Riding Laguna Seca With Red Shift

September 13, 2007
Adam Waheed
By Adam Waheed
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Just two weeks after the MotoGP and AMA Superbike boys laid down the rubber  we ride Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Red Shift  a California-based trackday provider.
Just two weeks after the MotoGP and AMA Superbike boys laid down the rubber, we ride Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Red Shift, a California-based trackday provider.

A Shift in Your Trackday Experience

For surfers it is the ocean, for pilots the sky, and for sportbike riders it is the racetrack. The asphalt Mecca in which we dream of paying homage to the gods of sticky rubber, pavement, and 10,000-plus rpm tire-shredding engines. If you can’t already tell, I really like trackdays.

Red Shift, a California-based trackday provider invited us to come out and ride one of the most legendary racetracks in the United States – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With the asphalt still warm from the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix that took place two weeks prior, I was stoked to get a chance to put in some laps around the same track that the MotoGP boys just duked it out on.

If you’ve never experienced a trackday you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why load up the bikes, tools and gear and drive (in our case almost six hours), then pay a couple hundred dollars just to ride on a paved roadway? First, the track is the place that will allow you to explore your personal riding potential. It will also allow you to try and exploit your motorcycle’s potential as well. I say try because unless you are Ben Spies or Roger Lee Hayden you are not going to be able to push the bike to its absolute limit. Lastly, as strange as it might seem to the motorcycling public, the track is far safer than a public roadway. When riding closed-course track, elements that are out of your control such as cars, pedestrians, road obstacles and other things that one might encounter on the road are taken out of the equation, allowing you to focus on the task at hand – riding.

Enough of the trackday hard sell; let’s get to the actual experience. The Laguna track outing that we were invited to was not scheduled and literally became available just one week prior – and it nearly sold out. An indication of just how popular trackdays are, especially at Laguna Seca.

The day started early. We rolled into the famous circuit at around 7 a.m. and if anyone knows what the Monterey Peninsula is like, even in summer, it can be downright chilly. Once inside the paddock, we were greeted to a hot cup of fine Columbian roast as well as a variety of different sugar-infused pastries. Plentiful amounts of fresh fruit were also provided for health conscious riders. Water, Gatorade, and other light snacks are provided and available throughout the day. After loading up on tasty pastries and washing down a few cups of good quality Joe, I proceeded to sign in.

Riders are spilt into three different groups. Group “A” is for fast, experienced riders, where passing is allowed without restriction. Group “B” consists of riders that have prior track experience, where passing is also allowed without restriction. Group “C” is designated for beginners or riders with no previous track experience, where for everyone’s safety passing is only allowed on the outside.

Since I have had previous on-track experience and am comfortable at speed, I signed up for group “A”. I filled out the necessary waivers and was off to tech with my bright red “A” group sticker. I rolled my totally stock, (except for the replacement of the OE rubber with Dunlop’s D209 Sportmax GP-A spec tires) ’07 Honda CBR600RR through a quick yet thorough tech inspection. The purpose of the inspection is to make sure that your motorcycle is safe and in good working order. If you are going to be riding a streetbike you must make sure that your headlights, taillights, turn signals, and mirrors are all removed or taped over. Additionally it is a good idea to make sure that all of your major bolts, nuts and fasteners are properly torqued, i.e., oil drain plug, axle nuts, caliper bolts.

Trackday s most often break down the participants into three groups: an  A  group for experts   B  group for intermediates and a  C  group for trackday beginners and novice riders.
Trackday’s most often break down the participants into three groups: an “A” group for experts, “B” group for intermediates and a “C” group for trackday beginners and novice riders.

A 20-minute mandatory rider meeting began promptly at 8:30 a.m. Chief novice instructor Dan Argano went over basic track procedures including entering and exiting the track, flag definitions, and some general track advice. Towards the end of the meeting, Argano made everyone aware that they could sign up for one-on-one instruction with any one of their sportbike heavy-hitter instructors including 3-time AMA 250cc Grand Prix champion Chuck Sorenson, AMA Pro Thunder Champ Tom Montano and current AMA Superstock racer Jason Perez. I penciled myself in for the 1 p.m. time slot with current AFM and MotoST pilot Tom Montano.

Riding started promptly at 9 a.m. with the track gurus otherwise known as “Group A” beginning the day’s festivities. The day was then split up into three alternating 30-minute sessions which deviates from your typical 20-minute sessions that other trackday organizations typically employ. The additional 10-minutes of track time allow you to get into a consistent rhythm, thereby making it possible for you to focus on any number of specific riding elements.

My first track session primarily consisted of just learning the layout of the epic 11-turn, 2.2-mile circuit. After figuring out when to brake, accelerate and turn, I was free to work on lines and get more comfortable at speed.

At all Red Shift Laguna Seca trackdays, riders are provided a healthy yet tasty lunch that offers something for even the pickiest of eaters. We sat outside under the intense Monterey Sun and swapped some bench racing stories. After lunch, we geared up and got back on the track promptly at 1 p.m.

I met up with Montano on pit lane right before we were about to embark on the track. Laguna Seca is a technical circuit with a variety of unique corners. There is a mix of uphill, downhill, bus-stop, double-apex, the infamous corkscrew, and my favorite the 4th-gear tapped blind Turn 1. Unfortunately, for some reason I’m just not very good at finding the best line through a turn. I needed some help with lines in a few of the corners, especially trough Rainey curve, also known as Turn 9.

“Okay, what we’re going to do is I’ll follow you first for a lap or two, then I’ll come by and you follow me. We’ll do that twice and see if we can get you up to speed a bit,” commented the ever-gregarious Montano.

Once on track he followed me around for two laps. Into the third lap, Montano blew by me on his Ducati 1098 machine and I got a chance to follow him. Shadowing Montano was invaluable. He showed me the right line through Rainey curve and also revealed a couple of other lines that helped me out immensely. After trying to chase him down, the checkered flag came out and we pulled into the pits for a quick debrief.

“You need to try and use the entire race track,” said Montano. “Also get on the brakes a little later if you can. Try to work on going in a little deeper every time. You’ll be surprised how deep you can brake, especially in Turn 2,” said the former AMA champ.

Back in the pits, I contemplated Montano’s advice and let the information marinate in my cranium. The next session I focused on Montano’s advice and worked on using up more of the track especially on corner entry and exit, as well as trying to inch forward bit by bit and brake deeper. By the end of the day I felt a lot more comfortable. I was passing more people than were passing me and was having more fun than Michael Vick in a room full of dogs.

Red Shift is an excellent choice for racers, trackday enthusiasts and beginners alike. The ability to work one-on-one with former national champions, along with the large amount of track time available, is fantastic. I have been fortunate enough to ride a variety of different tracks hosted by an equally different number of trackday organizations, and Red Shift puts on a quality show. If you are looking for the ultimate on-track experience and would like to receive some quality instruction from professional racers at an reasonable price, Red Shift has you covered. See you on the track.

For more information visit www.rideredshift.com

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