We hope this Racing Etiquette guide can help you to go Faster, Safer and Sooner. The point of this information is to help riders ascertain whether certain on track behaviours are acceptable in a club racing situation, as is the case with many of life’s situations, just because you see a famous athlete do it does not mean it’s acceptable. Your on track behaviour can affect the level of enjoyment you and your competitors achieve, in motor-sport your behaviour also has a significant impact on your safety and of those on track with you.
Safety and enjoyment aside, certain behaviours can also hinder your progression as a rider, and make it a longer road to reach your peak ability. Here I will list a few things we have noticed newer riders do, and what they should think about.
It’s a regular misconception that riders should enter the track in a similar order to their qualifying position. However in reality doing the reverse will get riders gridded up and ready to go sooner with minimum time spent waiting on the grid. If you are a slower rider or tend to do a slower warm up lap (maybe you don’t run tyre warmers), then get out as early as possible – get yourself to the pit gate early or ride your way to the front of the waiting riders, and get going as soon as it’s open.
The Race Start
The first seconds of a race are the most dangerous time for those on track. As such it’s important to know how to react to the information around you. Firstly know your grid position! A single rider confused about their grid position can have everyone waiting an extra 30 seconds, this may not sound much, but it adds up in every race. Many race bikes do not handle being stationary very well, an overheating engine can cause a rider to stall on the grid compounding delays or causing a safety hazard. Stick a bit of tape on your tank and write your grid number, and your row number if you need. Check twice that you have put the correct number and that you know where on the grid that position is. If you do stall on the grid, put your hand up. If the race has not started then officials can give you a chance to restart your bike or move to safety. If the race has started the riders behind you will see the hand and understand that you will not be moving, this greatly decreases your chances of being rear ended, an experience no one wants! When starting it’s important to look where you are going, don’t just look at the bike directly in front, you need to look further forward to ensure there are no stalled bikes that you will need to dodge. The rear of the grid can be 50 metres behind the front, even a small capacity bike can be approaching 100km/h by that time.
- Know your grid position
- Put your hand in the air if you stall on the grid
- Look ahead for stalled riders on the grid
Crashing And Breaking Down
Although it’s not most racers favourite part of racing, it does happen. Riders crash and bikes suffer mechanical failure. Safety is the number 1 priority. There is nothing worse than a single rider crash turning into a multi rider incident.
The first thing you, as a rider in the situation need to do, is check that you are OK before getting up. Take a breath and make sure you don’t have any serious injuries. If you are experiencing back or neck pain – DO NOT MOVE! Allow the race/session to be stopped and receive medical treatment. All of your friends and competitors are more concerned for your health, than the race or qualifying session they are taking part in.
If you are able bodied, and your bike is not in a state safe to ride, move your bike away from the track. Do not move it just off the edge of the track and try to get it working again, move it and yourself a safe distance away, if there is a tyre wall or barrier you can get over then do so. Do not cross the track!
Once you have moved to a place you deem safe, look around, if the flag point prior to your accident is still holding out a yellow flag then you are not in a safe place. Your friends and competitors really appreciate when you make the effort to ensure yellow flags are not in use.
If you can not move your bike, leave it and move yourself to safety!
Do not weave! It will not help you to get your tyres warm on a warm up lap, it will increase the chance of hitting another rider and causing a crash before the race starts. If you want to get heat into your tyres the most effective way is to accelerate and brake – however you should ensure there are no riders close behind you if you are going to hit the anchors hard (you could warn the riders behind you by sitting up and raising a hand before you do it).
Weaving during a race to block another rider from overtaking you is not sporting behaviour. Defensive lines are a part of racing, however holding to inside of the track then snapping across to the other side right before a corner is only likely to end with riders on the ground.
Passing is one of the most exciting parts of racing! One thing to remember is if you are passing a rider, leave them some space. Do not cut across their nose the second their front wheel is out of your eye line, you have a rear wheel too, they may still be alongside. It’s much more fun recounting good clean close racing with a friend on track than it is to have to discuss how you feel another rider is dangerous.
Block passing is not all bad, it has its place. Using it all the time, it is more likely to hinder you and the rider you are trying to overtake, allowing you to fall into the grasp of the riders behind. If the rider you are battling with has a faster bike, it’s even more imperative that you spend the time lining up a clean pass where you can open up enough space to get to the next corner without being overtaken.
If you have a top speed advantage, it may be worth spending some time following a rider with superior corner speed rather than overtaking every opportunity. See if you can learn from what they are doing to find a way to improve the way you do it. Once you match them through the corner you will be able use your superior top end to simply ride past them.
We all need to be careful of riders when overlapping them. It’s important that both parties act predictably. Lapped riders when shown the blue flag should continue on as they normally do. Equally important is for the faster rider/s to give plenty of space to the lapped rider. This extra space is especially important for a rider that is about to overlap another rider for the first time. It is very easy to misjudge the speed difference, even more so if you have not had much practise with it. Be ready for the first time and leave some extra space. Remember that the lapped rider is out there learning to go faster and is just having a good time racing, and the responsibility is on the overtaking rider to ensure a clean pass.
We all make mistakes, and while minimising mistakes is one of the best way to go fast, you are likely to still make some while learning your limits as a rider. If you feel you have made a choice on track that would have a negative impact on another rider, often talking to that rider and offering an apology after the session is great way to clear the air and keep cool heads on track. If you feel someone is overly aggressive, it could be a simple case of they are not aware of their proximity to other riders, or they are not aware their actions are unsporting. Accusing them of riding dangerously can inflame the situation, talk to a coach or the clerk of course and request they have a chat to see if the rider is aware of the things they are doing.
The most important part of racing is to enjoy your time on track, make friends with those around you and your enjoyment will increase regardless of your finish position.