It is the Spanish MotoGP round at Jerez in 2011 that comes to mind right now. Valentino Rossi, aboard the nearly unrideable Ducati, dove to the inside of Casey Stoner and his Honda, hard on the brakes into the first turn. What would have been a spectacular pass resulted in Rossi tucking the front, lowsiding and taking the Australian out in the process.

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Later in the pits Rossi walks into Stoner’s garage, helmet still strapped to his head, to offer an apology. This exchange I won’t soon forget:

Stoner: “How’s your shoulder? Is it okay?”

Rossi: “I’m very sorry.”

Stoner: “Okay. You have some problem with your shoulder?”

Rossi: “I make a mistake”

Stoner: “Yeah. Obviously your ambition outweighed your talent.

Rossi: “Eh?”

Stoner: “Ambition is more than the talent.”

Rossi: “I’m very sorry.”

Stoner: “No problem.”

Riding in a group with those of similar skills, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and ride over your head. In the words of Ice Cube, “Check yo self before you wreck yo self.” Photo by Evans Brasfield.

Riding in a group with those of similar skills, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and ride over your head. In the words of Ice Cube, “Check yo self before you wreck yo self.” Photo by Evans Brasfield.

“Obviously your ambition outweighs your talent.” How brilliant a line, and how appropriate for the situation I faced during the track portion of our 2015 Literbike Shootout testing, performed at the iconic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Aboard the 2016 Aprilia RSV4 RF, number 54 of 200, I went out for my stint. By mid session, I’m well in my groove and simply flowing with both the bike and the track.

Life is all good until, as I’m tipping in to Turn 11, the sharp 90-degree left leading onto the front straight – BAM! Out of nowhere I’m sliding on the ground, the result of an overzealous rider completely blowing the turn and using me as a human berm. Like Rossi, he walked over and apologized to me, and though I wanted to give my best Stoner impression and tell him his ambition outweighed his talent, I kept my cool. Other than a bruise on my hip and a sore neck the next morning, I was fine. The bike suffered some road rash and a bent shifter, but even it was up and running in a few hours.

Riding in the rain, especially with rain tires, can be an incredibly fun and educational experience. But don’t let the confidence of rain tires goad you into a stupid mistake. Photo by Milagro.

Riding in the rain, especially with rain tires, can be an incredibly fun and educational experience. But don’t let the confidence of rain tires goad you into a stupid mistake. Photo by Milagro.

The point of all this is to drive home a reminder: there are no trophies at the end of a trackday. If you’ve ever been to one before, then you’ve probably heard a few simple rules put in place to protect yourself and those around you. One of which is to pass others safely, keeping in mind it is the passer’s responsibility to execute a safe pass on the passee. Second, and important enough to mention again, is to remember there are no trophies at the end of a trackday.

These two simple guidelines seem so simple to follow, but once the tires get warm, the body gets loose and the mind gets focused, sometimes it’s all too easy to throw caution to the wind and get the red mist in the eyes. Suddenly, one has the courage to lean a little farther, twist the throttle a little longer, brake a little later and ultimately skirt right up to the limits of their skill. By all means, I encourage all of you to (slowly) edge closer and closer to your personal limits at the track – that’s what trackdays are meant for – but also be aware of the fine line between pushing your limits and riding recklessly. Crashing sucks, but being responsible for an innocent bystander getting taken out because of your mistake feels even worse.

You know what’s waiting for you at the finish line of a trackday? Absolutely nothing. Remember that. Photo by Troy Siahaan.

You know what’s waiting for you at the finish line of a trackday? Absolutely nothing. Remember that. Photo by Troy Siahaan.

There are times, however, when one’s ambition outweighs their talent. That’s when things go south. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time this particular occasion. The funny coincidence here is that the other rider was aboard a 2015 Yamaha R1. We mention shootouts being real battles all the time, but this is ridiculous.

Anyway, ride hard, ride fast, and above all else, don’t let your ambition outweigh your talent.

