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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-3-2009, 10:02 AM Thread Starter
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Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing
Author: K3 Chris Onwiler
http://www.trackdaymag.com/Articles/...to-Racing.aspx

Are you sure you want to go there?


At any track day event, you’ll find a few riders who have taught themselves to be really fast. When such folks compare their lap times to those of the local club racers, a strange thing often occurs. Based on their performance, these track day superstars start going on about the success they’d enjoy if they could be bothered to actually compete. By their logic, the great and indisputable lap timer indicates that they’d win every race they entered as amateurs. Having made short work of the yellow plate crowd, they’d then only need to step it up another few seconds to be victorious as experts. From there, a factory ride would be pretty much guaranteed. As gratifying as it is for these guys to speculate about where their riding abilities could conceivably take them, there’s a basic fact that such riders don’t seem to consider. Although track days and racing may look alike and take place at the same venues, they are two very different activities.

If you’re considering a competition career, it’s important that you base your decision upon reality. There are some ugly truths about the sport that you should understand before you begin. Much of what you’ll read here will go against popular perception but if you doubt the validity of what is written, simply ask a few of the racers in your area for their thoughts. When you’re seeking knowledge, it pays to consider numerous opinions.

The ability to run fast lap times dBrainerd 1oes not make you a racer; competition makes you a racer.

There are those who will be violently offended by the statement above but it is absolutely true. Cutting hot laps merely shows that you have the potential to be a competitor; it does not earn the title for you . Racing is about far more than being quick. If your experience is limited to track days, then you’ve never seen just how serious real racing can be. There is a vast difference between cranking off a few hot laps towards the end of a twenty minute track session and doing it from a standing start, bar to bar with several other highly motivated riders who want nothing more that to beat you to the checkered flag. The racers you’ve ridden with during a track day have never shown what they’re truly capable of, for several reasons. First, an experienced racer is intimately aware that speed is both expensive and risky. In competition, if he can run a pace three seconds per lap slower than his best and still earn first place, he’ll do so rather than ride flat out and take the chance of blowing up or crashing. At a track day, there’s nothing for a competitor to win and everything to lose. Also, racers are painfully aware that they need to be on their best behavior at a track day. Like wolves at the all-you-can-eat buffet, they know full well that if someone’s arm gets bitten off, they’ll catch the blame, regardless of who made the mistake. Unlike racing, the skill level of track day participants runs the full spectrum. In this environment, experienced competitors ramp their aggression levels down to about what would be socially acceptable on the freeway. One thing they’ll absolutely never do is to give you a serious race during a track day. Before that happens, you’ll need to have earned your license, proven yourself as a competitor and earned their trust in close quarters. Then they’ll see you on the grid and you’d better be ready. Try one of these guys in actual competition and he’ll race you far harder for last place than he ever would for the “win” in an advanced session.

Racing is vastly more expensive than track day riding.

If you decide to make the jump to competition, you’ll find yourself paying far more money for substantially less track time. The same cash you’ll drop for eight twenty-minute sessions at a track day will net you a pair of fifteen minute practices and two or three short sprints at a race weekend. Have you ever felt tired or sore at a track day and gone home early? You’ll never consider skipping a race once you’ve entered it unless your bike, body or both are damaged beyond any possibility of making the grid. The mindset when you’re racing is just completely different.

You have no hope of earning sponsorship.

Sorry! You absolutely don’t want to hear this but it’s true. No matter how fast you may be, sponsorship is not in your future. Yes, you might manage to find a company willing to give you a paint job, a free helmet or a discount on parts or labor but no one is going to write a check for you to go club racing. If you doubt this, ask the five most successful competitors in your region who is paying for their program. The answer is that they are. In the rare event that you run across a really well financed club level team, some digging will reveal that the company paying for the show belongs to one of the team’s riders, a very close friend or a relative. Aside from such a golden spoon scenario, there simply isn’t any sponsorship money available to the club racer, regardless of how good he might be. The reason is simple. At a club race, there is no TV, no press coverage and no crowd of spectators. Whatever exposure a potential sponsor might get is basically limited to the competitors in attendance, their families and any other warm bodies who have decided to tag along. Worse, these “potential customers” are all racer-broke! Any company considering sponsorship would need to be selling competition parts or gear to stand any chance of making a buck from them. Such companies do exist but their owners (or the owner’s kids) are almost always the sponsored racers. The bottom line is that if you want to go racing, you’ll either need to burn through your parents’ retirement fund or pay for it yourself.

