The Penguin Racing School | Track Time

Now in its 39th season, Penguin claims to be the oldest motorcycle roadracing school in America. The school dates to 1973, when “new riders were given a 20-minute dissertation on the rules and set loose to wreak havoc on the racetrack.”

Things are different today. Street riders wanting to learn about the track in a low-key environment start Penguin’s Track Experience program. Next up, the Basic course is geared to new track-day participants and aspiring racers. Finally, the Advanced course is just that: a master class for racers looking to gain an edge on their competition.

I took part in a two-day school at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, known in NASCAR circles as the “bullring” of Loudon. As one of the crustier instructors said, “If you can ride well here, you’ll be able to ride well anywhere.” Loudon has it all: a big bowl turn, off-camber bends, blind up- and downhills, a banked straightaway and short chutes. It also has tons of bumps, tricky tar snakes, paint stripes, curbs, cones and walls—all of which make good reference points.

These indicators of where to be on the track were pointed out in extensive track walks each day. The same field trips dissected the nuances of fast lines, while offering a macro look at motorcycle physics. Much of our classroom advice was Loudon-specific, but explored the skills of riding quickly, smoothly and safely anywhere. In addition to chalk talks and question-and-answer sessions for all levels, Basic course students were also shown a series of well-produced videos to reinforce the day’s techniques.

The 15- to 20-minute track sessions alternated between group follow-the-leader processions to one-on-one instruction to open track time. After that, instructors critiqued action photos of each rider. The final teaching aid was a cone drill performed on a Yamaha TTR125, where most everyone crashed and laughed their way around the oval practicing basic bike-handling skills.

The Penguin Racing School (www.penguinracing.com) is run at Loudon rain or shine through October for $280 per day. A special school at Homestead, Florida, will go down on December 2. Rentals of Ducati Monsters, 750 and 900 Supersports as well as gear from Arai, TCX and Vanson are also available.

As for my schooling, by the end of day one I’d logged 70 miles in seven track sessions, for a total of 43 laps on the 1.6-mile track. On the second day, I rode an even 100 miles. As Lead Instructor Eric Wood (son of founder Jerry Wood) said, “Roadracing is a game of fractions.” Indeed, from the beginning to the end, all of this track walking, classroom schooling, one-on-one counseling and full-throttle riding lowered my lap times by 6 seconds and increased my main straightaway speed by 8 mph. Proof positive that Penguins really _can _fly.

Every Penguin school Basic and Advanced course begins with a track walk. Here, Lead Instructor Eric Wood, who holds the lap record at Loudon, shows students a particular apex point.
Instead of reviewing video, instructor Scott Greenwood goes old-school by critiquing official photographer John Owens’ stills of students, looking for correct body position and line choice.
Because body position is key to proper bike control, safety and fast lap times, all students have the opportunity to climb aboard one of the school’s rental Ducatis for one-on-one instruction.