment day starts out with a classroom session followed by a short examination. This takes up most of the morning and you will be marked on the day. After the classroom and theory exam have finished, the group is split into smaller teams of six riders and you will head out on track for your riding assessment, not a test, just a look at how you currently ride the bike, read the track and awareness of any flag signals and the other riders on circuit. It’s unlikely you would fail this part for lack of pace, but you may fail if you don’t adhere to flag signals and thereby put your fellow riders at risk.
Your toughest test will probably be the live race starts and this part of the day has caught a few riders out, mainly down to having massive expectation and putting themselves under too much pressure. I’ve been an ACU assessor for a number of years and the start procedure is the most intense part. You are given a number at the start of the day and this will be your grid position for this section of the assessment. Your assigned ACU instructor will look after your group of six (covering two rows) and it’s the same for each of the three practice starts.
- Your first practice start is actually a warm-up procedure. Once all riders are lined up then you will all set off at a sensible, brisk pace once the Green flag has been waved and continue back to the grid.
- Your second practice start will be done in your groups, so two rows at a time, and will follow the Red light out start procedure. If you do stall on the line, make sure you follow the correct procedure and that could prevent you from being failed.
- This is your mass start procedure. My advice is to get off the line and drive reasonably hard in to 2nd gear and don’t worry about getting the holeshot. I know of two riders crashing out because they pushed too hard after the start procedure and failed because of this.
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