Sandia Motorcycle Roadracing, Inc.
New Rider Director: Kevin Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dates/times for Race School in 2021: TBD
Information about getting your race license by Kimberly Prichard
So... you're interested in racing?
I expect you’re reading this because you’re interested in racing. That’s good. The first step to racing is admitting you have a problem... err, passion. I mean passion. Yes, the first step in racing is having a passion for the sport. In fact, passion is probably the only absolutely universal characteristic of any racer’s race program. Bikes differ, tires differ, budgets differ, but every racer is passionate about two wheels and going fast on them.
That’s why I’m writing this letter and the related documents. After many years of wanting to race for real, I took the plunge and the decision resulted in an amazing first season that was one of the best experiences of my life. The following is what I learned and it will help you take the steps toward joining us on the track and learning about yourself and your machine in the coolest form of competition on the face of the Earth.
Since the biggest conspirator against your racing program (for most people anyway) is money, let’s talk about that first. Yes, this sport is expensive– almost foolishly at the basic level and disgustingly expensive at the high level.
If you ask what most racers’ budgets are, you’ll probably hear, “All of it”. However, that’s not to say you need to be crazy-rich to be competitive and have a good time. You just need to spend your money wisely and possibly make a few lifestyle changes. The latter will be easy once you get on the racetrack because after a few laps that big screen LCD TV you’ve had your eye on doesn’t seem so necessary anymore.
You might want to include your significant-other in this initial budget/planning phase. Or not. Once you figure out how much you’re going to spend on racing, you should start thinking about where to spend it.
The four main components of your racing program will be safety equipment, a motorcycle, track time, and tires. You may also spend a chunk on transportation if you’re coming in from out of state, but you might be able to minimize this if you hook up with others in your area and share gas money. Your priority should be to get the best safety equipment you can afford. Now that doesn’t mean a $1K racer replica Arai helmet, but you need to get stuff that will keep you safe on the racetrack and this usually means mid-high end stuff.
Education and Track Time
Once you have the gear sorted out, budget for as much track time as you can afford. Commit to running the entire season of racing and as many track days and schools as you can fit in. Track time and schools are the best performance modification you can make to your racing program. Read that last sentence again, please.
Another significant budget item will be how many tires you will buy. This can range from a few months per set of tires to a few sets per month…and depends very much on how fast you are. Get to know one of the trackside tire vendors and listen to them. If they say you need tires, buy them. Running “take-offs” (which are basically tires used only for a session or so by super-fast guys, these are hard to come by at Sandia because the track surface is REALLY hard on tires. As a mid-pack expert racer I burn up a rear tire at every race day, the faster guys do it in two races here.) can save you some coin, but new tires are a lot cheaper than rebuilding a motorcycle after a fall.
The best advice I received about tires from an expert racer was: If you have ANY doubts about your tires, change them. Tires are less costly than repairs or medical bills.
Next, let’s talk about the bike. Ironically this is probably the least important part of a successful first season.
A small twin like the Suzuki SV650 or Kawasaki Ninja 250/300/400 or one of the Japanese 600cc 4-cylinder bikes are probably your best options and easiest to come by. Both have their advantages, so take your pick. Then you need to figure out if you’re going to buy a used race bike or convert a street bike.
Buying a used race bike is usually a better option, but converting a street bike can be done reasonably if you make the effort to hunt for deals. The bottom line is, keep it simple.
Most modern sport bikes will be more than adequate in bone-stock trim. Most of the front runners in the Novice Classes are on bikes with stock motors and stock suspension. All you really need to do to any bike is make sure it complies with the rule book, get a few spare handlebars and foot pegs, and then race it.
The one thing I would recommend is a visit to a track side suspension guy. He’ll help you get the bike setup and advise you on any suspension mods that might be necessary.
Focus and Mental Preparation
Something that is often overlooked when people get into racing is the mental preparation and approach. You could argue that this is the most important component of a successful racing program.
Racing is dangerous and, if it costs a lot of money to do correctly, it costs WAY more when done incorrectly. The financial and mental costs of frequent crashes are major setbacks in your progression– not to mention they can kill you. Fast lap times don’t come overnight, they take careful attention to the individual components of you and your machine.