You’ll never score a factory ride.

So what about that factory ride? Surely you could get there if you’re really good, right? Well, maybe. If you’re just getting started then you’d better be five years old. These days a pro prospect needs to have ten years of competition under his belt before he turns fifteen and if he hasn’t made it at least as far as a satellite team by the time he’s twenty, the rider’s future is beginning to look less like MotoGP and more like Mc Donald’s. Obviously, kids that young aren’t paying their own way. This type of career building is a family affair and for every clan named Hayden or Bostrum, there are dozens of others whose prodigy fell short of the brass ring. The going might be easier if your dad is named Rossi, Roberts or Duhamel but even then you’d better measure up or you’ll be gone in a hurry. Sure, if you really do well as a club racer you can qualify for an AMA license but even when you get to the big leagues, you’ll most likely be paying your own way as a privateer. To quote a very old and very true saying, “You can make a small fortune in racing. You simply need to start with a large fortune.”

The dark side of racing.

Track days are all about the fun of riding fast and challenging yourself. You’d think that racing would be the same, right? Well, that is how it starts out but things become far more serious in a hurry. In the free-for-all environment of track days there are a million built-in excuses for being slower than the next rider, such as bike type, skill level and equipment. If a guy on a 1098 Ducati with top-shelf Ohlins, Marchesini and Brembo everything smokes past your tired, bone stock old 600, you don’t feel so bad. In racing though, you’re grouped for competition by displacement, level of machine prep and rider experience. Not only has the playing field been leveled but there will be trophies and contingency for the winners. At this point, either you win or you suck.

Racing tests not only your ability to win but also your ability to lose. Can you handle being beaten? What lengths will you go to for the top spot on the podium? If your opponents show up with all the best equipment and throw on new tires for every eight lap sprint, will you accept that this is beyond your financial means or will you find a way to get the things you need to step up? People have been known to lie, cheat, steal and deal in order to stay in the game. Longtime racers can tell you horror stories of competitors who’ve ruined their lives trying to stay in the sport. Personal relationships suffer when everything else becomes secondary to one’s racing obsession. The divorce rate in this sport is high. People have driven themselves to physical or financial ruin. Many have lost jobs or thriving businesses. More than a few have turned to supporting their racing budgets by illegal methods and have eventually traded their leathers for prison jumpsuits.

The justification for such behavior may elude you now but can easily begin to make perfect sense once you start to compete. It’s simply a matter of weighing how much time, money and personal risk you’ve already invested into racing against the additional amount which you perceive will be needed to achieve your goals. The deeper you go, the easier it becomes to make ever more irrational decisions in order to continue. At some point you’ll find yourself suiting up as the sutures from your latest collection of plates and screws seep blood intAlone with the demonso your Under Armor or pulling a borrowed helmet on over a concussed brain. Seeing double? Aim for the middle! Racing can actually make decisions as bad as these seem perfectly logical.

Finding a happy compromise

If you’re beginning to think that racing sounds more like a narcotics addiction than an enjoyable pastime, you’re catching on. It can literally become so bad that you hate racing with every fiber of your being but can’t bring yourself to truly care about anything else. Racing doesn’t automatically become an obsessive, destructive force in your life but will happily go there if you let it. Most folks can drink socially while others become raging alcoholics. Many people buy lottery tickets but some gamble until they’ve lost everything and a loan shark is looking to cut off their fingers. Maintaining a healthy attitude towards racing requires controlling desires which can easily consume you if you’re not careful. This sport can grant you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It is often stated that the average racer stays in the game for two and a half years. By then, he’s been financially, physically or spiritually broken. Most likely, all three will have played a part in his desire to quit.

If this article reads like a cautionary tale, then so be it. Racers will tell you that there’s nothing better than their chosen obsession but then so will cocaine addicts. Can you remain happy and satisfied if you never venture beyond the safe haven of track days? There are a thousand good reasons to do exactly that and absolutely no dishonor if this is your choice. On the other hand, if competition is something that you simply need to experience then do it, if only so that you won’t have regrets later. Racing can be the grand adventure of your lifetime or it can be the thing that destroys you. The choice is yours.


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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-3-2009, 10:18 AM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

I'm thinking about taking the plunge next year. That's a nice sobering reminder that club level road racing is similar in many ways to my days motocross racing.

