With the arrival of heat and summer, the track day season on the track comes to life, especially with regard to motorcycles, which are far more complicated than cars when it comes to driving in the wet. Free practice on the circuit is an activity that attracts many motorcyclists, with levels ranging from novice to amateur, to fast enthusiast, to professional rider. It is a microcosm, with precise rules – written and unwritten – that you need to know how to spend a pleasant weekend and have fun in complete safety. This is why we wanted to try it firsthand by participating in the Metzeler Days at the Valleunga racetrack. These are two days organized by the German tire manufacturer – owned by Pirelli – which rents the track exclusively and allows riders who have their own Metzeler-wheeled bikes to ride at very advantageous prices.
So we equipped our Kawasaki Z 900 RS Café with Metzeler M9 RR – a dual compound road sports tire developed to perform well between curbs but also to provide safety when driving on the road, even in wet conditions and at low temperatures – and we got ready to unleash it. on the track, even if it is not exactly the most specific motorcycle to tackle the curbs, especially due to the riding position and the saddle-footrest-handlebar triangulation. In any case, if you do not have particular chronometric ambitions, riding on the track is fun with different types of motorcycles, even without semi-handlebars. The first thing to do is to make sure that the vehicle is in perfect shape. So, in our case, we had a complete service performed and installed some racing pads supplied by Brembo. This is a fundamental component, because the chemical composition of the friction material expressly dedicated to driving on the track allows stable performance even at high temperatures, typically around 350 ° C.
In other words, it means that the bike continues to brake well even after the first few laps, without experiencing fading phenomena and without feeling the lever go to the end of its travel. Adjusting the suspension is also important, especially on a motorcycle that is normally used on the road. In this case, if you do not have some knowledge of the registers and the concepts of compression and rebound, it is best to consult your mechanic or a suspension specialist. Usually during track events there is always one with some sort of mobile workshop that can assist the drivers. Finally, it would also be advisable to apply American tape on the headlights and on all glass or plastic parts that can break, as well as remove unnecessary components such as license plates, mirrors and arrows. But this last part is not essential. As far as tires are concerned, on the other hand, pressure lower than those prescribed for road use must be adopted.
This is necessary because during use between curbs, the tires heat up much more and the tire pressure increases. In the case of our Metzeler M9 RRs, the prescribed values were 2.1 bar at the front and 1.7 bar at the rear, against 2.4-2.9 for road use. Obviously it is always better to ride with tires in excellent condition. Saving in such a situation means risking doing much more damage. Speaking of safety, however, to ride the bike on the track you need suitable clothing and protection. Taking the leather suit, full-face helmet and gloves for granted, we also underline the importance of the back protector which incredibly is not mandatory in all racetracks. The harness with airbag that protects the whole trunk in the event of a fall is also highly recommended. Finally, a good clean of the visor of the helmet will allow you excellent visibility, then if the day is particularly sunny it would be advisable to mount a dark one.
At this point, with the bike and the rider ready, it’s time to talk about the racetrack. In almost all circuits, before the start of the shifts, the track director or a person in charge holds a briefing, to explain the safety rules, behavior and flags (checkered, blue, green, yellow, red, black , each has a specific meaning). It is a moment not to be underestimated and to which the utmost importance is given, for one’s own safety but also that of others. When entering the track it is important to stay within the limit of the pit exit lane so as not to be in the middle of the trajectory of those who are already lapping. At this point, the concentration must be maximum, especially for those who are beginners. The gaze must always go far and point in the direction where you want to take the bike. The track must be used in its entirety, in its entire width, and each curve must ideally be divided into three phases, detached, distance and exit. This net of the peculiarities of each racetrack and of the different bikes.
In the first phase it is important to brake hard, in order to use as little space as possible to decelerate and enter the bike at the right speed. motion, widen the trajectory and accumulate as much speed as possible. Even though modern motorcycles are full of electronics that save you from many mistakes, the advice is always to be smooth and gradual, especially if you have little experience. It is important not to make sudden maneuvers or sudden deviations from the ideal line – usually it is one – in order not to create problems for other pilots. In this regard, during free practice, you must always help those who are faster than you, because it is not a race and the risks must be minimal. Between one shift and another it is important to hydrate, eat (without exaggerating) to have energy and take breaks, so as not to get tired quickly. Let’s say that those who are not particularly trained would do better not to juggle for more than 5-6 rounds in a row.