Niall Mackenzie column - Apr 2006

Fast cars, Clarkson, tea breaks and trackdays

Posted: 1 April 2006
by Niall Mackenzie

Niall Mackenzie Column

WELL LOOK AT me, a brand new column at the front of TWO and a welcome opportunity to have a monthly rant on whatever takes my fancy in our beloved world of motorcycling.

A privileged position indeed, and one that a certain Jeremy Clarkson occupies in a top selling monthly four wheeler publication. Despite his negative comments aimed at the biking world.

I really like Clarkson, mainly because he tends to say what he thinks and doesn't give a toss - especially if it happens to offend the obsessive, rambling green brigade. Our own off-roading activities have taken a serious blow recently so we must stand strong against these tiresome people - this could be the thin end of a wedge. More fox hunting on motorbikes, I say. What do you think?

Getting back to Clarkson and one of my most frequently asked questions. Can a Porsche really beat an R1? In 1999 I made a video at Thruxton with JC and British Touring Car Champ Jason Plato. The brief was to see if my R1 was faster over a lap than Jason's Porsche Carrera. The Porsche won by virtually nothing, but I did my lap time on cold, shiny new tyres. Tricky to say the least.

The game is given away as the rpm on the on-board footage doesn't tally with the speed I should be doing. I felt a little stitched up as I knew then, and have proved since, that sports bikes will always trounce road cars on a race track. I also only got a bag of crisps and a sandwich as payment, while they went on to become multi millionaires. I do have the utmost respect for Jeremy as a journalist and presenter but I do worry about his car control skills. It might just be my imagination but every time he gets sideways in a car with decent horsepower it seems to turn into a tyre-smoking doughnut. Maybe he means it, who knows, you decide? Finally, if you're still not keen on Clarkson take solace in the fact his co-presenters, Richard Hammond and James May (a distant relation of mine, I'm told) most certainly are bike nuts, so I'm sure he won't get a word in edgeways on the Top Gear tea breaks.

I had a discussion the other day at Knockhill on why more riders don't attend track days. After a survey of riders that didn't attend track days but would like to, we found there were three main reasons.

First, fear of intimidation by other riders. Second, feeling you have to 'perform' as you're on a track and third, not wanting to risk using their own bike.Let me put your mind at rest. In my experience most riders circulate at their own pace, minding their own business and allowing for others of all abilities. Before you go on track you will be given a briefing to keep things safe. You also choose the group best suited to your ability.

You can learn the track as slowly as you want, and every time you go out you'll gain confidence. I always recommend riding your own bike as opposed to hiring one or you'll spend half the day getting used to another machine.As you're continually going round the same corners, you'll automatically learn more about your bike. Without realising it you'll explore new limits, and that will greatly benefit your road riding.

Every year I meet thousands of riders, aged 17 to 70, who leave track days smiling. If you have the slightest desire get one booked and get the same view of the circuits as your BSB and MotoGP heroes.

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