How to go Club Racing: Tackling your first race weekend

In How To

ALL the hard work is finished and now it’s merely up to you to enjoy yourself – it’s finally time to get on circuit and see what all this racing fuss is about.

Plenty of racers arrive and register, but it’s a safer bet to do all your planning in advance and sign up for your first race event well in advance so you can relax a bit more on that first morning.

Whether the family is packing up the day before or you’re heading out solo on the morning of, do a spot check in the back of your transporter – helmet, suit, boots, gloves, bike, key. If you can spot those six things, everything else is a bonus.

Sure you may forget your generator, tyre warmers, air pump, chairs, table, awning or tools, but it’s going to be exponentially more difficult to function without the bare essentials in your van. Take it from someone who’s had to turn around half way to the track and head back for his helmet: check your gear.

It may look intimidating, but this mad circus we call club racing is one of the friendliest places to be…

Try to arrive at the track as early as possible within the club and circuit limits (which most clubs provide in a ‘final instructions’ notice prior to the weekend) to get a decent parking spot. If you don’t already know from trackdays, make sure you’re within spitting distance of a tannoy and you won’t run the risk of missing races.

Before you even set up your awning, make sure you attend the rider’s briefing. We’ve seen racers exit the track at the wrong corner and cause all sorts of havoc for everyone else, causing delays and even accidents – don’t be that guy or girl.

Once you’re set up, head to the race office if you don’t already have a transponder… most clubs will loan them out for a small fee for the weekend. While there, ensure you have the most recent timetable for the day, as clubs have been known to update and reprint daily schedules as needed.

The best thing to do is highlight or circle your practice, qualifying and race slots for the weekend, and tape this timetable up inside your van or awning, making sure you know exactly when you’re expected to the grid.

It’s possible to forget in all the fervour and excitement, but remember to retrieve your qualifying grid sheet from the race office so you know where to line up for the races. Take a strip of masking tape, write down your grid spot and stick it on your tank – you’ll be grateful when nerves take over on the start line.

Everyone from Shakey Byrne to Chaz Davies had to don an orange vest in their early years – it’s almost a rite of passage…

It’s important not to stuff your face or conversely forget to eat altogether, so try not to eat anything too adventurous the night before or on the day – just stick with what you’re used to. And whether it’s hot, cold, sunny or rainy, stay hydrated. I love my tea and coffee as much as the next bloke, but you’ll get a headache quicker than you think without enough water in your system.

For at least the first race of the weekend, don’t wait until the very end of third call to panic and rip your warmers off (if you’re running any). Make sure you’re fuelled up (carry an extra pound or two if it means making it to the finish) and be ready to go when the final call comes so you know you’re going to make it out for the warm-up lap in time.

Look down at your tank, verify your grid spot and get ready for one of the best buzzes around. With luck, you’ll be back in your pit 10-15 minutes later begging for more.

Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither was your skeleton, or your bike for that matter (well maybe it was, but you get the point). Unless you’re planning to race a one-off and retire from competition before heading home, ride within your ability and save the pushing on for subsequent weekends.

*Top tip: If you have some extra tape, secure that orange vest to your torso with a strip around your midsection – because nothing is more annoying than that thing flapping around while you’re trying to back it in…

How to go Club Racing pt.1 – Choose your weapon

How to go Club Racing pt.2 – Count your cash

How to go Club Racing pt.3 – Get your licence

How to go Club Racing pt.4 – Choose a club

How to go Club Racing pt.5 – Prepare to crash

How to go Club Racing pt.6 – Enter a race

*Main image: John Manclark

*Side images: Alex James

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