Gingerman 6/16/07 (Getting Hair From
the Dog That Bit Me)
So, in our ongoing trackday saga here, if you recall, I ended my season
last year a bit prematurely by crashing out at the Gingerman
racetrack. After the three day tour in Northwestern Wisconsin
last month it was time to decide what to do this month. My first
choice was actually Autobahn Country Club. Sportbike Track Time
was running a full course day there (3.5 miles, 22 turns... depending
how you count them.... oh yeah), unfortunately when I called, all they
had was room in the Novice class. So, I had to pick something
else. Well, it was either Gingerman at the end of the month with
NESBA or mid month with SBTT. I didn't want to wait until the end
of the month so the stage was set... Gingerman with SBTT on Saturday
I normally would ride Sunday, but Gingerman has a quite time in the
morning on Sunday and that's just wasted time. So instead of
having Saturday to get ready I basically did a little bit each
weeknight until Thursday rolled around and the bike was trailered and
waiting for Friday after work to finish tying it down and pack my
Because of the one hour time difference to South Haven, last year I got
up at 3:30 a.m. or something like that in order to get there by
7:00. Not this time. Instead I got a room at a Red Roof Inn in
Benton Harbor; about 20 miles from the track. That way I could
get the majority of the driving over with Friday night, get up at a
reasonable hour, and still make it to the track on time. And
except for some rush hour traffic getting out of town on 294,
everything worked out well.
I arrived at the Inn about 9:30 Eastern Time and got myself checked
in. One of the things I'm starting to appreciate about the Red
Roof Inn's is you pay on the spot and you're done... no waiting to
check out in the morning. Found my room, brought some stuff up,
and found that my air conditioning wasn't really working too well, so I
guess I'm lucky it wasn't a really warm evening. That's another
thing about the Red Roof's... I guess you get what you pay for; can't
expect everything to be 100% when you're paying $40.
My room was on the second floor overlooking the parking
lot. Actually all the rooms overlook the parking lot on one side
another. But the rooms on my side of the building overlooked a
big empty gravel parking lot just beyond the normal car parking, which
is nice cause I can't put my car and trailer in a normal slot, so I
just left it in the gravel area. Worked out good. The
hallway to get to the room is actually an outside walkway/balcony sort
of thing. I went out there and leaned on the rail for a bit just
looking at the surroundings and listening to the traffic zoom by on the
Highway, which was no more than 100 yards from the Inn.
As I was leaning on the rail a few people walked by from their rooms
and back. One of them was a teenage girl that went down stairs
and was rummaging around what must have been her parents minivan.
She came back up stairs and as I kept standing there I noticed that she
had left the interior lights on in the van. Not a good idea if
you want to be able to start your car
in the morning. I didn't really think I should go knocking on
their door (they don't know me, I don't know them), so I went inside,
called them on the hotel phone and let
them know their lights were on. It must have been the mother I
spoke to. She was pleasant enough. Thanked me for letting them
Well, the bed wasn't half bad and I got some pretty decent sleep.
My cooler was still plenty cool in the morning, so when I woke up I had
a couple nice cold glasses of milk, some cereal, and a banana for
breakfast.... Yup breakfast of champions. After breakfast I got
myself together and I was back on the road at about 7:15. Perfect.
The Inn was just a few miles from I196, and 30 minutes later I was at
the track. There was a STOP sign at the gate, so I stopped, waved
to the guy standing over by the office, and started to go again.
He was kind of like, "Hey, wait a minute!". Guess Sport Bike
Track Time is not like NESBA. Seems that I needed to pay an
admission fee of $5.00. I paid, went inside and found myself a
place to park.
As I was unloading the car and trailer a guy parked next to me and we
exchanged some pleasantries. I asked him if he knew when tech was
opening, and he said he thought it was already open, but he wasn't sure
cause this was his first time at the track. Ah... another
newbie. I continued unloading and realized that I hadn't stopped
to fill the bike up with gas, and I hadn't filled my 5 gallon gas can
with gas... doh! Well, the track did sell gas, like most tracks,
but I didn't even want to know the price. It's usually
significantly more expensive than a gas station.
So, I got everything unloaded, and walked over to the track tower where
They also told me that tech inspection was indeed open, so I went back
to the car, got my bike and got it inspected. Easy enough.
I went back to my spot, parked the bike, got my trailer unhooked, and
took off five miles down the road to the nearest gas station.
When I got back there were people lined up at the gate, so this time I
just waved and drove by... I had the wrist band to show I'd paid my
fee. I then drove back around to my parking spot and hooked the
trailer back up to the car.
