Guest Story: Trackday at Laguna Seca with Moto2 World Champion and MotoGP rider, Stefan Bradl

2012 is Stefan Bradl's rookie season in MotoGP, and as such, he faces many challenges. There's the difficulties of dealing with the power of a MotoGP bike, the complications of handling the sophisticated electronics used in the class, and there's the Bridgestone tires to master. Another problem that is sometimes overlooked for MotoGP rookies is having to learn a new and demanding circuit, the complex layout of the Laguna Seca track. As the junior classes (now Moto2 and Moto3, previously 125cc and 250cc) do not visit Laguna Seca due to space and noise constraints, rookies face the double challenge of learning the circuit and finding a way to manhandle a MotoGP bike around it. The the track is featured on many MotoGP computer games, the elevation changes and camber of the track make it much harder to learn.

To alleviate some of the problems of learning the circuit, Stefan Bradl decided to use a public trackday to learn his way around. Adam Silver, keen racing fan and trackday enthusiast, learned that Bradl would be riding at Laguna, and went along to join the fun. Below is his account of the day Stefan Bradl followed him around Laguna.


It's every motorcycle racing fan's dream to spend a day riding a race bike on track with a world champion, right? For me that dream came true on May 28th, 2012 at Laguna Seca…

I hadn't planned to attend that particular trackday. To be honest, Laguna is a bit of a pain for trackdays - they have a 92db sound limit which is rigorously enforced. Bone stock bikes often get meatballed (the flag shown if you exceed the sound limit). My two track bikes both have aftermarket exhausts and so Laguna is typically off the table for me. However, a few days before the trackday was scheduled I was browsing BARF (Bay Area Riders Forum - the northern california online hang out for moto junkies) and I happened to see mention of the possibility of Stefan Bradl attending the Pacific Track Time (PTT) hosted event. I immediately went to the PTT website only to discover that the event was sold out. I didn't have anything else to do that day so I figured 'what the heck' I'll sign up for the wait list, go down for the day and perhaps I'll get in. I installed the silencer insert into the exhaust on my R6, hoping to elude the meatball flag!

Like most summer days at Laguna Seca, it was foggy and cold as I drove into the paddock. But, I wasn't concerned - the forecast was for a bright sunny day and I was confident that the fog would burn off. I parked the van and went over to the registration table. By a series of lucky coincidences, I was able to get confirmed to ride for the day. At the riders meeting there was no mention of Bradl being there so I thought maybe it had fallen through.

At 9am the track went green. I rolled up the hot pit with GoPro cameras mounted front and rear hoping to capture a brief glimpse of a world champion. It was still quite cool but much of the fog had burned off. Most riders were going at a conservative pace during the first session as the track was cold. When the session was over I thought to myself 'ok - he didn't show' - I was a little disappointed. As I exited the track and rolled back down the hot pit, I happened to glance over my shoulder and, there he was! Stefan Bradl, the Moto2 World Champion, had taken his first ever laps around Laguna Seca and followed ME off the track! I waved at him and he waved back.

In the second session, I was shown the meatball flag on my second lap. So I had to come in and get my wrist slapped. I consulted with a few people and the general opinion was to not downshift entering turn 5, coast through, stay all the way to the left going up the hill with neutral throttle and get on the gas just before turn 6. I was also advised to cover the top half of the intake manifold with duct tape. After heeding that advice the remainder of the day went smoothly.

During the lunch break I strolled over to Stefan's pit area. Aside from the snazzy looking leathers, he looked like a regular trackday rider! He was riding a bone stock CBR1000RR. I introduced myself and we chatted for a while. I asked him about how he felt as last season drew to an end and Marquez was closing down the points gap. He said it was stressful but that he just stayed focused. We talked about Laguna and he said he was really enjoying the track.

The rest of the day was incredible. I rode every A group session and was passed by Stefan each time - I was keen to review the videos when I got home. At the end of the day I looked at the photos from the trackday photographer, Dito Milian of gotbluemilk. He'd captured a photo of Stefan following me.

I was very impressed with Stefan. For a 22 year old guy at his level he came across as incredibly mature, very intelligent and he's got a great sense of humor. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet him. He graciously agreed to autograph the tailpiece on my R6. When I got home and reviewed the on track videos I was again impressed with his maturity. Here's a guy who could easily have smoked everyone on track. But, he respected the spirit of the trackday, was courteous to other riders and focused on familiarizing himself with the track.

