Whether you want to be faster or safer as a motorcyclist, taking a sport riding course on a closed circuit can be a valuable lesson that will accelerate your learning and allow you get more enjoyment out of your street or track riding.
FAST Riding School is a training program at Shannonville Motorsports Park aimed at riders of all skill levels. The course has 3 phases, taught in single day modules. Students can chose 1, 2 or 3 day packages to learn everything from sport riding basics, all the way through to advanced racing techniques on a professional circuit. The school offers rental motorcycles (Yamaha R6’s, Suzuki SV650’s and Suzuki GSX-R’s to name a few) or riders can use their own, the caveat being that some track prep is required in order to pass tech inspection -taping up lights and signals, replacing coolant with distilled water and ensuring overall mechanical state of motorcycle is safe with adequate brake pad material and tire tread remaining.
You can’t talk about FAST Riding School without first understanding the man behind it: Canadian Motorsports Hall of Famer Michel Mercier. A 3-time Canadian Superbike champion, Mercier has seen a lot in his 30+ years around motorcycle racing. He’s not there just to teach people to ride faster though. First and foremost, he’s there to make you safer. Having lost his own son at Shannonville Motorsports Park back in 2005, FAST is Mercier’s passion project and its reflected in every word he speaks throughout the course. The entire operation has a family run business feel to it and the result is a welcome, open environment that invites personal development.
Phase 1 is the most popular segment of the program and is aimed at provoding a rider with the basics required to effectively ride a motorcycle around a race track, with particular emphasis on cornering technique. Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 use Shannonville’s 7 turn Nelson track. The day begins with a 2 hour in-class session, lead by Mercier as the instructor. Always. There are no stand ins or substitute teachers.
Once complete, riders are placed into 3 groups, (based on experience level) and head downstairs to gear up. Proper track gear is required, consisting of full leather coverage, gauntlet gloves and boots, all of which can can be rented if necessary. The rest of the day will be spent on the track during 7 ten minute sessions:
Session 1: Group sighting laps with pylons and chalk marks while following an instructor
Session 2: Slow pace laps with pylons while following an instructor at slow pace
Session 3: Start/Stop drills to refine up shifting, downshifting and braking.
Seasion 4: First group lapping session
Session 5: Second group lapping session
Session 6: Follow the leader with instructors at quick pace (video)
Session 7: Final group lapping session (video)
Before each session, Mercier provides additional techniques to focus on and answers questions. Between sessions, students receive personal coaching from instructors who are located at different points around the track. These post-session reports include everything from pointing out common mistakes (such as improper line selection) to pointers on more advanced techniques such as trail braking.
Phases 2 continues training on the same development track to refine techniques before heading into Phase 3, which increases speed and technicality on Shannonville’s longer 10 turn Pro track.
Having been to FAST on 2 separate occasions, it’s clear that there is a broad appeal for riders of all skill levels. On one occasion, a gentleman brought his own sport touring bike to learn on (a BMW R1200RT) and we spoke to him after the course only to hear that he felt he had gained significant knowledge about his cornering technique. Other conversations with sport bike riders who had many track days of experience yielded the same results. Not surprisingly, on both occasions, our cohort included students who had done FAST multiple times already (one rider was coming back for his 7th time in Phase 1) and keep coming back.
Simply put, our sport has a distinctly long and seemingly endless learning curve. If you’re the type of rider who subscribes to this philosophy, then you would certainly benefit from time spent with Michel and his team.
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