Novice / Newcomers Information
Okay, you want to come racing. Well if you want to be part of the friendliest, happy, helpful, most sociable and relaxed Motorcycle club, then you’ve come to the right place. It may seem like a hugely daunting task, and yes there is a lot to learn and get your head around, but no matter where you find yourself in the paddock, everyone you ask will guide you and point you in the right direction.
There are a number of things, which you need before you are able to race:
Getting a Competition Licence to Race Motorcycles
1. Competition licence
Q; How do I obtain my competition licence?
A; By the following –
Attending a Competitor Training Course
You will also have to attend a one-day Competitor Training Course (CTC). This is a pretty basic course, which covers safety, flags, track etiquette, the way a race day runs, and some of the requirements that are a must. At the end of the day, you have to sit an exam, but as long as you’ve paid attention, you’d be pushed to fail. Some may feel that it’s a waste of time, but at least it means that everyone on the grid has at least a basic level of knowledge.
Satisfactorily completing a Basic Riding Assessment
These are run by a number of different clubs, who each have qualified ACU Instructors who are all experienced riders and capable of deciding if you are safe to race. You are expected to be able to demonstrate that you can control your machine, use the gears, brakes & controls. Whilst on track you will have to demonstrate that you can ride at a sensible competition pace, use the track safely – joining, leaving, following more or less correct safe racing lines, awareness of other riders, flags and riding to the conditions.
It’s not too onerous – you are not expected to go at the same speed as Messer’s Rossi or Marquez, but to be able to ride in a safe manner. You also have to complete a practice start. You’ll do this in a group with others who are doing the same assessment, and you have to demonstrate that you can follow instructions and get away cleanly.
Finally don’t forget fuel. When you start, keeping the tank half full is probably a good idea, but you may want to run with less fuel as you improve (to keep weight down to a minimum), but it often surprises newcomers how much fuel you will use. 5 litres per practice session / race is quite common.
Transport / Accommodation
I’ve listed these two things together because they usually are closely linked. When I started, I had my bike on a trailer towed behind my ancient Peugeot Estate and camped in a £30 tent. Then I bought a transit type van and slept in the back. Now I have a caravan which I tow behind my medium wheel base Van. This is a really good option, but probably the ultimate is the motor home with bike storage / workshop in the rear. These are exorbitantly expensive, but many members have some sort of converted / dual-purpose van or lorry, which can work really well and are often a fraction of the price.
There’s nothing wrong with camping / sleeping in your car or van, but it makes life hard and a good nights sleep is pretty important when you’re racing. It’s extremely easy to get organised when you have a dedicated living space, and much more comfortable when it’s cold and or wet.
Don’t worry if you are on a tight budget, lots of members manage really well sleeping in the back of a van or car, or with a scruffy borrowed tent. No one will look down on you or make you feel uncomfortable. We just want to see everyone having a great time and smiling loads.
While not essential, it makes it much more pleasant when it’s very hot or wet to be able to work on your bike in the shade / dry. Many caravans have an awning, which works fine, otherwise some sort of tent / marquee is usually used.
The lightweight alloy ones, which are plentiful on Ebay and the like are cheap and very easy to erect, but usually get blown away! At the end of every meeting I have gone to there be at least one in a crumpled heap of bent tubes and ripped canvas. A much better bet are the ones made by Gala tents (much sturdier and heavier), and not much more expensive than the throwaway ones. They take longer to put up but you’ve got a good chance they will still be there in the morning!
Every bike must be fitted with a transponder. This is a small red electronic box, which sends out a unique code and is picked up by the timekeepers every time you cross the start / finish line. There are two types; one, which is rechargeable, and one, which is hard wired to the bikes electrics. Most people opt for the rechargeable type, as it’s then transferable between different bikes (but not riders). They are quite expensive (typically around £200 - £350 on Ebay), but you can hire them from the CRMC on a meeting-by-meeting basis for £15 each time if you prefer.
Your first meeting
Things start to happen around 7am on a race day, and most prefer to get there the evening before, so they are set up and ready in plenty of time. Often there is a track or test day on the Friday before a race weekend, and this is a great opportunity to get extra track time / practise in readiness for the weekend.
Usually from 7am on Saturday morning, but sometimes available from Friday – details will be confirmed in the Final Instructions and on the CRMC website. You will have to produce your club membership card, and Competition licence; they will then give you a scrutineering card, which also acts as your pass to your allocated practise session.
