Chris Walker on his Race School

10 minutes with the man behind the Mallory Park-based race school

WHEN you look at Chris Walker's racing history, from GPs to British Superbikes, there is barely a manufacturer or a team he hasn't ridden for. Although he's raced around the world, he made his name in British Superbikes. A four-time runner up and last year, at 40-years young, proved he's still got it with a race-win at Oulton Park.

He launched the Chris Walker Race School in April 2012, based solely at Mallory Park. I caught up with him, a year into the school, to find out how the school is progressing, who it's aimed at and what you can get out of the day.

So what made you want to start the Chris Walker Race School?

Walker: At the end of the day I’m coming towards the end of a career, I’ve got less years in front of me than I got behind me.I wanted to stay within racing and do something with racing. I’ve won races but not championships so. I’m not in a position where I don’t have to work and it wouldn’t suit me anyway, I’m a grafter always have been. I wanted to stay involved with motorbikes. I always thought there was a gap in the market for a race school, something that was a bit more special, a bit more exciting really.

I started my road racing career by going on the Yamaha Racing School believe it or not. Michael Rutter was my instructor! I’ve been on the Ron Haslam a race school, I’ve know about the California Superbike School. They're both good. I think if you specifically want to go and learn learn learn the Superbike School is great for that.

What's the format of the day?

At the Chris Walker Race School we focus on riding skills, it's called a race school because its on a race track and you’ve got BSB riders taking you around. They’re the same guys you watch on the TV at the weekend. We looked at what the other schools had been doing track-time wise and we've made sure you get more track time than you did at the other schools.

We wanted to make sure the bikes are a little bit tricker than what you could get elsewhere. We've priced the day at £349 which includes the hire of one of our ZX-6Rs, which is fantastic value, when you factor in the cost of a set of tyres, fuel, track time and instruction. You are guaranteed to learn a bit of something and you are also guaranteed to have a great day out because of the people you are spending the day with. You pay a £20 damage waiver at the start of the day and then that’s it you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you fall off, you just walk away, it doesn’t cost you anything.

We keep people safe, of course we do. There’s one instructor per two riders. Each bike has got a transponder on it so we group you with someone that is a similar speed so you’re not always chasing the man in front or you’re not always waiting for the man behind so you can kind of go at your own pace. The instructors are there to give you a good day but also to keep you safe, so they don’t just let you run away and be out of control because your not going to learn anything, you don’t learn when you’re at your maximum you learn when you pulled back a little bit.

Then your last session of the day, which is your fifth session on track by about which time you would have done about 50-60 laps depending how fast you go so it’s a lot of laps around Mallory Park, you’re going to feel you know the bike, enough for you to know the circuit, you feel confident in the bike and the tires and how everything feels. Then you get your superrpole session where it is just you and your instructor and you go out on a handful of laps and try and set the better time.

Each time you go out we’ve got a record on where you started the day and where you finished the day, so we can map your improvement and so when you get your diploma at the end of the day it actually physically shows you how much time you’ve managed to shave off.

So its quite data driven?

Yes, so we can prove how much you’ve improved. Sometimes you feel like you are getting better, but you’re not always, and just by the amount of laps you do and just by having a few pointers. Each session you go out with an instructor to do it you work on braking, you work on throttle, work on lines, we work on where you look when going through a corner and what gear you need to be in. All these things, but obviously, everyone who comes through this school is a different level.

And they obviously make different mistakes, so if someone is making an obvious mistake then you work with them on that more than you perhaps would their braking, because they might be really good at that but not sit right and things, so you tweak it per person really as the day goes on. You might find you end up with a different teammate as the day goes on because if you improve faster than the other person you’ll get swapped to a different instructor so you are always with someone of a similar speed

Has the format of the day changed much in the year the school has been running?

It's worked well and yes, we've been tweaked over the year. It was brand new this time last year, the first school was April 2012 and within 3 or 4 schools we had made 2 or 3 changes to how we did it and that instantly got rid of people making mistakes and a couple of other things. We've also taken onboard customer feedback and put that into place with our instructors; just because you are a race winning BSB rider doesn’t necessarily make you the ultimate instructor.

But obviously over the year, we now have the same dozen of instructors… there’s ones that can race and there’s ones that can instruct and there’s ones that can do both and the ones we’ve got now are the ones that can do both really really well. So it does evolve over the time.

I heard there were quite a few crashes in 2012?

Unfortunately, I guess in 2012  we had lots of little crashes, not lots in a day. If you’ve got a wet track, you know, people aren’t familiar with the bikes and aren’t familiar with the brakes you get a little tip off and you’ll see 3 or 4 of them in a day. I don't think we have any more than any other school or trackday. Last year it rained on 12 out of 15 of our days and unfortunately the wet weather does increase the amount people come off.

We started the year with 33 bikes and we finished the year with 32. For a first year, average school was at over 90% occupancy bar one, so we had a fantastic year really especially with the economic climate and the weather climate. So we're looking forward to building on this throughout 2013.

Who would benefit more from the Chris Walker Race School, a good club racer or someone who's never been on track before?

If you’re looking to do track days and you've got zero track experience or very little then you’ll gain loads. You’ll probably be the ultimate Chris Walker race schooler. If you feel like you can ride a bit quicker than the average road rider, which is why you want to get into trackdays then you'll benefit lots.

What about if you've just a road rider and you want to learn to go faster in a safer environment?

The road riders, where they benefit is they get a feel on what its like to take the bike a little bit more to the limit and basically feel the control. They can see an instructor on exactly the same bike, exactly the same tyres and exactly the same track conditions going a lot faster than they are. They then get more confidence when they get back on the road, which is a good thing.

If you're a club racer with a few trophies at home, will you get much from the school?

I would say if you’re already at British Superbike level then the Chris Walker Supersport race school isn’t necessarily the one for you. Having said that we get quite a few lads coming through who do the Junior Superstock and a lot of guys who do the lower championships like national championships and especially club racers. They have a great day out and of course they get to spend a day on track with a brand new little Kawasaki 600 with people like Ben Wilson, Billy McConnell, Dave Johnson and Taylor Mackenzie. It's just a mega day out. It really is. So there is a bit of something for everyone and definitely some focused opportunity to improve your riding as well as having a good day out.

Are there any plans to use a ZX-10R?

Yeah, we didn’t do it last year because you really need to have done the Supersports school first but in your first year you’re not going to have that many people to warrant running the bigger bike.

If you've completed the Supersports day then you can progress to the 1-2-1 day. We’ve got a couple of those days booked this year and we’ve already got people on that came last year. We’ve got a couple of ZX-10Rs but we haven’t used them a lot yet because to be honest we didn’t want to. Other schools have 600s and 1000s on a track at the same time but the closing speeds with the fast ZX-10R rider approaching a slower ZX-6R rider is huge. I don’t think its safe so we haven’t done that yet but we have got the bikes. It's something that we are looking to do, especially the 1-2-1s using the ZX-10Rs

What's your one tip for people coming along to one of your days?

The biggest thing to get someone to improve fast on at Chris Walker Race School day is getting them to do what the instructor asks them to do. It's that simple! If you follow the instructor from lap one and go where they go, they’re taking the racing line; the proper line, the safest line so you’ll improve so much faster. If you’ve got bad habits on the brakes or you’re not the best with the gears or throttle control we can sort that out. If you’re in the right place on the track then it gives you a better view and a better margin for improvement throughout the day.

You can read more about the Chris Walker Race School, see the dates, prices and booking details on their website at