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Redline Track day with Fred Merkel Tuition Taupo September 17th

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I had heard about a new “Open Track Day” format being launched by Redline Trackdays some time ago and decided that I would make some enquiries so I might experience how this new format was different to the standard type of track days.

At this point let me just say that I do race and have been competing for about one year at club level starting in Clubmans and now competing in F2 and F1 races on my R6.

After Googling “Redline Trackday” I was pleasantly surprised to see a very professional website set up in an easy access format which explained that the Open Track Format meant exactly that! No groups, No time limit, No restrictions on passing and a chance to practice your race starts! Sounded like a racers track day dream. There was also an opportunity to get some tuition from 2 time World Superbike Champion and 3 x AMA Champion Freddy Merkel, I decided that it would be a great idea to get up to Taupo check out the new format first hand and get some training from a racing legend all in the one day.

I arrived at the Taupo Track in the morning with the sky promising a mostly fine day and got about setting up my bike in a garage of my choosing (the trackday fee includes your garage), it was nice to find myself setting up next to Tony Reece 2005 NZ SBK Champ! and some other very talented riders.

I found the Track day organizers to be friendly and approachable and the paddock was given plenty of time to sign in and get set up between 8am when the gates opened and 10am when we could go out and have a play right after the riders briefing.

I had seen Mr Merkel on a number of occasions in the pit areas during the VMCC Winter series but I was a little nervous about meeting him and being under his watchful and experienced eye, I need not have worried, after being introduced to Fred by Darrin Madgewick the Trackday organizer I felt immediately at ease by Fred’s relaxed and friendly manner, this guy is very down to earth and after a chat with me and the other two riders about what we wanted to get out of the days tuition, it was easy to see that Fred would quickly ascertain our individual skill levels and tailor the tuition to suit each of us.

Basically Fred’s approach was to take point duty and slowly familiarize us with the line he would then get us to take the lead one at a time, follow round behind us and come into the pit area for a debrief.

It was good to see that Fred recognized straightaway that he had three riders of very different skill levels and decided to split us up for a more one on one type tuition to give us all the most out of our time with him.

When it came to my turn Fred made it clear that it wasn’t about needing or trying to impress him (as if any of us could!) his words were “im looking for the smart rider not the fast rider”, we head out onto the track, Fred in front, and over the course of a few laps slowly pick up a moderate pace Fred rides the line he wants you to take and after every section looks back and does one of two things that made me chuckle to my self Fred turns around and gives me the Merkel Thumbs up which brings an instant grin or he turns around looks at you and turns back to continue through the next section my interpretation if he did this was “nope not quite right lets try it again”.

Coming down the back straight after more than a few laps and some consistent Merkel Thumbs up Fred waves me on to lead, I don’t know if it was just me but I immediately want to impress and pick up my pace and then I find myself looking back! “Why the heck am I doing this”, I ask myself, I can almost see Fred rolling his eyes Hahahaaaa. I slowly button off and try and concentrate on my line gradually getting faster, every so often Fred overtakes me under braking and holds my hand through the correct line then he waves me forward again.

My time with Fred consisted of this leading, showing the line, then me following until we were getting up to what was for me a fairly good pace.

After every session we would head back into the pit for a debrief, Fred was generous with affirmations that made my chest expand and had a non critical way of correcting which kept my feet firmly on the ground.

The format of the Redline Trackday allows you almost nonstop riding and I saw later from my onboard cam footage that it was easy to go out and ride hard out for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, by 2pm I was absolutely knackered and had to politely decline my turn with Fred in other words I got way more tuition than I expected and a lot more than I could handle, this is a testament to Fred’s conditioning as he who was out there all day.

For anyone contemplating this type of tuition let me just say, on the day, I knocked close to a whole second off my fastest race pace even though it seemed I was going slower!

Fred Merkel is a true gentlemen with a true passion for the track, its not hard to see why he has such huge respect from those that know him, this is the best training/tuition available and you can gain so much even if your not a racer.

I would encourage any one to get along to these “Open Track Days” especially if you are looking at competitive racing or just like riding fast with other fast riders, who knows you may even get to rub shoulders with Fred Merkel as he goes past! J

Thank you Redline Trackdays for a fantastic format and thank you Mr Merkel for making your knowledge and experience available to others that share the same passion.

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