Dear MOby,

I’m biting the bullet, sucking up my fear, and signed up for my first ever track day on my new-to-me 2008 GSX-R750. Please tell me what the worst possible thing I can do to screw it up is, so I won’t do that thing. I’m so excited and nervous, One thing is all I think I can handle.

Signed,
Not That Guy


Dear Not,

Funny you should ask. A stupid thing I did at MO’s most recent track day was to not make it out until the third session of the day, in the fast group. That wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t not ridden Auto Club Speedway in like a decade, and misremembered the wide-open kink that leads onto the long backstraight for the slow-down a lot chicane that ends it. Quite a few people zipped past me, close, at elevated speed. My bad for not going out in the slow group for my first session, but you know better than to go out in the fast group on your first track day. Most track day providers will even insist you go out with an instructor on your first day, which makes all kinds of sense.

One stupid thing for which the selfless individuals who organize track days have no defense, though, is what happened on day two of our track outing and harshed everybody’s buzz for a large part of the day. According to Don McClary the Fastrack Riders Guy, it’s a thing that happens all too frequently. Really it’s not even a stupid thing, it’s more a mistake that lots of people make when they change their oil, more specifically, their oil filter. Sometimes when you remove the old filter, the old gasket or O-ring stays attached to your engine. If it’s a bit dark when you’re doing this and you’re on your second beer, it’s even more likely.

If you then go ahead and stick on the new oil filter along with its new gasket, you now have an oil filter gasket sandwich that’s just waiting to blow apart when your oil pressure goes up, like it does at high rpm on a racetrack.

060517-ask-mo-auto-club-speedway-map

It took the guy it happened to at Auto Club all the way from 50 yards before Turn 5 to Turn 8A to figure out he was oiling down the track (by crashing), and a few more bikes got rashed up before it was all over. Everybody else had to take it easy for most of the rest of the day as the oil-dry stuff they use to soak it up did its job but left a tricky trail of residue on the racing line. Crossing that kitty-litter stuff with any kind of lean angle is sketchy in the extreme, and those are the leaniest, funnest parts of the track.

Real race bikes have fairing lowers designed to keep the dreaded oil-down from happening. Not many track day riders’ daily drivers do, though, and the tech inspectors don’t have time to take everybody’s’ oil filters off to check for extra gaskets. Or that their drain plugs are tight. Or quite a few other things. Professional mechanics agree that’s why you should always stick your finger in and run it around to make sure the gasket mating surface is smooth and doesn’t have an old gasket, or part of one, still attached, every time you change an oil filter.

So in answer to your question, One Thing: Make sure you’ve only got one oil filter gasket in there. Then relax, take it easy and have fun. The first session of the day is always the hardest; by four o’clock you won’t wanna stop.


Send your moto-related questions to AskMOAnything@motorcycle.com. If we can’t answer them, well, ahhh, hey, nobody’s perfect.

Recent Ask MOs:Why Are My Brakes Still Mushy?
Why Is My Suzuki Spitting Oil?
Is it OK to Honk at the Ladies?

  • JMDGT

    I would have never thought stuff like that could ever happen. It us only a matter of time before I have an oil discharge nightmare.

  • BDan75

    For an example of what oil on a track can do, check out this year’s Moto3 race at LeMans. Wild.

  • Douglas

    Worst thing to do at a track day? Tip over……

  • Larry Kahn

    Worst thing? To not go.

  • Johnny Blue

    The worst thing to do at and before a track day is to amplify your anxiety yourself, by playing all kind of what if scenarios in your mind. Rest well the night before, don’t eat/drink too much and take enough time to get there, so you don’t arrive stressed out already. The rest it’s easy. You’re not going there to break the track record. You’re going to learn fast(er) riding in a safe environment. Much safer than the street. I bet you’ll become addicted and next season you’ll have your own dedicated track bike. It happened to me… 🙂

    • W Donald

      Addiction , yes I agree , 3 track days and I was racing 🙂

  • SRMark

    I never have done a track day and never will. But I would sincerely like to recommend it to all younger riders. I see far too many who take their racing to the streets. That is 100% inappropriate. The track is the place to get that aggression out. A nice plate of humble pie does an ego good. Learn what your skill level really is and, most importantly, learn how to use your brakes. I tip my hat to the MO staff for keeping a good supply of track-day information flowing to us readers. Keep it up. To the rider who posted the question, happy tracking.

  • Vrooom

    I was once at a track day and there was a guy there on an SV1000 who was clearly not comfortable. He was doing laps at half the speed of the rest of the group, and was asked to leave, that was embarrassing. I was also at the track when the bike Mr. Czysz, may he rest in peace, was developing leaked oil on the track. You forgive people like that.

  • SerSamsquamsh

    You will definitely come up with a new and interesting worst thing to do if you go out exhausted or dehydrated.

  • W Donald

    Threw the boss’s Ducati down the road , only saving grace for me was that it was a slow down lap and I slipped off on coolant dropped by someone else

  • Matt Forero

    Was this just a few weeks ago on 5/27? I was at M-Gymkhana in the center of the track and we must have seen 7 or 8 ambulances dispatched as well as the track announcer repeatedly mentioning dialing back and minding the spill. Man, I hope everybody is ok.

  • Jeffrey Jones

    Get hurt, or cause some else to get hurt. Crash ! That’s the worst thing. Trackday is all about preparation before you get there. Upon arrival set up your pit area, get your bike and required apparel past safety inspection / tech. Attend the riders meeting. “You’re not going to win anything at trackday, but you can lose everything”.