Riding Hallett circuit August, 2007
Note: This is a continuation of the track day preparation article. We are following M, Blind Man, and Swoosie through a day at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Oklahoma. The story is being told through the eyes of M.
Sarah (Swoosie) and I woke up around 4:00 AM-ish and got ready to head out. We double-checked our gear before leaving, and pulled out of my driveway at 5:20 AM.
Our first stop was QuikTrip to ice down the case of bottled water and Gatorade I had in the cooler. Sarah and I also got some munchies for breakfast. This QuikTrip was out of ice, so we headed towards the next closest one. Luckily, the next one had ice.
We headed to Hallett. As I exited, I called David (Blind Man) to see if he was at the track yet. David replied that he was still in his driveway dealing with some problems. When David tied down his EX250, the front fairing cracked and the headlight/fairing support broke. See FAQ for ways to avoid this.
Sarah and I arrived at 7:15 AM and found the other Tulsa riders we were to meet up with. We got the cycles unloaded and headed to the 7:30 AM driver's meeting. David arrived right at 7:30 AM and made the meeting, too.
After the meeting, we went back to the paddock and once again went over our cycles, double-checking everything.
There were four groups this day; Race (you had to have a racer's license), Street-A (the fast, non-racers group), Street-B (the not-as-fast, non-racers group), and Novice (newcomers and geriatric unit). Sarah, David and I also signed up for a program called HART. This provided us with instruction, both on-and-off track, from six professional riders. The track day was $100 and the HART option was an extra $30. That's probably the most astute $30 I've spent this year...
As the race group went out, the HART participants went to the classroom for instruction. The first thing stressed in the classrooms was safety. Safety was obviously of paramount importance at this track. The flags were explained, along with the rules of the track (entering, exiting, passing, hand signals, etc.).
We then headed out to the track for our first session. The instructors advised that there would be four lines, each one following an instructor around the track. I was about fifth in line in my group. The instructor entered the track and the line followed. At turn one the rider in front of me slowed down to a brisk walk while the riders ahead put several hundred meters of distance ahead of us. We were not to pass on this first session. So, I and the riders behind me followed the slow rider (30-40mph on the straights and 5mph in the turns) while we lost sight of the instructor and lines we were supposed to be learning. At the end of lap one, the rider in front of me was pulled from the track, along with a few other riders who were keeping a 50mph or so pace.
Another instructor flew up in front of me and signaled me to follow her. All right, now I get to see the proper lines! The first session was mostly uneventful, but thrilling to be on the track! I concentrated on memorizing the track layout (10 turns over 1.8 miles) and also the best lines.
The race group in session two
One thing to notice in this photo is the change of elevation at this track. If you've ever seen a race on TV, it probably just looks like a series of left and right turns, and you don't notice the hills, off-camber turns (where the surface angle goes against the turn) and little imperfections that a track has. In other words, it's just like real life, excepting the Buick-driving granny who wants to pull out in front of you.
Hallett is a fast track, where some riders in the race group were hitting 170mph+ on the two long straightaways. The race group went through most turns faster than I went on the straightaways.
After track session one, we headed back to the classroom for more instruction. The group was reamed out (rightfully so) for some safety concerns while on the track. The instructors reinforced the need for safety and the responsibilities of each rider. They then went over each turn with the class, explaining the best lines and setting up for the next section of the course.
Each class session was about 30 minutes, so we had some down time, as each track session for the 4 groups was 20-25 minutes.
Safer does not mean crash-free. Here was crash #1 from our group
No, he's not standing up. The momentum flipped him up from sliding on his back. The cycle is still sliding too.
Here's crash #2 from our group
Here's crash #3 from our group; he's most likely been there before
Our second session on the track was a hoot for me. We were now allowed to pass. The instructors hooked up with some riders for some one-on-one instruction, while the rest of us entered the track and took off. I wound the EX250 up and was at about 60mph into turn one. Coming out of turn one about four other cycles blew by me on the outside (outside passing only for our group).
I got into a groove and found myself catching up to some of the other riders in the tighter portions of the track. The rest of the time, they blew by me on the straights, with some in our group hitting 120mph+ in the straights. As a comparison, I never left third gear the whole day. I was bouncing off the rev limiter on the straights, but wanted to concentrate on the turns rather than the straights. The only place I had to brake on the track all day was for turn two. I used engine braking the rest of the time.
Swoosie's EX250 and my EX250 in between a session
The instructors also advised the group to be aware of our youngest rider on the course, who was eleven years old. He was riding a sport bike (RS125) that had a 150CC engine.
In classroom session three, the instructors emphasized body placement (off the seat, boots location) and steering with your foot pegs and legs. It was then time for some rest before session three.
In session three I got behind David and followed him for the first lap. He had pretty good form, and was actively working on leaning far off the seat (unlike me, who was only off a little at a time, getting used to it). The only bad form I saw was the legs wide when not in a turn and the boots almost on the heels, rather than the balls. After lap one, David rocketed down the straightaway, not to be seen again until after this session. I had hoped to follow Sarah, but we didn't meet up while on the track this session.
After the session, both David and Sarah were stoked. They were getting into the groove and having a good time. David had decided in the last session that one of the instructors was a 'rabbit', and David danced around the track trying to keep up with the instructor. I was a little concerned, as it was eerily similar-sounding to his
After session three, the instructors took us around the closed track (lunch time) and positioned us at the turns. Some of the instructors then rode the course to show us the lines from a different perspective. I really enjoyed this perspective. Afterwards, we had an hour of down time for lunch.
The guy in the lower right is Joe. This was his first track day on his GSX-R 750. He and I talked a lot during the day, as we had a lot in common.
David's confidence level was increasing throughout the day. He was having the time of his life, for the time being...
Another picture from the street group
Session four was a challenge for many, as the temperature was over 100 and the track was much hotter. The day continued with a lot of crashes, sometimes resulting in riders having to stop on the hot track. I started this session right behind David, and he pulled away from me out of turn one. I wouldn't see him again until he lapped me on my third lap. On the last lap of the session, I saw the emergency vehicles headed towards turn two (the tightest turn on the course) as I approached turn nine. I exited the track after turn ten and headed to the paddock. David wasn't there, and I became concerned after a few minutes. After five minutes, I was able to confirm that a blue 250 had low–sided; that would be David...
David underwent surgery to set his broken collarbone (broken in three places). His recuperation time will be two to three months minimum. David's gear saved him from serious injury, once again. His brand new helmet has major abrasions 360* around it and will, of course, need to be replaced. His face shield scraped hard...
The Sidi boots David wears have saved him from any injury to his ankles three times...
Some observations: David has talent, but is riding way beyond his abilities... It's like he's trying to go 11/10s, when he should be going 8/10s. In the third session, I followed David from behind, and he was leather knee down to the asphalt. At the speed he was going, he could have leaned off the cycle much more and had it much more upright. A little more education at the track day could have averted this accident.
Professional photographer pictures of the track day
Our intrepid trio
Shots of M
Shots of Swoosie
And Blind Man