More videos of the trackday in this playlist.

Footnote: Last evening (Tue, July 24th) I attended a presentation hosted by the Revs Program at Stanford University (http://events.stanford.edu/events/330/33085/). Stefan Bradl, Lucio Cecchinello and many of the LCR team were there to discuss "Embracing Risk in the Pursuit of Victory". It was an interesting presentation and it was enjoyable to observe the team dynamics - they are a very close knit group and clearly enjoy working together. I had a nice chat with Stefan and he autographed the photo from a trackday I'll always remember. I said to him "just remember one word this weekend - podium". He smiled.

Photos courtesy of Dito Milian/gotbluemilk.com. Check out Dito's work on his website or on the gotbluemilk.com Facebook page.

2012
Total votes: 112
Total votes: 275

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Comments

I've always liked Stefan Bradl. First time I saw him was about four years ago. I was watcing the 250 GP webcast at MotoGP.com.

Nick Harris was saying that Stefan had contemplated giving up racing, but there he was on the podium. In his post-race interview, he thanked his mother and father for supporting him. I thought that was very decent for an 18 year-old kid.

Been routing for him ever since.

Total votes: 136

"Thanks for showing the ideal line..."
Ha ha, now THAT's how you sign an autograph.

Total votes: 139

But when Bradl came up he was so quite and not much of a noise maker (and wasn't some arrogant spanish kid). So I quickly came to like the guy. But his hard racing has drawn me to him even more. The only thing holding me back? He's battling with Nicky in group 2!!! Great video's by the way! Looks like loads of fun!

Total votes: 135

Great story Adam, sounds like it was in the stars for you to attend that day!!

I've only seen a couple of interviews with Stefan, but he really does come across as having a good head on his shoulders and genuinely more concerned with his performance and the overall team rather than any of the auxiliary stuff that comes with a premiere class ride.

I hope you'll be there this weekend. I'm really bummed about not making it out this year, I live in the South Bay so this is my home race too :)

Thanks again...

Total votes: 145

Awesome article Adam!!! I've moved all the way to Texas and miss all our track days together. I am just hanging over here in Houston waiting for them to open the Austin track so I can have a go at that.

It will be tough having to pay for track days again...I miss working for Keigwins!!! I miss all you guys at the track. California must be the best place in the world for Motorcycles and you really don't appreciate it until you're gone!!!! These muppets in their trucks in Texas are awful and I haven't been to the track in over a year.

Give me a shout on Facebook if you find your way to Houston!

Marc P - Ducati 848, Triumph 675 (POS with blown motor)

Total votes: 141

Small world! Some 4 yrs back, you took me out for a couple of sessions when I attended Keigwins T Hill trackday.

Have been wondering why I no longer see any instructor on the 848 anymore, never knew you moved to Texas.

Cheers!

Total votes: 138

Good to hear from you! COTA looks cool. I want to get out there someday.

Adam

Total votes: 127

Great article. Stefan Bradl sounds like the colest guy I've never met. What an awesome experience. Except for the noise reduction part. That sucked.
See you out there,

Total votes: 128

California is really primadonna-ish about things that are loud and stinky. Most definitely a nanny state.

Refer to the Dead Kennedy's song California Uber-Alles.

"Mellow out or you will pay."

Total votes: 136

... from err ...... May?

Bradl is performing brilliantly this year, but the 'corkscrew' is a challenge for even the very best and he'll do very well to finish in the top 6.

But it's more than a little silly, when a MotoGP rider is forced to learn a new track in such a manner as this.

Total votes: 136

BennyHedgehog, how would you suggest he learn his way around the track? Why exactly is this silly?

Total votes: 130

I bet you'll never hear of Ben Spies riding a track day and being a cool dude. Casey Stoner probably wouldn't joke about being shown the fast line by an amateur.

Here's hoping for a Bradl vs. Hayden scrap for the podium this weekend.

Total votes: 145

Rumerz, why the snarky Spies comment? What is the purpose? Did Spies run over your puppy or something?

As a matter of fact, Ben Spies spent several hours hanging around my pit at a trackday at Texas World Speedway a couple of years ago. He was a factory rider for Suzuki at the time. Quite the regular guy, benchracing with about 10 guys (he only knew 2 of them previously).

Total votes: 138

Looks like you lost your bet rumerz, time to pay up.
also while we're at it casey stoner rocked up unannounced at a track day i was lucky enough to be at in dec 2005, i was riding an r1, he was on his friends 125. I actually passed him on the main straight once, he didnt seem to mind when i joked about it to him in the pits afterwards.