Body position, reference points, and racing lines are a few things to understand, but knowing your limits and how to slowly explore those limits will lay the foundation for progression. It should feel easy. Just like a drummer doesn’t get better by hitting the drums harder, you don’t get faster by riding harder. Try to think about focusing on a smooth, repeatable lap before trying to push anything faster.
Motorcycle racing is never going to be safe, but when approached with respect and humility the odds of getting faster and having the time of your life are in your favor. Besides, it’s still a lot safer than racing on public roads or in the canyons. You will not be the fastest rider out there– the key is to not try to beat the faster riders, but learn from them. Once you understand what they’re doing, beating those riders will come naturally.
Make Friends at the Track
A few final recommendations: Get to know the track side vendors, other racers, and your mentor. They are very willing and enabling... I mean willing and helpful… so get to know them and take it all in. Also, make sure you come prepared. I can’t overstate this enough. Whether you’re attending your New Racer School, first race weekend, second race weekend, track day, or whatever, there’s a ton of stuff to do and keep track of– make sure it’s all done weeks before you’re supposed to be at the track. Trust me, you’ll need those weeks. Now go get planning and follow your passion for two-wheels with us on the racetrack. I and the rest of the club hope to see you out there next season.
Alright now after you've read all that, you're really excited to go racing, right?!! I'll bet you are asking what your next steps are, right? First thing you need to do is send Kevin Gibson an email. The New Rider Director will have a list of students who are interested in the class there will need be at least 3 students to make teaching the race school work. Really, think about it. What fun is a mock race against yourself? That's why you'll want to get some friends to do the school with you.
Just like most things there are some things you are going to have to do before we let you enter your first race. First things first, you'll need to create an account on this site to give us all the required information about yourself. You've sent me an email right? You'll need to be an AMA member, this is who we get our insurance through, so there isn't a way around it. Then of course there is payment to the club. The cost for the school is $200. Now, before you decide against this here is what you get for your money:
- Track day
- Minimum of 3 hours of classroom sessions
- On-track drills
- 1 on 1 instruction during the track day
- Track Walk on Saturday morning to discuss the lay out and strategies of how to race it
- Race line discussion and demos
- Mock race on Saturday
- Free entrance into Super Street Class (2 races!)
To pass the school you will have to attend the full classroom session, on track sessions, past the written test, complete the mock race and not crash on your first race weekend. After passing, you will be able to sign up for a Club Membership. Once purchased, you'll have a printed race license and get into the track for free for the rest of the year (no gate fees).
Items that you will need:
Protective gear: This is the most important stuff you can buy for your racing program. It needs to fit well to keep you comfortable and be durable and protective to keep you safe in a crash.
Leathers – A lot of “entry-level” racing suits from the major manufacturers now offer tremendous protection, so while you should always buy the best you can afford, it’s not necessary to spend $2000 on a suit. Fit is very important to safety, so make sure it’s snug.
Boots – This is where spending a lot seems to increase protection. Definitely buy the best boots you can afford, because it is money well spent.
Gloves – You’ll need a full gauntlet that covers your wrist, Kevlar stitching. High-end gloves are usually made from thinner materials for better feel; they however don’t necessarily offer better protection. Gloves with a Velcro adjustable strap at the wrist will also increase the chances of your gloves staying on in a crash.
Helmet – All Snell 2010, DOT or ECE rated helmets will be safe enough to pass certification. Generally, the more you spend the lighter and cooler the helmet will be. Fit is the most important feature of a helmet. Your best protection is to buy what fits you best. A race helmet should be tighter in the cheek pads than a helmet used for street. All helmets must have a manufacture date no more than five years ago.
Back Protector –Make sure they are all at least Level 2 Certified.
Chest Protector – These are optional at this point, but a very good idea
Undershirt and Shorts – UnderArmor or Virus or similar is nice because it helps the leathers slide on and off easily and helps prevent rug-burn inside your suit if you take a tumble.