By then the guy next to me had gotten his stuff unloaded and we talked
some more. Apparently he had wanted to get into trackdays for a
while, but the cost of all the equipment kept him from doing it.
He explained that he had had an accident on some road; going around a
curve fast and hit some oil or something, and he thought it would be
good if he took his high speed riding off the street. He
definitely had the right attitude. He was out there to stay
within his limits and have a good time. Amen to that.
Honestly, he picked the right organization to start track days with,
STT ran a very structured Novice class. They break it into three
separate groups with the idea that the first group was the more
experienced riders and group three were the least.
The paddock pretty much filled up and time came for the rider
meeting. All I can say is that it was too long. The meeting
it's self wasn't bad but then all the various business and sponsors got
their say and before you know it it was past 9:00, and seeing as the
Intermediate group was up first, I was getting gypped out of track
time. But we got through it and it was track time!
My first session out was definitely cautionary. I don't really
ride the CBR much since I got the BMW, so it was a bit of getting use
to the bike gain, and of course this was THE track where I crashed last
year so I wanted to make sure I left myself enough thinking room to
analyze the corners and think about where things went wrong last
year. But, it was definitely good to get back out there.
After getting off the track and getting all my equipment off I went
back to the tower, where they had a track map, and just studied it for
Here are the tricky spots. Turn two tightens up as you exit, so
if you judge you speed by how fast you can go in, you're going to fast
for the exit. So, rather than hugging the inside of the curve at
mid corner, you stay wider for a little longer and then cut in to be
inside at the tighter apex. Turns 4 is quick, as well as 5, but
you can't go full speed through five because 6 is really tight.
And as you approach 6 you have to stay way to the outside of the track
to get a more gradual arc through the turn. The turn 8/9
combination is what got me last year. As you can see, between 7
and 8 is a sweeper, and right about mid turn, when you would normally
start to accelerate out of a corner you actually either have to
maintain you speed or slow down because the corner tightens up just as
you get to the point where you see the number eight. So,
the way to do that combination of corners is to stay wide through the
sweeper and then cut and stay close to the inside of the track, which
immediately becomes the outside of the the entry to turn 9.
That's where I blew it last year, coming out of eight I was on the gas,
not accounting for the fact that the turn tightened up, hit the grass
at the entry to turn 9, got back on track about the middle of turn 9,
tried turning and braking to take the corner, and with my wet tires I
was history. There are also a couple other annoying spots on the
track, in turn 2, between 7&8, exit of 9, and all of 10 there are
joints in the asphalt where multiple lanes of asphalt were laid
down. So, as you go through these areas and you cross the joints
it tends to unsettle the suspension. Plenty of things to keep a
person busy and thinking. There are also some elevation changes;
turn 1 is a slight down hill so you have to get most of your braking
down a little early, two is slightly up hill, three to four is slightly
up hill, I think six is down slightly. Not sure about the rest of
The day went alright for me and my neighbor, we talked on an off, and
agreed that you just can't explain to someone what it's like to do a
track day. The level that you're riding at can't even be
approached on the street. As he put it, you're constantly nailing
it, and the speeds around the corners at first seem ridiculous, but he
knows if the control riders can do it, he can too. And so
gradually you recalibrate your thinking about what's possible.
Not everyone was having as good a day as us. I think there was a
total of three red flags to either allow people to get their crashed
bikes off or for the ambulance to make an appearance. One crash
in particular seemed pretty bad. Someone wiped out in turn 11,
which of course blocks the track exit. We all kind of rode
through the grass to get off the track, but it didn't look good, the
guy was laying in the exit lane. Found out later there had
actually been a collisions. But it didn't seem to bad, the guy
that got it worse stepped out of the ambulance and they had his arm in
Needless to say, I kept up a good pace all day, but I stayed well
within my limits. I actually found I can circulate the whole
track in third gear. Upshift if I wanted a bit more speed before
a corner, or downshift if I wanted a little more drive out, but I
didn't really need to.
Here's a couple shots I took of a couple BMW R1200S's that were in the
Novice class. Yeah, that's one of my new drool-over bikes.
Course as usual, there's no shortage of all sorts of machinery there.
As the day went on the temperatures started rising. I just kept
drinking water and splashing myself down every chance I got.
Overall the day went great. Definitely will be doing that track
again. Splitsecond photo was taking shots at the track and I
couldn't decide which one I wanted as a momento of the occasion.
It came down to the three shown below, but I finally settled on the