Total votes: 133

I envy you! Great story; it pulled me right in. I imagined being there riding with Stefan, doing laps with him, chatting in the paddock. It's an incredible story for me, because I always fantasized about what it would be like to meet a MotoGP rider... fahgeddabout riding with one!!

I've been a fan of Stefan ever since I saw him on post-race interview for the 1st time after landing his 1st podium in Moto2. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if I would pick anyone else to share a track day with. Perhaps, Cal or Colin.

Total votes: 141

If you are running stock exhaust at laguna it is your intake that is exceeding the db limit not your exhaust - we can all thank the lovely people that live around the track. My advice - if you don't like the sound of motor racing - DON'T LIVE NEAR A RACE TRACK!

Total votes: 128

Street-legal exhausts aren't enough to comply with the noise limits? What a bunch of eco-fascists in California! Perhaps the silver lining in the approaching state bankruptcies will be less regulations and more respect for private property. If the limits were negotiated with neighbours during construction, perhaps it should have been built somewhere else?

Total votes: 132

the track was there well before the enviro-healers moved in - look it up!

That said, meeting a World Champ and getting to show him the fastest line would be too much to bear!

down to earth superheroes are always welcome!

Total votes: 126

Totally envious!

I'm not sure, but I think the extremely low sound limit is unique to Laguna due to the close proximity of residential housing. So it's not a "California" thing. I also got meatballed many years back on my only trackday visit there.

Edit: Just watched the videos - brings back memories! The guy in SB2 should get meatballed for still having his mirrors on ... LOL.

Total votes: 125

Sears Point (Infineon) also has a noise restriction but it is many dbs higher than Laguna Seca, so most people don't know about it.. Like the author, I typically avoided going to Laguna because it was just a PITA dealing with your exhaust, short shifting and staying off the throttle...plus it's more expensive.

Hoping for a good race this weekend...I'm cheering for Spies!!!!

Total votes: 127

i would love to do a troy bayliss experience at PI one day...

it's awesome that you have video of bradl learning the track. he really did respect the trackday format - courteous and safe.

Total votes: 134

My wife and I also attended that May 28th trackday and were ecstatic to be pitted directly across from Stephan and to ride with him on the track. As was said in the story, he treated us non professional riders with respect on the track that some local club racers don't always do. Now, I only started watching him when following the 2011 Moto2 season, but found myself warming up to him immediately. The fact that my good friends Lori and Alex were routing for his nemesis Marquez for the championship made for some fun Sundays too. In fact, I took the opportunity to ask Stephan to personally say hello to Lori and Alex by telling them two of his biggest fans couldn't make the track day! Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1TR0UW0mAE&feature=plcp

Total votes: 134

All this great feedback put a smile on my face. Thanks everyone - glad I got to share this story with you. It was an awesome day. I'm getting ready to head down to Laguna this weekend for the GP. Let's cheer on Stefan!

jerickson - love that video!

Adam

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Total votes: 148

Mr. Silver wrote a super article, well done. Nice to see a German in MotoGP which is rapidly becoming the Dorna Spanish/Italian match races.

Total votes: 143

Lovely article, we reckon Stefan does seem a very grounded and intelligent lad, and we cheer for him the last couple of years on that basis. BTW he's clearly a very talented rider.

And I hate to admit favouritism based on shallow personal judgment from the TV, we hope he has an even more succesful career than the Markez boy...

Total votes: 136

I apologize. I never heard of Stoner and Spies doing track days. I lost the bet.

Ben Spies did not run over my puppy. He tweeted recently that he was doing 120 mph on Highway 101. So I bet he's run over a puppy or two in his time. Double or nothing.

You will find that a lot of American fans don't like Spies. I've often thought about it. A lot of people slag on him because of his mom. But I personally think it's cool that he has such a supportive mother.

So I guess, to answer your question, I think it's his lack of charisma. Nobody is buying Ben Spies edition R1's. But I'm probably wrong about that, too.

Total votes: 129

Thanks for sharing. I think the folks around Laguna Seca are retarded for moving next to a Race Track then wanting it to not be so "loud". That is like moving next to LAX, then complaining about the noise the planes make. If you move there, make peace with it or move. Retarded.

Great to hear Bradl was such a cool character. Great video footage too. As always, this sight feeds my addiction, keep the stories coming.

Total votes: 132