Continued from Discovering A Passion For Biking: Part 1
To get an ACU license first, though, you have to join a racing club, with biggest UK racing clubs are BMCRC, New Era or Thundersport GB. I found out that BMCRC (otherwise known as “Bemsee”) were holding an open day in December at Brands Hatch, where you could get all the forms signed and the eye test carried out, all in the same place on one day. So I booked in for that as it was a lot closer than ACU’s test centre in Rugby.
This meant that I would have to complete the class room test in the beginning of February, not much closer than the end of my restriction date (though I thought at least if I lost my license, I could still do track days with my Race License). Being on 9 Points and all, I thought that this would be a good contingency.
So I’d booked the classroom test in February at Brands Hatch, where there was also a Race school running the following day. I thought “great! Kill two birds with one stone, License and my first bit of track time in the same weekend”. so I booked in for both.
The Rookie school weekend came and I met a few people, most of which had been exposed to this world already. This, to me, seemed like some sort of hidden society – I had been totally unaware of this racing club culture. Although I had heard mentioning of club racing, I had no idea of what it was like.
I found people asking “Oh, so what class will you be running in?” and I just replied “Oh…erm…I’m not racing! I’m just getting my race license, but will probably race next year”. At this point I had never ever been on a track before, let alone contemplate actually racing on one. Yeah, I had the knowledge and knew all about racing lines etc, but I had no practical experience. I didn’t even know what it felt like to get my knee down, having only worn my leathers once!
The race school on Sunday came, and this was going to be my first time out on track. This day was to be run under ACU conditions, to give the rookie’s a an idea as to how a race weekend would be operated. And it was a huge wake-up call!
There was all this stuff about scrutineering, noise testing and the such. Everyone was using race/track bikes whereas mine was the road bike I had at that time. As a result, my morning was a bit more hectic, as I was trying to get the bike as close to ACU spec as I could whilst remembering I was going to be riding it home afterwards.
I had to remove the mirrors, the stand, the number plate (which I honestly couldn’t of done without the help from Patrick at www.patracking.co.uk), I had borrowed some leathers from Mark Lister (a well known racer amongst club members) as my leathers were two-piece (convinced by my road riders that those were the best to buy) and the day was being run under ACU spec, so leathers had to be one piece only.
It snowed in the morning, so the first sessions were delayed by an hour. I didn’t mind that, as I was feeling a bit nervous, especially as everyone else had special wet condition tyres and tyre warmers, whilst and I was stuck with the normal road tyres that came with my bike (everyone who I told I was using road tyres made a noise that wasn’t very encouraging…).
Any how, it was time for my group to go out, and I remember coming out of the pits feeling refreshed. It felt like I was back in primary school and we were being let out at playtime. Basically, it felt free.
Despite the track being wet and me foolishly forgetting to reduce my road tyre pressures for track pressures, I felt really comfortable and even passed a few people in my group who had the essentials. A few people came off, 2 right in front of me and I just thought “Glad that’s not me!”.
I had made a good friend at the race weekend, and he, like me, came there alone. He’d also be racing alone, as those who said they were up for it with him as had backed out when it got to that time. In light of this, I promised him that I would attend and help at his races. I loved this world so even if I wasn’t racing, I still just wanted to be involved.
So I’ve now got my race license, sold my two piece and bought a nice one piece and some new gloves at the MCN show in London. For some reason I’ve started contemplating racing this season. I know I felt real comfortable at Brands and I’m a quick learner, but I just thought I didn’t have enough track time to go racing. My friends had been doing track days for years, (however this amounted to only about 12 track days and 11 of those being at Brands, so I was thinking “Wow, me and Jason are in the same position really”. Yes, he’d done Brands Hatch loads of times and has this ‘knee down’ thing under wrap, but when it came to other tracks ,we’d be in the same position.
Anyway, the Bemsee first race weekend came at Brands Hatch and, as I promised, I went to go help Jason out, whilst all the faces I had met at the rookie weekend were asking why I wasn’t racing (weren’t they listening?).
The rookie 600 Class had a packed grid, with 36 Riders on the track at the start of the weekend. This equaled lots of accidents and red flags, as these excited and very fearless racers ventured on their first ever races. Jason obtained a 26th, 23rd, 20th and 23rd, but the weekend ended with only 28 riders on the grid.
I thought Jason would be a lot closer to the front because of his experience with Brands Hatch, so I wasn’t too sure. Did this mean that everyone was really fast or Jason was not as quick as I thought? But one thing I did know, I was definitely going to be racing at the next race!