The creative tutorial home of image wrangler, Lesa Snider.

Track Day at Barber Motorsports Park

July 24, 2006 by

“FRACKING BREATHE!” I screamed to myself inside the helmet as I plunged deep into turn 1: a downhill 90-degree left hander with 25 testosterone-laden guys on crotchrockets of 650cc + hot on my Suzi’s 500cc tail.

This past Saturday was the scariest day of my life--my very first track day. How fast did I go? I couldn’t tell you. Not once could I spare the attention required to actually look at the speedometer.

I did glance at the tach from time to time to make sure we weren’t redlined, as I couldn’t spare the attention necessary for shifting past 3rd. Negotiating sharp elevation changes resulting in blind hairpin and decreasing radius turns, camber changes, a chicane, and the most evil downhill into an decreasing right-hander (imagine the tightest u-turn possible) I’ve ever seen and WHERE IS MY LINE WHEN I CAN’T SEE THE NEXT TURN demanded all the processing power I had to spare. Not to mention the high-pitched whine of other so-called novices (ha!) as they zipped past me ON BOTH SIDES AND SOMETIMES IN A CORNER. Oh, did I mentioned you must either tape or remove your mirrors? Here’s our friend Dewayne preparing to “tech” my bike on the left. Oh yes, doing a track day is a major event.

To be honest, I felt like I’d been plopped into the middle of a MotoGP race, trying to keep up with Hayden and Rossi in order to follow their lines. Bloody hell, what had I gotten myself into?!

I had gotten myself into this, to be exact, to learn how to corner properly so I can go faster. See, I like going fast. I wanted to learn how to hang my ass off the bike, therefore decreasing the lean angle of Suzi herself. However, there was no ass-hanging on this particular trip. There was clenching, to be quite sure, but no hanging!

Lest I make it sound like a traumatic experience (though it kind of was), there was a lot of fun intermixed with sheer fear and however crazy it sounds I’m itching to do it again. I did learn some stuff, like when you go into a turn, you’ve got to TURN and that the novices at this particular track day weren’t really novices at all(and certainly not beginning riders like myself). This tidbit I discovered heading into turn 1 when every guy ahead of me slid their asses clear off the seat. I thought that’s what we were here to learn!!!

Nevertheless, I rode the track, I didn’t crash, and I got in a full three laps during each session (even though the instructors buggered off after the first lap of each session--they like going fast too!). I’m really glad I did it, and besides, this quite possibly was the first time an Apple logo has ever graced a pro racetrack :)

Now I’m more determined than ever to learn more (I’m reading Twist of the Wrist practically as I type). In fact, here’s our friend Dewayne, who actually races, showing me how to hang off the SV650. Oh sure it feels natural while the bike is on a stand, but in real life? My brain thinks my ass should stay put! Maybe next time the only thing I’ll scrape is a knee puck instead of the entire side of my left foot (thank Thor I didn’t react and managed to hold both my throttle and lean angle steady).

A huge thanks to Catt of the Beginners & Beyond forum for getting me involved (she’s pictured at right on her Suzuki SV650), and to her man Dewayne for being the best pit bitch ever (thanks to him, Catt and I stayed hydrated in the 100+ temperatures!). And thanks to my husband Shawn for all the wonderful pictures (sigh--if only I didn’t look like a 12-year old kid in them; I hate that!).

Wish me luck on getting home from Calgary (where this plane is headed now) early enough on Friday in order to join Catt in Talledega at the Superspeedway for another track day--on a slightly more forgiving track--this Saturday. Vroom vroom!