Fourteen years after his last road race, Marc Potter decided it was time to do his ACU Road Race Licence again…
Well, when I say decided, it was more a drunken moment that saw me logging on to No Limits’ website and booking a £145 ACU Competitor Training Course after about six pints and a chat in a bar with a mate, who was also putting in for his licence.
With no plan other than getting my licence, and because I’d left my race licence lapse for longer than five years, I’d have to start back at a novice bib and earn my stripes to eventually get up to a National Race licence. If I passed.
The sessions are open to anyone who can ride a motorcycle and wants to start club racing.
You have to sit through around one and a half hours of classroom training in the Competitor Training Course, covering everything from how to enter a race, joining a club, what kit you need to wear, and understanding safety and flags when on track. It was headed up by the awesome Clare Neate, a trained clerk of the course and FIM Steward. She managed to make what could have been quite dull in to something useful, educational and even fun sometimes!
Death by PowerPoint is followed by a 20 question multiple choice questionnaire, which if you’ve been listening in class, is almost impossible to fail.
To get your ACU Road Race Novice licence you have to join a club to start club racing, though once you’ve passed, you can enter and race with any club. No Limits handle the whole thing, so I joined their club, and once I’d supplied the forms, the relevant eye test and a cheque for £52, on top of the £145 I’d paid to do the courses, the No Limits guys even send the forms back to the ACU – the governing body of motorcycle racing in the UK.
With that ticked off, the fun bit starts.
I blagged my mate Phil’s recently race kitted Suzuki GSX-R1000K7 for the day, which I can race as a novice as I have my full road licence. Without a full road race licence, I’d have to race a 600 or below until I had 10 signatures from competing at club events.
You need the right kit – full race leathers, boots, gloves, and an ACU Gold Star stickered up helmet. Plus, don’t forget identification tags with your name and date of birth on them when you actually start racing.
The group is made up of some 35 riders on everything from a nearly new BMW S1000RR, to a bloke who’s ridden to the track on his Suzuki SV650, a couple of Honda Bros 650s, a Honda VFR800 and about 10 Honda CB500 converted in to race bikes. The CB500s are a great and inexpensive way in to racing, so it’s no surprise there were so many at the track.
All the instructors are ACU qualified, and you simply ride in your group until the instructor waves you past and takes a look at you.
Anyone who crashes on track fails. If you stall during the race starts you fail. Stay on, don’t stall and it’s unlikely anyone would ever fail.
It doesn’t make it any less nerve wracking though…
Even though I’ve raced to a decent level in the past, tested dozens of British Superbikes, World Superbikes and even 500 Grand Prix and MotoGP bikes, it always leaves a little bit of poop when I know someone is watching me ride.
Honestly, I had nothing to worry about. Just ride, let the instructor see you have half a clue about riding and it’s all good.
The second session was a bit faster so I just treated it like a track day of very mixed abilities, making gentle overtakes and enjoying Mallory Park and the GSX-R1000.
The third and final session involves forming a grid based on the number you’ve been given at the start of the day. I was given number four, so sat at fourth on the starting grid, conscious there were 31 other riders behind me.
The first time off the start is just a gentle pull away for a warm-up lap. The next time you form a grid and it’s a race start with the group you’ve been riding with.
The final start is all 35 riders at once.
The old GSX-R didn’t let me down, it wheelied off the line through first and second into Gerrards, easily matching the guy on pole on his more powerful BMW S1000RR. I know it wasn’t a race, but it’s important to start as you mean to go on!
I must admit that I wasn’t looking forward to doing the ACU course, but actually it was a giggle, and way better than last time I sat for my licence. Back in 2005, the last time I raced, you only had to attend a classroom session and pass a test and you were racing, without anyone ever seeing you actually ride a motorcycle.
If you fancy taking up club racing, it’s the only way to start.