I can still say I miss it though

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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-3-2009, 1:13 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Good Job Slugger,

I could not have written better, Your post ought to be printed at the top of every race school entry form.

I was lucky to have raced only stock EXs. Thereby limiting the financial burden, But new tries every weekend? you betcha A spare Penske in the tool box? only one?

As far as competing. I have beaten many fellows that were faster than me, because they simply were afraid to race me close. In that circumstance, my bike got very wide.

In spec racing where all the bike are even. The only passes are "Stuff passes". That is jamming in the inside and out braking the guy to stand him up, then forcing him off line. Very dangerous stuff.
I finally quit because my Physical strength did not match my brains determination to beat that fellow in front of me, regardless of the risk.
I have two dear friends in wheelchairs now form one race too many.

Be sure of what you want, or be the dog that caught the car.

FOG

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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-3-2009, 1:21 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Quote:
Originally Posted by FOG
In spec racing where all the bike are even. The only passes are "Stuff passes". That is jamming in the inside and out braking the guy to stand him up, then forcing him off line. Very dangerous stuff.
I finally quit because my Physical strength did not match my brains determination to beat that fellow in front of me, regardless of the risk.
Motocross was much the same; a two wheeled boxing match. I was at it with my brother for 7 years. I quit to pay for college. Some days I'm thinking, "fuck yeah I wanna race again." and other days I feel I should just keep it to track days. Motocross is considerably cheaper than road racing though. At least at the amateur level.

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-3-2009, 1:27 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

This was a great read, thanks for posting it.
post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-9-2010, 12:40 AM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Nice find!

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-9-2010, 10:48 AM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Quote:
Originally Posted by fetherston
I'm thinking about taking the plunge next year. That's a nice sobering reminder that club level road racing is similar in many ways to my days motocross racing.

I can still say I miss it though
Funny to see this thread from last year. I went supermoto racing instead. Super fun, much cheaper, arguably safer and we have jumps!

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-21-2010, 11:40 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

wow good write up knight.. knight if i wanted to get my ex ready for track days and maybe one day club racing were would i look to find what is needed and also can you take an 500 into club racing and how far into racing can you go with a 500?

I just got a 2005 NINJA 500 R and i love it... Oh and Star Wars is a true story lol jk..&nbsp; no really it is
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-21-2010, 11:44 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Thank Chris Onwiler for the wright up. K3 wrote it up for his Mag. Trackdaymag.com.

Look into the organization's rule book before you set your heart at anything racing. Set your bike up for racing, but do trackdays or schools for the first years or two. after that you'll have a pretty good idea as to how expensive a season is and what you can afford to stick into a race weekend. You may need to set cash aside for a personal transponder (CCS is talking about this for next year, a $450 extra "racing tax").

after that, it's all machine and rider rules. follow them, you'll be alright.


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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-21-2010, 11:51 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

VERY good read. Thanks. I'll stick to my track days. Too much fun, no pressure, not toooooooo expensive.
post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-21-2010, 11:51 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

sorry for the pm did not think my reply posted sorry. my hearts not set on racing yet their is a school here in vegas i want to do but i just got a 6r and was thinking of making my 500 a track bike

I just got a 2005 NINJA 500 R and i love it... Oh and Star Wars is a true story lol jk..&nbsp; no really it is
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-22-2010, 10:59 AM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

I can't believe I didn't see this when it was originally posted. Pretty sobering stuff. These are some things I have been considering while I am planning for next year. I'm certainly less gung ho about racing than I was last year or even this spring.

I met Chris this year when he was in for CCS races. The sponsoring club was hoping to have him do some instruction at the licensing clinic that they hold during track days. In the club discussions prior to the day, they talked about him like he is the shit.


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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 9-22-2010, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Quote:
Originally Posted by hooligan
I can't believe I didn't see this when it was originally posted. Pretty sobering stuff. These are some things I have been considering while I am planning for next year. I'm certainly less gung ho about racing than I was last year or even this spring.

I met Chris this year when he was in for CCS races. The sponsoring club was hoping to have him do some instruction at the licensing clinic that they hold during track days. In the club discussions prior to the day, they talked about him like he is the shit.
He's a good fella. he goes like stink, but i've never focused on how well he does when he races.


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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 6-14-2011, 12:11 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

now that I'm officially a racer, I have to disagree with the way some of those initial points were phrased.

