SFLMiniGP Camp | Big skills on little bikes! January 2020
**Images provided by Bettencourt Racing and Michael Correa!TLDR - Camp isn't only for kids or slower riders. I believe I'm a better rider than many who think they're already too fast to benefit from a camp, and yet I still learned a ton over the three days. Seat time makes you faster but proper training is a catalyst to that.
Last weekend I attended the SFLMiniGP 3-day training camp at Palm Beach International Raceway here in South Florida, and here's how it went down!
Let me preface this with some background info on myself and SFLMiniGP. Michael Correa started the South Florida region of SFLMiniGP (five?) years ago after moving down from the Northeast. The SFL region is a sister chapter to the OG NJMiniGP which is obviously based up in Jersey and is centered around NJ Motorsports Park. The grids are full of kids on 50s, 110s, and even some of the larger mini bikes such as XR100s and TTR125s. Adult classes range from 100cc mini bikes up to 450cc supermotos. I'm not sure what they feed you at the NJ camps but we were fortunate to have some great food for lunch and dinner that was prepared by Marllon DaCruz on the grill.
I started racing with SFL in 2017 and have since completed two full seasons in multiple classes in 18' and 19'. I have a dozen+ podium finishes and a handful of wins, have raced the UMRA 24hr over in California twice, and have a couple podium finishes in their other SCMiniGP series as well. Apart from minis I'm a mid pack advanced rider at local big bike track days. I'm not slow, but I have still have a long way to go as a rider. Although Michael Correa has become a good friend of mine, but I don't expect handouts, so for full disclosure, I do pay for each and every event/race with SFL and I did pay my fees to participate in this camp! That said, this post will be written with 100% honesty.
Friday started out with a quick classroom session that introduced the campers to the coaches, and also briefed our itinerary for the weekend. After that we geared up and went over to the skidpad where there were multiple zones set up with cones arranged for different exercises. I won't go in to each and every exercise but we worked on threshold braking, body position with figure-eights and circles, and corner entry decelerating from various speeds. Multiple coaches were stationed at each zone, and feedback was given throughout each exercise. Out of all of these exercises, a double cone figure-eight drill with Michael and a single cone circle drill with Ben Gloddy clicked with me the most.
On Saturday we again started with a brief classroom session that went over the day before, and provided insight of what we'd be doing for the rest of the day. Zones were set up on the track this time, in different sectors. We ran drills that worked on repetitive high speed cornering in a circle track-style layout, ran those figure-eights again but with passing introduced, raced five-wide in to a single turn during the "Whose line is it anyway?" zone, played the signature "Sharks and Minnows" chase game, and also ran a sector of the track that had various autocross style pointed cones that changed direction on each lap. I don't expect you to understand what each of these are, but they all focus on developing different aspects of riding such as looking ahead, holding a line, spatial awareness, and consistency. Saturday's exercises were faster and more riding oriented than Friday, but I will say that I felt prepared after doing all of those drills the day before. Scott Stump was a huge help during our circle track drills which really helped me with our right hand turns. Playing passing figure-eights with Superlex also helped me tighten up and carry more speed on those smaller turns, and running Sharks and Minnows with Julian Correa was some of the most fun I had all day.
Sunday was an open track day, available to anyone that wanted to ride that day. We were using the entire track and it was great to be able to put everything I had learned from the days before all together for a few sessions. I will admit that halfway through the day I was exhausted, partially because Kris Olivera kept me up until well after 1am to watch a 40 second fight, and partially because my brain felt like mush after so much riding and instruction from the days before.
Closing thoughts - Before the camp I kind of felt like I had plateaued. I'd found myself at a very steep part of the learning curve where more and more seat time was providing diminishing results when it came down to my lap times. I really just needed someone to tell me what to do to go faster and why I needed to do it. This camp helped me identify a few things that I really need to improve on and also provided the insight on how to get them done. Muscle memory was fighting me on Sunday when I was trying to apply what I had learned, but at least I am now making a conscious effort on improving some bad habits that I had unknowingly formed. I can't say that I'm seconds faster rider right off the bat, but I can say with full confidence that in a few months I definitely will be.
Is the camp for you?
If you're expecting to ride around the track and have lead follow experiences with professional riders, you won't. But you'll be exposed to drills and exercises that will help you understand the fundamentals of going fast on a motorcycle; and that's not something you can just learn on your own. If you don't plan on putting in work during and especially after the camp, don't expect to see results. For anyone serious about improving yourself on the bike, humble yourself and sign up for a camp.
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