Motoworks' Track Day at Gingerman
Fran leans, lives, and learns.
Johnny Scheff of Motoworks, www.motoworkschicago.com, orchestrated his 8th annual trackday at Gingerman Raceway, www.gingermanraceway.com on Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. Gingerman is a favorite track of the go-fast crowd and I always wanted to ride it. The surface is a polymerized asphalt that is nicely abrasive providing good grip without excessively wearing out tires. Johnny had a bunch of Sportbike Track Time (STT) instructors to organize riders and provide tips to those looking to learn a better way of riding. Riders who were completely new to doing a track day were welcomed. Right up front we learned that the primary focus of the day was going to be "Polite and Safe" riding at learning speeds. A rider cannot hope to learn good technique if the rider is too busy being terrified.
The riders were divided into fairly equal groups designated 'Sportbike' for the riders who had some experience and would go pretty fast; and 'Sport-Touring' for riders new to the track and those wishing to go slower for a wide variety of reasons. I had to join the Sport-Touring crowd by default as there was no 'Whimpering Devout Cowards' group for me to join. Thus I cannot attest to anything that happened in the Sportbike group. Tech inspection did not require safety wire nor absence of glycol coolant. Many regular streetbikes played on the day including a Pacific Coast, several dual-sports, adventure bikes, standards, etc. I didn't see any cruisers.
The STT guys and gals led us around the track at a sedate pace for 3 laps, one each at each side of the track and one down the middle of the track. I really enjoyed this because it allayed some of my fears. It is nice to know that when I run a little wide and get off line that I won't see a bad sign on the track that reads, "Beyond here, there be Dragons." After those 3 laps, my STT leader focused on the racing line. Not only did I learn where I should be on the track, but I could hear his bike and learned where to throttle down and back up. Gingerman has some double-apex turns and sweepers that make a rider who doesn't know these things miss-apply the throttle and turn off the best line in many places. These errors are not really dangerous but they accumulate and make for a slow lap. And, let's face it. Part of the entertainment of learning is excepting the challenge to see if we can do better as we go along. There were 7 sessions consisting of 30 minutes on track and 30 minutes off track. I didn't ride the last session as I was too tired and did not want to be on the track circulating if my head was not into the effort to improve my skills. Even so, I recorded 100 miles of speed for the day.
Mr. Scheff did a great job. Johnny provided a BBQ dinner at the track on Sunday night. And he had nice sub sandwiches with all the trimmings for lunch on trackday. Throughout the day, Johnny provided chilled water and 2 flavors of sports drinks to keep everyone nicely hydrated. Camping at the track was $5 and the latrines had hot showers. A block of rooms was reserved at a motel only 6 miles from the track, $125/each for those who like to live in the lap of luxury. The track has electrical sites for those who want to RV camp and plug in. The concession stand opened for breakfast.
All in all, I had a great time and would/will do this again. Everyone was fun and as near as I could tell, everyone had a good time. I certainly learned a few things about going fast and I tuned up my skills markedly. I was in the right group as I got safely passed a few times and made a couple of passes myself. I doubt that I will move to the Sportbike group next year. But I might do it the year after that?
This event books up fairly quickly. My cost was $225. Compared to the price of one speeding ticket, that was the deal of the century considering that it was 100% fun, I learned neat stuff, got fed twice, and hung out with and rode fast for 100 miles with a great bunch of people. Thanks Johnny, you put together a really good event.
In a past blog posting, I wrote about why we don't go to the track. This post hopes to show a few good reasons that we should make a track day part of our annual riding experience. The best part of the track day is that it was fun on so many levels. I got to play with my bike for the sheer joy of it. I didn't have to be particularly fast. I had plenty of time and help to learn to ride better at my own pace. And after the track on my ride home, I felt much more at ease on my bike knowing how much my bike control skills had increased.