Racing does not have to be more expensive than trackdays. Per lap, it probably will be, but I can register for 1 race, or 8. With a trackday, I have to buy the full day no matter what. I could do 1 race this weekend for $75, and go home. A trackday costs me ~$165

The initial buy-in for racing is more. No argument there. My transponder cost a lot, and my race license cost more than some trackday club memberships, but the fees aren't that bad. This weekend I'm doing 4 races, and I get 6 practice sessions. This is costing me $70 LESS than riding back-to-back trackdays at the same facility.

The difference increases at more expensive facilities, where the race fees remain the same, but the trackday fees would be higher. I could do 5 races at (and 6 practice sessions) at Mid-Ohio for $325 (over 2 days). Each single day at Mid-O costs $195 for a trackday.

What I will acknowledge is that to be competitive in a race, you do need to buy tires more often. That said, I'm not trying to buy a win with more expensive rubber more often. I'm burning up a Q2 rear approximately every 4-5 days. I'll flip the rear Saturday afternoon at this event, unless it looks like rain on Sunday.


Sponsorship is another thing that you CAN get if you approach it right. Contingency programs are really easy to sign up for; you just have to place high enough for it to matter. Outside sponsorship IS really hard to get, but not impossible. "hey, do you want to sponsor me?" is a terrible way to go about it. "Hi, I race 10 times a year in front of approximately 400 people a weekend. By definition, they're all interest in motorcycles, or they wouldn't be there. I wanted to see if it would make sense for us to do some collaborative marketing. I would put your logo, phone number, and web site on my bike and pit canopy, and have your business cards for distribution, and then in exchange, I would like to get my tires mounted and balanced at your shop free of charge...." And so on.

Getting cash from a "sponsor" is highly unlikely, but trading your blank canvas of a bike for discounts or free service at their shop isn't unreasonable. I'm currently talking to the guy who just repaired my wife's SUV about him giving me a free paint job and a few tires. In exchange, he gets to display my bike at a few events, put it in his shop window during the week, and he can put his logo on it however/wherever he wants (as long as it remains WERA legal).

All I really want is the 2 rears and 1 front tire he's willing to chip in.

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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 5-21-2012, 12:26 PM
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Re: Making the Jump from Track Days to Racing

Excellent summary of the differences between lapping quickly and racing.

I've been down this road all the way (to "broke") and now I am back to the occasional track day on a bike, with a few hundred thousand dollars spent and lots of exciting memories and a lot of skills I didn't have a clue about when I began this enthralling sport of motorsport racing.

The simple part of this is learning how to get around a track very quickly. It's easy, but it is just a small fraction of what you must learn to be a even half-way successful privateer or club racer. Many enthusiasts will quickly feel like they've 'conquered' it when they can put up consistently fast lap times... and they begin to assume they are almost 'racers' because they can go faster than most people they ride with...Man, is that ever delusional! I just grin (inside) when someone tells me they "were the fastest at ____________ track day..."nobody passed me, all day!"....

At this point, this rider ready to go to Racer School and then start a real race with a big "X" on their number to let the experienced racers out there give em lots of room....Now the Newbie must contend with other's who are going to want that same piece of track. Now the Fast rider has become the Slow racer. Racecraft becomes more important than pure lap speed. Any mistake, any momentary lapse and it's going to cost you positions. It's like: "I think I will have tacos tonight." Then about midnight you wake up with indigestion and can't get back to sleep. You are a bit tired at the start from no sleep? Mistake! Don't eat tacos the night before the race...Little things like that that don't matter much at a track day...but are all important at a race.
"Hey", you think as you leave the starting grid, "Did I really remember everything?" and as you ponder that, two guys dive past into the first corner....THEY remembered everything...

It's all fun...but in the end, you will only race to the level of your finances. Even in Formula One this year there is a driver who pays his own way with millions of petro dollars and he won a race this year. Bought his way onto a good ride, then had the skill to go with the cash....but without the cash...he would not be in that F-1 seat...he'd be driving a Spec Miata or racing lawnmowers...Still fun, I imagine...
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post #16 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-28-2018, 5:43 PM
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As a 17 years motocross racer I can see where street racing good get pretty expensive. I guess the fact that I don't have a bike that will fit in a class very well makes racing probably a moot point. Plus I don't need any more surgeries. I had plenty racing moto.
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