The Race Diaries, Part 2

(see part 1 here)


It’s the only picture we have of Johnny Setten and his two-smoke.

You can’t race without a licence. Well, maybe I should clarify, you can’t race on a track in Canada without an approved race licence. Since we intend to do just that, it only seemed logical to get a racing licence, and to do that, you have to spend a day at a recognised race school.

There are various schools available in Canada, with probably the most well known being the F.A.S.T school in Ontario and Quebec. There is, however, another Ontario based one that we figured we should check out as not many people seemed to have heard about them.

R.A.C.E. (Racing Associates Canada Events) not only organise the racing events held at the Shannonville, Ontario track, but also hold their own racing schools at both the Shannonville and Cayuga tracks.

General Manager, Ralph Frisken, was good enough to see the benefits of the CMG Goes Racing series and let us partake in the Cayuga school in June. The following is a summary of what we did and what you would expect at such a school:

We looked and looked and looked. Where’s the damn fuse!

The first thing you have to get your head around is that they want you at the track by 8:30 (sharp) in the morning. Since Cayuga is a good 2 – 3 hours from our Toronto offices, the only sane option for us was a local motel the night before.

Arriving at the track, we found a collection of wannabe racers with motorcycles in various degrees of completion. There was a brief getting to know you session, and while that was happening, we taped up our lights (including signals and reflectors) ’cause you might crash out there and broken glass on the track is generally not conducive to rider safety. A handy trick here is to remove the fuse for the lighting circuit beforehand. That way you don’t have 65 Watts of heat generating behind the tape, thereby making an even bigger mess of the glue than you would otherwise have.

The fuse on the Kawasaki EX500 we brought along was done in a matter of seconds. The BMW was proving all the more tricky when it came to fuse location, but managed to help break the ice after all our fellow students joined in on our ‘find Waldo the fuse’ game. After ten minutes, Waldo was still nowhere to be found, so we just pulled the light connectors and dat was dat.


If you sat at the back this is what you’d probably see.

The classroom session is taught by Mr. Frisken himself, who goes over the details of what you actually have to do when you turn up to a track to race (registration, waivers, tech inspection, practice, etc – more details on this in part 5). Ralph is assisted by current racer Johnny Setten (and of Pro 6 Cycle in Toronto), who then takes over to add his two cents from a racer’s perspective.

Johnny (J.S.) is also the guy that takes you round the track in the afternoon, and stressed, that once out there, he’s not looking for speed, but rather smoothness. After all, this is a school, not a new bike launch with a bunch of fellow journalists – all trying to outdo the other and therefore claim the “journalist with the largest pecker” award. This is very similar to the “journalist with most penis-like head” award (aka Dickhead), which, coincidentally tends to be won by the same person. But I digress.

“You’re a stupid wanker, your mother was a lady of ill repute…”

J.S. goes over some tips for making race day successful, as well as the all important racer etiquette (share tools with other racers in need, keep to your racing line when on the track and don’t hog more space than you need in the pit area!). There’s obviously a lot to learn in the world of racing, and ultimately, the only real way is to jump in and just do it. But as a race virgin with no idea of what to expect or what to do other than show up in time, Johnny’s insight helped immensely. He obviously knows his stuff and is quite entertaining to boot.

The session is finished off with Ralph once more, who goes over the seemingly endless variety of flags that can potentially be used by the corner workers during the race (for somebody who normally finds it hard enough to remember to put me pants on before leaving the house, this is going to require some serious studying).

For fellow race newbies out there, the corner workers are a bunch of volunteers that stand at various corners of the track and make sure that the race is as safe as possible. Since it’s a tad difficult to have a polite conversation with a racer as they’re passing you at 150 Km/h plus, a system of flags is used. I won’t go into detail about each one at this point (again, you’ll have to wait for part 5) but if you see a black flag with an orange circle in it, then that means you’re a stupid wanker, your mother was lady of ill repute and your daddy had a thing for Poodles. Oh, and you’re riding like an idiot, so take this as a warning or we’re pulling you off the track.

After a quick break we were out on the track where the fun began.


Editor ‘arris keeps off the hoards in a closely run race ….

Contrary to how CMG would operate a school (i.e. everyone on the track at once with the slowest getting beaten up and paying for all the beer), there was actually a good chunk of instruction involved. Firstly, there was a walk around the course where Johnnyboy pointed out markers where we would start into a turn, along with the best line and desired exit points.

There’s also some time spent discussing brake markers (i.e. using some fixed point as a reference so that when you pass it you know it’s time to haul on the anchors so that you can make the upcoming corner). Apparently, using a non-fixed marker (such as a cone) could cause problems should it be moved/crashed on by the next lap. The problem being that you don’t really know that the marker is no longer there until it’s too late. And at that point, it’s either rapid braking and a lot of trust in your tires, or straight off the track you go, sucker!

Although the Dainese suit pinched me gonads, it was a pretty good fit … squeak!

It was also a good time to ask questions, such as, “How do you actually pass somebody in the race?”, etc.

For your information, the best way to pass someone is either by out-accelerating them from a corner or out-braking them into a corner, or just having a much faster bike and blowing them off on the straight. I’ve always wondered this, because I’m never convinced that the person I’m about to pass has seen me, and isn’t about to cut me off as we enter the corner at a million miles per hour. Of course, that means that I chicken out, hit the brakes and do the whole thing over again at the next corner.

According to J.S., the etiquette is as follows: if you’re half a bike length ahead at the start of the corner, then you have rights to the racing line. Whether the other person is also aware of this, or indeed cares, is still of concern to me.

After knocking everybody else off the track, only ‘arris and the ambulance remained …

Track sessions started by splitting us into two groups and then slowly going around the track, following Johnny and his two-smoke racer while observing his line, with the desired result of eventually duplicating such prowess ourselves. After five or so laps, we’d pull in, discuss how it went and then ponder the meaning of life while group #2 did the same.

One thing that I did and was quickly seized upon, was to throw the bike into the corner at the last minute. Although this felt cool, it also squished up the suspension and put unwanted stress on the chassis, often resulting in some wiggling off the desired line. This might not be a bad thing when you’re actually trying to test a bike and you’re on a track with a bunch of other like-skilled journo types, but it will lose you all important time in a race. The trick is to be smooth. Not ‘Casanova’ smooth, but action smooth. Taking the corner in a wide arc, slowing leaning the bike down into the corner and then smoothly back up after the apex.

The sessions continued on with one student passing the instructor per lap so that Johnny could follow them and let them know what they were doing right (and wrong) afterwards. Eventually J.S. pulled out altogether, the passing restrictions were removed, and the pace picked up.

The gang!

At the end of the day, we were all a little wiser, had a lot of fun on the track and, although the others may believe otherwise, I still felt l had the largest donger (even if I still couldn’t pass anybody), oh nevermind…

(Read Part 3 here)

If you’re interested in taking the R.A.C.E. school, or anything else that R.A.C.E. has to offer, contact Ralph Frisken at 613-966-7223 or toll free at 1-800-959-8955. They also have a website at You have to supply your own bike, boots, gloves, helmet and leathers. Cost for the day is $195.00.

This would also seem like a good time to thank John McBride and McBride Cycle in Toronto for the generous loan of two Dainese suits for the day (a Luce Nero/Chromo and a Taglia Nero). Both suits were just a pleasure to squelch and slide around in. If you fancy a super dooper Dainese suit then contact McBride Cycle (the official importers) at 416-763-5651 or on the web at

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