Ryan A Natural On Track
Following years of working towards putting a big green tick next to Do A Motorcycle Track Day on his bucket list, 21 year old Yamaha-fanatic Ryan Wilson’s recent decision to purchase a sparkling new Yamaha YZF-R7 – In Icon Blue colour scheme - finally provided him the motivation and the right bike to do it.
Looking through blue reflective sunglasses, and sporting a mane of bright blue hair, the Sydney West barman is easy to spot in a crowd – and it’s no coincidence that his choice of hair colour matches his choice of motorcycle, and that the Sydney Motorsport Grand Prix circuit is just a stone’s throw from his home.
“I’ve been riding since I was nine years old, and I obtained my motorcycle licence as soon as I was old enough,” Ryan explained as he prepared for his first taste of on track action. “I’ve owned a few bikes over the years, but never a brand new one. I fell in love with the YZF-R7 as soon as I saw one in the flesh, and I decided the time was right to buy a new bike. I’ve already clocked up plenty of kilometres on it, and it keeps impressing me. For the road, the YZF-R7 has turned out to be everything I wanted it to be. It’s sporty but comfortable – for a sports bike – so I can use it as my daily rider and then head out for a ride with my mates on the weekend. Now I’m excited to discover how it - and I - perform on the track, I can’t wait.”
Rolling out of the pit bunker and towards pit exit at Sydney Motorsport Park for the first time, Ryan’s calm disposition was at odds with someone about to get their first taste of the high-speed Grand Prix circuit, on a motorcycle barely a few months old.
“Well, this is it,” he said, doing a last-minute check of his helmet, gloves and boots. “The thing I’m looking forward to the most is having the opportunity to ride my bike as fast as I can in a legal and controlled environment,” he added. “I've been riding since I was a kid, but I feel the opportunity to get out on the track is going to open up a whole new world to me.”
As the control lights at the end of pit lane turned from red to green, releasing the riders onto the circuit, Ryan burst out of the gate like he couldn’t wait another second. What followed was twenty minutes of high-speed action that confirmed his long-held suspicions.
“Riding on the track is certainly for me,” he said excitedly as he dismounted at the end of the session. “That was incredible,” he exclaimed. “Accelerating out of pit lane for that first time was an amazing experience, and as I joined the circuit proper, I took a moment to soak it in and tell myself that is was finally happening.”
Ryan said that having his first-ever on-track experience on a circuit as amazing as the Sydney Motorsport Park Grand Prix circuit made it even more special. “Knowing that Australia’s round of the World 500cc Grand Prix Championship was run and won here, and world champions have raced here, including some Yamaha legends, it made the whole experience even more special,” he said.
While admitting his debut session had disappeared into a blur of excitement and adrenaline, Ryan said he won’t ever forget his first run down the main straight and into the super-fast first corner. “Turn 1 is so scary and fast,” he said. “But I loved it. I had a smile from ear to ear every time I approached it after that. I was trying to convince myself to stay on the throttle, but another part of my brain – the self-preservation part – kept telling my wrist to wind off the throttle. It was a battle of wits.”
As the day progressed, it became obvious that Ryan was taking to on-track action like a duck to water. Quickly learning the track, he began to settle into a flowing rhythm, picking up speed and improving his style with each session. When asked what he was most enjoying about the experience he pinpointed the opportunity to learn how best to handle his YZF-R7 at speeds unobtainable on the road. “Seeing 200km/h sail past on the speedo is quite a surreal experience,” he explained. “It's a weird situation when you first get out there. The track is very wide, and at first it feels like you've got a mile of room. However, once you begin to pick up speed, the track feels like it gets narrower. Suddenly you feel like you don't have enough room.”
Ryan also said that riding on the road compared to riding on a purpose-built circuit was like chalk and cheese. “The thing I found the most difficult - as a first-timer - is to use the full width of the track,” he explained. “On the road, I don’t ride just a couple of inches from the edge of the road, or swing from one edge over the other to pick the best line into the next corner. I always leave room for error and ride more towards the middle of a lane that’s barely a car width wide. But when you're out there on the track, and you are being told that the quickest way around is to use the full width of a very wide circuit, it's a lot for your brain to take in. You are also travelling a lot quicker than you would on the road. No matter what people might say about how quick they are on the road, it's nothing compared the being on a proper racing circuit.”
Ryan said another thing that took a bit of getting used to was the realisation that he could go as fast as he wanted or dared - and nobody was going to be coming the other way, or stop him.
“Everyone is circulating in the same direction, so you need to let go of the fear that someone is going to be coming the other way as you round a corner,” he explained. “The other cool thing is that you don’t need to worry about being pulled over by the police. It’s also a safe environment – well, as safe as a track day can be - and you’re wearing all the right gear. It might feel like you're doing 100mph as you blast down an urban street with parked cars and light post whizzing past you, but it’s nothing compared to accelerating through every gear down the long Sydney Motorsport Park straight as your bike sails past the 100mph mark with ease and keeps accelerating. That’s when you’re experience real speed. Also, being able to have battles with other riders, or shadow them for a few laps, provides an idea of what it must be like to take part in a race – it’s such an adrenaline rush.”
Ryan was quick to pinpoint another major advantage of on-track riding. “All day you go around and around – and I don’t mean that in a boring way,” he said. “If you find you’re having trouble with a particular corner, you get to go round again and have another stab at it, and again and again. Circuit riding provides a controlled situation – free of variables – to master the technique required for that part of the track – that skill can then be transferred to other areas of your riding.”
As he rolled back into pit lane at the end of the day, with his first track day tucked under his belt, Ryan revisited his earlier assessment that the YZF-R7 is perfectly suited to him.
“From the minute I rode this bike on the road I knew it was for me,” he said. “It feels like it has been built just for me. Now that I have been given a chance to stretch its legs on the track, I know for sure I made the right decision.”
Ryan also revealed that his first tack day will certainly not be his last. “I’m hooked for sure,” he said. “The first thing I'll be doing when I get home is checking the calendar to see when I can get out on track again. I’ve already compiled a long list of things I want to work on to improve my riding, not only as a track rider, but also to make me a better and safer road rider. All the skills I learn out on track will make me a more competent and safer rider on the road.”