Ear Plugs – These are absolutely necessary to prevent hearing damage. They also help you relax while riding as well as allow you to hear your bike instead of wind noise. I’ve known a number of racers who say they don’t like them…until they tried them. Do your hearing a favor: give them a try if you don’t already use them.
Extra Knee Sliders – Always have an extra set on hand. These are also available from trackside vendors.
Motorcycle: Basic Prep (required)
These are basic modifications/additions you’ll need to perform to have a race-legal motorcycle. CHECK THE RULEBOOK AND YOUR MENTOR!!!
Motorcycle – There are a couple of options for how to go about finding a bike. You can either race prep your existing street bike or buy an already prepped race bike. Often buying a prepped bike is a slightly better option because you end up getting more for your money. You also don’t have to worry about crashing a pristine street bike. Regardless of the route you choose, it is best for new racers to stay away from the big bikes (1000cc bikes). 600cc or smaller bikes are easy to find and a great platform for a new racer. Liter bikes are unforgiving. There is a good reason that the track records at Sandia are held by 600s.
Bodywork – At the very least, you need a catch can to catch any oil or fluids that might blow out of your engine if something goes bang. Ideally, full race body work with a belly pan is best. Hotbodies, Armor Bodies, and Sharkskins are reputable companies. As with most things, you get what you pay for. Cheap race body work usually has issues with fit and requires prep before it can be painted. My Armor bodies fit great and required no prep before they were painted. Another brand I used to save money took hours to fit and needed a great deal of sanding before it was ready for paint.
Case Covers – Not required for racing with SMRI but they are an excellent idea. They are required by most other clubs; exception being if there is not any commercially available for your make and model of bike.
Coolant Change – Anti-freeze must be taken out, water in. It’s not uncommon to have to flush and fill your radiator ten times to get all the glycol out. Water-Wetter, or Motul are approved additive options.
Frame Sliders – Look for these from Woodcraft or Vortex.
Shark Fin or Sprocket Protector – Woodcraft makes a nice one. These aren’t required for SMRI (take that to mean that they are required for a few other clubs), they could keep you from losing a toe or two.
Transponder – The MyLaps X2 Transponder (most current model they sell, most of the racers who’ve been around for a while have the 260. These are also the ones that we rent out) are required for practice sessions and races. Without one you will not be scored for points in your races. They can be rented from the club for $40 a day or you can go to MyLaps.com. They have them for sale and for rent for a year at a time. You can also find them by searching the For Sale sections of most race club forums. My advice is if you’re racing the entire season, just bite the bullet and buy one. You can easily use it for a season or four and then turn around and sell it for $300 when you are done racing. (Like that will ever happen.) Note: Lap times and finishing positions are determined using the transponder so you must have one to be scored. Can you tell yet what points, we’ve had issues with in the past yet?
Steering Damper – These are a great mod if your bike doesn’t come with one stock. SMRI doesn’t require them, most other clubs do. Consider these as a safety item, and get one even though it isn’t a requirement. Scotts, PitBull or GPR are very popular units.
Safety Wiring – This will take some time and broken drill bits. www.probolt-usa.com has beautiful pre-drilled bolt kits that save a ton of time. If the bolt is related to fluid retention, or would keep important things like brake calipers or wheels from falling off SAFETY WIRE IT!!!! You can do Google searches for more details on how to drill if you need more than is provided at the end of this document.
Race Numbers and SMRI Decals – Basic numbers are available at most shops and the SMRI stickers can be found at Tech. Again, read the rule book regarding number requirements. If you are a Novice you are required to have a yellow number plate and a three digit number. The number should be readable from 100 feet away. Only Experts get to use white plates, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t match the paint scheme on your bike.
Tank Sliders – These are required if you’re on a 2006/07 R6 (good idea for all 2006+ R6s) unless you would like to host a bonfire around your bike. Google it, you’ll find it happens more frequently than you would think.
Fuel – Is not provided at the track. Pump gas is fine and cheap. It’s not necessary to run race fuel.
SIGN ME UP!!!
You're ready for race school? Awesome! Once you've picked a date, you can sign up and pay for the school via the online links in the "Events" section. If you have any questions about the school, what you should bring, or anything else, simply send Kevin an email at: email@example.com. See you on the track!