  • JD

    I think I was there with you guys last Wednesday at Keigwins in group B+ and was thinking exactly the same thing. I know I can push harder but at what cost? I ride my bike to the track and would like to be able to ride it back home but it seems like some people are looking at track days as “I rule, everyone else sucks” days and not enjoying them. Oh well.

    • TroySiahaan

      Looks like you got the right attitude. If you’re ever at another trackday with us, stop by and say hi.

  • Hal

    “You know what’s waiting for you at the finish line of a trackday? Absolutely nothing. Remember that.”

    Absolutely brilliant, Troy. I should get it engraved on the triple clamp.

    • TroySiahaan

      Engraved? Writing it on some duct tape and sticking that to your triple clamp works just as well!

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Well said, Trizzle!

  • Campisi

    A recap of that exchange was the first bit of MotoGP I’d ever seen. Can’t say I’ve ever been much of a Stoner fan because of it; knowing absolutely nothing about who these people were (or even exactly what had happened), I remember thinking “that Australian fellow’s a real dick.”

    • Emptybee

      And the one with more ambition is still racing!

  • Craig Hoffman

    I really enjoyed going comfortably fast at the track. Did not “push it” coming into corners, but enjoyed the overall speed, which made me fully realize how trying to ride truly fast on the street is just silly.

    Would love to pick up a track modded SV650 for such duties. My street ridden 1000 is too big, too fast and too much for what I need for the track. Ironically, in the slower environment of the street, the bigger engine is a joy. Such casual speed – gotta love that.

    Quite comfortable in my place as a highly experienced, competently mediocre rider who has manged to not crash since starting riding on street bikes in the late 80s. Restraint and a bit of luck played the biggest part in that. Got the crashing out of my system on the dirt bikes, which I have been on for just over 40 years now. Ya, getting old, in this motorcycle thing for the long haul. No ambition, mediocre talent, that’s me :)

    • TroySiahaan

      Everything I know about going quickly on a racetrack, I learned on a SV650. With proper mods it’s a great track bike to learn on.

      • Craig Hoffman

        I did the CLASS school years ago with Jason Pridmore, all the instructors had no problem zipping by the A group on their SV 650s on Streets of Willow.

        The little SV does great wheelies by the way. Was riding a long 3 gear mono down a residential street on a borrowed SV when the neighbor’s cat ran out. In that slow motion calculus that everyone who has ever been in trouble on a motorcycle knows all too well, I decided to maintain the wheelie and let the fat churning rear tire figure it out, if necessary. Cat ran under the still elevated front tire and the rear tire missed it by a whisker!

        In my experience, the SV is one of those “come on dude, it will be fine” bikes that tends to bring the hooligan out in it’s rider. That is the hallmark of a good motorcycle. :)

  • Ser Samsquamsh

    Shucks – I made a career out of having more ambition than talent. As for track day I win if I don’t crash. That would be a long walk home.

  • http://www.proteusmusic.com/ MrBlenderson

    Great piece, this is something I always try to keep in mind. The times I’ve crashed, and the times that I’ve almost lost it, have been when my ambition exceeded my braking talent.

  • Gary

    It is a great quote, to be sure. But it has already been used by someone who is somewhat quicker. I’m just sayin …

  • http://www.thailongly.com TL2Bass

    Glad you’re OK, burrito boy. And speaking of which… I think we’re due.

  • http://facebook.com/ East South

    great ambitions define those who succeed in life, others may be faster, stronger, better or even more talented. but there is one thing that’s different the level of desire and greatness of dreams & ambitions.

    true stoner maybe a genius but his dreams and ambitions pale in comparison to rossi’s.

    stoner said “your ambition outweighs your talent”. that did not define rossi, in fact it showed who stoner was. He believes if someone was better than him, he should just give-up.

    those who made it big in life are not the geniuses & the gifted but the ambitious.

  • Abdulla Al-Shaikh

    So was it another tester? Or just a random R1 owner? Guess all the electronics still won’t help you all the way.