Well, things seem back to normal again. The first Moto GP test of the year is done, World Superbikes are testing and the MotoAmerica season will start before you know it. It got me thinking… Of all the riders in any given series, how many are truly capable of winning mentally? Sure, everyone racing at the world level have an abundance of talent, but how many truly believe they can win. When I used to race and we were lucky enough to have 10-15 factory riders on the grid, I used to tell myself that there were only about 5 that I really had to beat. You learn that looking at lap times and seeing trends of certain competitors as you get to know them. Some start fast and fade, some can sustain a pace all the way through but aren’t quite fast enough and some are just prone to make many mistakes. It made things calmer in mind to never take anyone for granted but also look at who the real contenders are.
Last year we saw something in Moto GP that is very rare, 9 different race winners. If you had to put your money on that being the case this year, how many of you would throw your money down? The fact is, weather, tire choice and team experience played into the hands of a few last year that on a normal day, wouldn’t really be a factor. I would say if you were betting the over/under on different winners going into 2017 the number would be 5.5.
This year with the reverse starting grids that World Superbike will adopt for Race 2, we could see some people up front that we wouldn’t normally see. How they handle themselves at the start of the races could be intriguing. Dealing with the mental side of it will be difficult, because some of them haven’t ever led a World Superbike race or any race for quite a while. That said, it could also be a big boost of confidence, especially if they can hold their position and run up front for half the race or more and see the pace.
So it got me thinking about how so many track day riders approach their days. One of the things that i see every weekend I am at the track are huge over exaggerations. Now, don’t think for a minute that I haven’t ever embellished a story or two in my life. But there comes a point that if you keep on talking about something that isn’t really happening, it could hurt your riding. How many times have you heard someone say, “I had the rear tire a foot off the ground when I was braking?” Its safe for me to say, I never see anyone’s tire off the ground. Many times I will follow a student, video camera on, and they will speak of a huge slide only to realize that the bike never really moved.
So how are people going to advance if they feel they are over braking already or sliding out of every corner? Most are far off the pace already and what they feel versus what is actually happening aren’t the same at all. Where does it come from? Sure, we can make mistakes and make both of the above examples happen but they certainly aren’t things that are happening lap after lap. As you improve as a rider you will feel different things happening underneath you. You will feel different forces going through the chassis of the bike. With more force through the chassis you can expect to start going through different and deeper strokes of the suspension. These are a few examples of things that will change as you get better. This is why when I teach, I get people back to fundamentals, to get more feel of what the bike is giving you. Teaching people and giving stories of things that are happening at 10-20 seconds per lap faster isn’t doing that person any favors in my opinion. Its just clouding up their mind and giving them more self doubt of something they are waiting to feel for, or worse yet, may never feel – which then doesn’t give them the correct perspective on what’s actually happening.
I recently did a 1-on-1 with a very dear friend of mind and my morning talk was all about perspective and truly being able to define what we are feeling at the speed we are going. It was a difficult discussion for me if I am being honest, because I never set out to take the fun away from people’s riding. That said, my aim was to release some mental tension and really show what was actually happening instead of him thinking that something different or more dramatic was going on underneath him. The result was exactly what I had hoped for. In only our second session of the day he improved his lap 5 seconds from his previous best, that is a huge step and it opened up another level of his riding, I loved it!!! We focused on a few specific things on corner entry, some exit points and 5 seconds was easy. The great part, he did it with confidence and wasn’t putting a wheel wrong. I feel he is more mentally strong for it and now he can diagnose things that are actually happening. You will find the only time “big” things are happening is when slight mistakes are made. If we can cut those down your track days and race days will be much better.
Our first STAR school of the year is coming up March 13-14 at Chuckwalla and filling up fast. It’s awesome to see so many wanting to put an emphasis on educating themselves. I already know we have quite a few repeat students lined up and I am look forward to meeting the all the new ones. Our JP43 Training 1-on-1 programs have been sold out since last September and future dates continue to fill up – be sure to check our schedule at www.starmotorcycle.com. 2017 is shaping up to be a great year.
Looking forward to seeing you all soon at the track.