Author Topic: Chris Coleman - Novice Racer  (Read 10614 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Brett

  • Pack Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 317
    • Hunter Ducati Owner's Group
Chris Coleman - Novice Racer
« Reply #1 on: 04 Feb 2011, 04:25 PM »
This is good stuff, so why he didn't post it himself is anyone's guess.

Well done Chris ( and blame Aunty for the attention... I think that it's pretty cool. ).

A Novice?s Guide to Racing by Chis Coleman

In The Beginning?

To the casual observer, it all started on a whim, over lunch.  The truth is, the journey started long ago ? over thirty years ago. Things like love, careers, kids and mortgages just got in the way. But motorcycling has always had an appeal, and the journey towards racing got a real kick-start a few years ago when I took the plunge on a Ducati 848, and then booked in for my first track day.  What a hoot! ?Can there be anything better than this??

The lunch was excellent. I?d arranged to meet Aunty Mal for the first time, and he suggested a seafood restaurant right near Frasers? Newcastle. Four of us ended up at the table, methodically working our way through piles of the fattest chilli mussels I?d seen in a long time.  Talk, naturally, centred on motorcycles. And racing.

?So, if you were going to start racing for the very first time, what bike would you pick??  We discussed the benefits of the 848 that I had sitting in the garage at home. I ruled that out, knowing that it would put me in the F2 grade in BEARS, and up against some very stiff opposition. The 900ss got some significant discussion. Eventually, we settled on the Monster 696, with its light weight, well-sorted frame and sweet, large valved air-cooled motor. A repairable write-off would be just the ticket!

This is where to the casual observer, an impulsive decision was made. I popped next door to Frasers, and asked the question, ?You don?t ever see any Monster 696 track-bikes, do you??  Fate was on my side that day. A week later, my garage welcomed a 2010 model Monster with a mere 1,800 kms on the clock, in need of new rearsets, handlebars and paint. The bent fork had been repaired by the time I took delivery.

Bike Preparation

Research then started in earnest. What bars to get? I tried some spare dirt-bike bars, but they were too high and had too much sweep. The OEMs are very flat! A few calls later, a new set was on its way. Same deal with the rearsets. I decided to get an aftermarket set, to provide extra ground clearance. The OEM set is quite low, and I?d need all the clearance I could get.  Next came the paint. I decided to splurge, and took it to a guy I?ve used before. He scratched his head, talked about what lines he could pick out, and what colours I wanted.  We agreed on a red, white and black theme, and I left it with him.

The final piece of the bike preparation puzzle is ?safety wiring?. Essentially, anything that could loosen itself and cause damage to you or the track needs to be wired in place.  This includes the bolts that hold the brake calipers on to the forks, the oil filler plug, the oil drain plug and the oil filter. There?s more work to be done on a water-cooled bike ? one of the advantages of sticking to the baby Monster!

Safety wiring requires patience, drill bits and a small investment in a pair of safety wiring pliers.  A drill press makes life easier too! Simply drill a small hole into the head of the bolt so that the wire can pass through. Then re-install the bolt, put the wire through it, twist it with the wiring pliers, and then lock wire the other end to either the frame or another bolt.  Look it up on You Tube for some excellent ?How To? videos.


The next thing hurdle to get over was the whole license issue, and which series I?d focus on.  BEARs (British European American Racing) was the most appealing, given that they had a class that would suit the little Monster ? F5. Also up for consideration was the Formula Extreme series. The problem is ? BEARs requires an MA license, whereas Formula Extreme (at the time) accepted either the cheaper AASA license or the MA license.  On top of all that, there was the NSW Ducati Owners Club series. 

I decided to go with the MA license, given that this provided the most flexibility.  Here?s how I went about it:

1.   Join an affiliated club.  This part is easy ? NSW Ducati Owners Club ticks the box here.
2.   Download all the information packs and the theory test from Motorcycling NSW. Read the material. Twice.
3.   Complete the theory test (all the answers are provided in the material you?ve downloaded).
4.   Find a club official to mark your test and sign it (Mal Cherlin is the guy to talk to here).
5.   Send the completed, signed test along with your license application and a cheque to Motorcycling NSW.
6.   Wait. (They discourage phone calls as to the progress of the license ? even going so far as to say that such calls may SLOW DOWN the application!)
7.   Two weeks later, you?ll receive a nice paperback book with the rules and regs, and an official piece of plastic from MA.

