The Best Students
This past weekend I was coaching at Motorsports Ranch Houston. This was actually a new track for me, something I'm a little embarrassed to admit considering how much fun this track is to ride. More about that later.
As always, I worked with around 20 students to varying degrees, from a few quick tips offered to a student who didn't know I was following him, to a full session late in the day using Sena radios and multiple cameras to catch everything that was said and done on the track.
However, on Sunday I had the privilege of coaching a student who was new to the track and was not only keen to learn but also showed remarkable maturity. This showed itself in our first on-track session of the day.
Our usual practise early in the day is to follow each rider in a group of three for a lap or more, taking note of any good or bad habits. After the session we encourage the good habits and provide tips on reducing/removing the bad. Depending on how well we describe each, the student can show progress either gradually or immediately. The better the student knows the track, the faster the progress shows. (hence the reason for the Sena communicators).
In this particular case, the third student I had the good luck to work with was new to this track, was a skilled rider, and knew exactly where his limits were. This is a rare combination but one that makes my job as a coach so much easier, and my day so much more fun. And it reduces my stress level dramatically.
Just what did this rider do that deserves such praise? I'm glad you asked.
Shortly after our group of four riders left the pits, I noticed that student #1 was setting a brisk pace. It was early, he had street tires and quite obviously didn't know the track as well as I would have liked but his line was predictable and he seemed to be within his limits. I noticed a few issues that I could help with to improve his comfort level and made a mental note of what to discuss in class.
After about half a lap I noticed that Student #3 had fallen behind, but my immediate thought was "I'd much rather he fall behind than fall off trying to keep up!"
After following Student #1 for 1 lap I slowed slightly and waved Student #2 past so I could watch his technique. I again noticed a fairly brisk pace considering the fact that it was the first session of the day but he also seemed to be riding within his limits so I focussed on looking for areas that could be improved. As I learned from my MSF instructor training in California: Head, Eyes, Hands, Knees, Feet.
I followed Student #2 for a full lap then looked back for Student #3. I was pleased to see that he was riding his own pace, staying within his limits and riding conservatively in, as I mentioned, the first session of the day.
I slowed enough for him to catch up and pulled in behind.
As I followed him I noticed that he had great body position, great head turns through the corners, and his technique was symmetrical in left and right hand corners. (This is actually very rare).
As we rode I could see that every lap he increased his pace in steps. He was never more than a foot off the prescribed line, and his acceleration was smooth and progressive.
It was around this time that Student #1 ran off the track...
Student #3 however, continued to be controlled and precise, adding speed with each lap with minimal risk but maximum fun. He warmed up his tires and his muscles gradually, increasing his speed in a careful and controlled manner.
By the end of the session his speed greatly exceeded that of Students #1 and #2 without ever running wide, certainly without running off the track, and with the absolute minimum risk. A sheer joy to watch.
In class later, my list of issues to discuss with my first two students was comprehensive. My coaching for Student #3? "Do more of the same and come find me after lunch."