Right, so after a successful first day, the lessons from the previous day are still fresh in everyone's minds. Muscle memory has set in and a second day riding around the same track should be cake for everyone, right? Exactly, that's why for day two the west course is put to use. Here students don't have the luxury of following the same lines as the day before and going through the motions. Instead proper technique and actually paying attention the previous day are vital, especially as the West Course has a higher average speed. Other than that the second day runs much like the first. Drills expand upon the previous day's lessons and there's even more (semi) open lapping. Despite the fact that all students, regardless of skill level, are out on track at the same time, congestion never really becomes a problem thanks to the rather liberal passing rule: use safe and courteous passes. This is not a race.
One of the braking drills dares everyone to find the limits of the front brakes before running into Ienatsch. If applied correctly, when nearing the limit the front tire will slightly chirp and the rear will slowly come off the ground. All of these factors can be controlled with slow and steady hands at the controls.
Personally, I've always been timid in finding the limits on the brakes, especially during trailbraking. Despite numerous drills and explanations from various people and various schools, I had a nasty habit of braking while completely vertical. Oddly enough, when Ienatsch started his lesson on braking it sounded like every other spiel about brakes I'd heard before: squeeeeze the brakes, don't jab, and release as you lean the bike over. Good advice, but I needed more. Ienatsch tells the class not to worry about braking markers, but instead to brake "as much as you need to, not to a certain point." He also dispelled the myth about braking later if entering a corner with not enough speed, but instead to brake at the same point but use less of the lever until you need more stopping power. A side effect of this method is gently compressing the suspension (because abruptness causes crashes, remember?) But what really drove the braking drills home for me was an exercise with instructor Hill. At a complete stop, standing in front of my R6, balancing it between his legs, he had me squeeze the brake lever so he couldn't pull the bike forward. He then had me slowly release the lever until the bike moved. The revelation came when I realized just how little I released the brake before the bike moved. All this time I was just grazing the surface of the braking abilities on each bike I've ridden before. With this newfound knowledge I became much more comfortable (and confident) with the amount of brakes I could apply while leaned over.
Body positioning is another topic that is touched upon early in the school. With proper placement, manipulation of the motorcycle and its controls becomes that much easier, and there's a better chance for recovery if the limits are crossed.
This is the drill that opened...
This is the drill that opened my eyes. With the brakes fully engaged the bike obviously won't move at all. But just a little less pressure from Ienatsch and Schellinger could pull the bike forward. Realizing the braking power and how even small percentages could be used at almost full lean puts a whole new meaning to "late braking."
Morning proceedings are also...
Morning proceedings are also accompanied by demonstrations by lap record holder, Shane Turpin as to right and wrong ways around a turn.
Two-up rides with Shane Turpin...
Two-up rides with Shane Turpin give students some perspective of what the machines are truly capable of. "I'm only riding at 60 percent," Turpin later admitted.
Connecting The Dots
Since riding schools are all...
Since riding schools are all about, well, riding, instead of gathering back in the classroom instructors will pull over on the front straight and tweak the lessons depending on what each group is struggling with. This ensures maximum track time.
So the burning question: is it worth it? Well that depends on how seriously you take motorcycling. If improvement and survival skills are important to you then there's no price you can put on proper education. That said, the Yamaha Champions Riding School ranks as one of the best courses I've enrolled in and is definitely worth a return visit. Speaking of which, by the time you read this courses at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will already be in session. In fact, talks are also in place for a variety of options like an "Arrive and Ride" Program where students can rent the school's Yamahas during any trackday held at Miller Motorsports Park and have an instructor meet them for one-on-one instruction. There's even a Yamaha Champions racing series in the works for new racers to cut their teeth before actually jumping into an established club racing organization. Graduates of the basic course are automatically eligible for any of the advanced courses-even the Pro school, tailored specifically towards racers and track riders. And yes, that one definitely caught our eyes.