The next step is to choose a race to enter. I looked for one of the BEARs rounds ? they hold them in conjunction with the St George club in NSW. It was a matter of looking St George up on the interwebs, making a call to their race coordinator (pleasantly helpful), then sending off an application form with a cheque.


Now for the fun bit! Having prepped the bike, muddled through the paperwork, talked to a few experts, and sent off a few cheques, I finally got my race pack in the mail.

The first race meet was held at Eastern Creek over two days. The weekend started with signing on at the office, then getting the bike and my protective clothing (suit, helmet, gloves, boots, back protector) scrutineered.  A quick application of some stick-on race numbers, and the bike was ready. Then off to the race briefing, and all-important sign-on.

Before I knew it, it was time for the practice session. I?d done plenty of track days at Eastern Creek, so knew the track fairly well. I spent the session just getting the feel of the bike, and making mental notes of what worked well, and what needed adjusting.  After the first session, I increased the pre-load on the rear shock, and made some minor adjustments to the position of the brake and clutch levers.

Next up was qualifying. Now it was starting to get serious! I focussed on lines and braking points and just went as hard as I could.  I ended up qualifying 5th in my class (F5), and 11th in the combined grid (F3, F4 and F5).

Then the fun started. I?d seen a few race starts earlier in the day, and had watched plenty of them over the years both live and on TV. Nothing could prepare me for this, though. It all happened so quickly ? one minute they?re holding up a red flag, then the marshal disappears, the lights go red, and then: they?re off!

The experienced racers took off like a bolt ? clutch out, revs up, front wheels skipping off the tarmac. I was well and truly left in their wake. I pulled out all stops, and headed in to the first corner. Wow ? it?s crowded! Then down the short straight and into the tight Turn 2. I was pleased to see out of the corner of my eye that I wasn?t last! Then a short-shift through Turn 3, up over the hill into Turn 4, and then a quick flick in to the sweeping left hander that is Turn 5. All the while I was slowly catching a little group of riders. This is exciting stuff! I managed to latch on to one rider, and stayed with him through the next few corners. Hey, this is a race! I?ve got to get past this guy. I managed to out-brake him into Turn 9, and then set my sights on the group in front.  Over the next few laps we pretty much stuck together ? I overtook one rider, and then got overtaken again.

Before I knew it, the race was over. I knew I hadn?t come last, but had no idea of where I?d come either overall, or in my grade.  I rolled around the back of the track, then into the pits, grinning like an idiot. To my surprise, a few of the guys I was sharing the pits with were also grinning, and applauded me as I rolled in. Wow! I can?t remember being on such a high.

It turns out I managed to get third place in my class in that race.  Not a bad result for my first ever race!

The rest of the weekend went by in a blur.  Each race was similar ? my starts were atrocious, and I spent the rest of each race catching up. It?s something I will work on for the next round.  Having said that, the weekend was a huge success for a debut ? placing third in each race, except for one where I managed to scrape into second. 

Have you ever thought about going racing?  I can?t recommend it highly enough! In fact, if there?s anyone out there who?s tossing it over, and who?s thought, ?Could I? Should I?? ? here?s an offer. Make the trek up the F3 to Newcastle for lunch one day.  The chilli mussels alone would make the trip worthwhile.  Throw in the lunch-time chatter, followed by the customary visit to Frasers? next door, and who knows? Before too long we may also see you on the track, clutch in, revs climbing, waiting for those red lights to go out?

The first race in the NSW Ducati Owners Club series will be held at Eastern Creek, on March 11 and 12.

Note: Seldom in my experience have I seen a novice rider have ?all the planets align? for him as in Chris's case. He is motivated and organised, analytical and patient. He's focused on the ?fun?, and has inherent dicipline in his approach. All great attributes, especially for anyone wishing to race their motorbike. He also chose the right bike  and the right class, as well, he's a pretty good dirt bike rider which is certainly an advantage. What we see here is someone ?compressing? the first 6 or 12 months into one race meeting, rare but it does happen. As a very wise old Ducati luminary said to me once, ?remember, you're doing this for fun?.
Aunty Mal, race manager
Mvlti svnt vocati, pavci vero electi