Scrutineering (now called Technical Control)
Full details are available in the ACU Handbook. Your bike has to be inspected by one of the technical officials who will make a quick check that it’s eligible, complies with the relevant ACU and CRMC rules and is ready to go out on track. They will check lock wiring, steering lock, bodywork is secure and that there are no sharp edges, and that the brakes don’t have too much travel. They will also check the bike is numbered correctly. They will also check your clothing – leathers, boots, helmet & gloves and also that you are wearing your dog tag, with your name and date of birth on. When they are satisfied they will sign your practise pass.
Completing a Medical Declaration
You will need to sign a declaration stating that you are medically fit; if you have suffered from certain conditions or have a disability, the ACU may require further information or require you to attend their medical panel, who will decide if they can issue a licence.
Passing an Eyesight test
You have to have a satisfactory eyesight report from an optician. This is more or less the same as a normal eyesight test, but does include a field of vision test. If you are lucky, you may be able to get your optician to fill out the form as part of your normal test, otherwise you’ll have to pay extra for this.
There are quite few clubs and organisations with whom you can can complete the CTC (including the on-track assessment and eye-sight test in one day). Otherwise, on most Mondays throughout the year the ACU run the CTC course at their HQ in Rugby. Any optician can undertake an eye sight test, you can then attend a riding assessment to suit yourself. A list of clubs & venues is available here;
Right, at last you’re ready to make your application. Before you send off the form you have to be a member of a club. Send off your Club membership application to our Membership Secretary:
Telephone 01629 534283 (Please do not call after 9pm)
She will issue you with a CRMC club membership card and an ACU unique identification number. Write this number on the back of the form – this proves that you are a member of an ACU affiliated club. You can then send off the form to the ACU. They are normally pretty quick in getting it back to you – about 1 to 2 weeks typically.
Now this can be one of the most difficult decisions you have to make. Don’t rush into buying the first thing you see - ask and talk to lots of people (everyone will probably say that the bike they have is the one to have!). Do you prefer two or four stroke? Do you want a pukka race bike, a classic bike, or a post-classic bike? Or maybe one that’s based on a production machine?
The CRMC classes can be a little baffling at first, but once you have an idea of the sort of bike you want, there is a list of helpful Class Representatives on the CRMC website who can talk to you in more detail about the specific bike.
Many of our newcomers have started with the production class route. It is probably the cheapest way to wet your racing feet. Beware though the ‘Ebay special’ route. What may seem a complete bargain at £500, will often cost at least another £1000 to be race ready, even though there are strict rules on what you can change on a production bike. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy a bike that has already been raced.
Every bike that races with the CRMC must have an Eligibility Certificate, which is issued by the club. This certificate indicates which race class the bike is eligible to enter.
Get your machine fully warmed up and join the queue for the noise test. Nowadays it’s quite strict and no bike which makes more than 105 decibels will be allowed out on circuit. You will rev your engine to the specified revs and then the officials will measure the noise.
Listen carefully for the announcements on the PA system for your session. We normally have about 6 sessions, and they always go in order starting at number 1. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the assembly area. You will get around 10-15 minutes on track, just about enough time to learn where the track goes and that the bike is running okay.
After consulting the program, listen carefully to the PA announcements and watch what’s going on track so you don’t miss your race. It can seem like a lot of hanging around, and then suddenly you should be out there. It’s amazing how many miss races; don’t let be one of them! Again try and arrive at the assembly area in plenty of time. You will be given a sticker, which refers to your grid position.
When instructed to do so, make your way to the grid. When everyone is in their correct slot, you will be waved away for 1 warm up lap. My advice is don’t go like a looney – your tyres are cold and you’re very nervous. Don’t weave to warm your tyres - we don’t allow it and it’s been proven it doesn’t actually warm tyres at all, but does cause accidents. As you complete your warm up lap, approach the grid slowly and carefully and locate your position on the grid.
Your adrenalin is flooding like crazy; your heart is beating flat out. My advice is
1. Make sure you are in first gear
2. Ignore everyone around you
3. Keep your engine revs high
4. Watch the starter and his flag like a hawk
5. As soon as the flag falls release the clutch slowly – too fast you’ll either wheelie (bad) or stall (very very bad)
6. Once moving, try and settle in to a steady run at a pace you’re comfortable with.
7. Enjoy the experience for what many say is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
You’ve done it – well done!
Hopefully this will give you a good start and point you in the right direction. Most importantly don’t be frightened to ask. We have a number of riders who are happy to act as a ‘Buddy’. You could probably set up near to them in the paddock and have someone nearby to ask all those questions that might seem silly, but none the less you need to know.
Welcome aboard, looking forward to seeing you out there.