Being fast on a bike used to be fairly easy to classify. You were either a road rider, a Track Day Man or a Racer...
It was as simple as that. It didn’t matter how fast road riding man was from a-to-b road, if he hadn’t been on track he hadn’t proved himself. Track day man, regardless of group had one up on road riding man. He’d felt the tension of the condescending safety brief, the faff of showing a wristband and then wrestling a glove back on and had the stickers on his fairing to prove it.
King swinging dick was always the racer. Going fast just wasn’t enough for him, he needed to prove that he was faster than everyone else and was prepared to take a few days off work and live in the back of a van to do so.
The lines have blurred. In recent years the competition to be the fastest at a track day has overtaken the desire to finish mid pack in a club race and the average fast group reflects that perfectly. It’s no bad thing and this isn’t a moan about how racers should stick to racing and leave track days to the rest of us, but it has had a dramatic impact on lap times and pace at the sharp end of a track day.
Ten years ago it was quite common for me to ride a bike to a track day for a road test in SuperBike magazine. That meant I had to carry everything I needed for the day on my back. No fancy race fuel and no tyre warmers. Testing road bikes means they should ideally be in the same spec as the bikes bought off the showroom floor. That means oe tyres, stock exhausts, pump fuel, lights and indicators left as they were intended. Not running warmers meant those first few laps were genuinely needed to rub some heat into the tyres before you could start riding properly. Now they seem to be an inconvenience to most of the group who only moments before pit lane opened were unplugging warmers and rolling out on fresh slicks.
Over the years I’ve seen the amount of other bikes in the fast group with number plates reduce to barely a handful. I used to feel quite proud of myself for not getting in everyone’s way on a road bike and you’d be amazed how much harder someone is willing to push to get past you when you’ve got a magazine name on your leathers like some kind of bullseye. Especially when you know they’ve arrived in a van and they’re riding a track prepared bike that they’re happy to lob into a gravel trap.
I don’t get the chance to get out on track anywhere near as much as I used to. Most of my track time now is in the relative safety of a press launch so everyone is on the same bike and the group sizes are small. The idea of riding a bone stock road bike in the fast group at a decent track day now doesn’t fill me with anywhere near as much excitement as it used to Spend some time on the Trackday addicts Facebook page and you’ll get a feel for what I’m getting at here. Like minded riders looking for the best gearing ratios for this track and the best tow for a good lap at that track. The fast group isn’t what it used to be, I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
- Ex Superbike Chief