Is there such a thing as a home race advantage? Or are MotoGP, WSBK and BSB riders all professional enough to be just as fast wherever they go? Well, if you ask me, the stupendous performance by FS-3 Racing Kawasaki’s Rory Skinner at Knockhill at the weekend only goes to prove there is such a thing. If you watched the British Superbike races on Sunday you’ll have seen the young Scottish lad score two second place finishes in only his fifth and sixth ever Superbike races. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen stellar performances by local heroes. So what’s going on? And how do they do it? Is it the crowd? The local knowledge? What gives?
Maybe it’s the fact that they know they haven’t got a long journey ahead of them, once the racing’s finished. Or maybe, after a night in their own bed, they’re better rested. Because no matter how nice your motorhome or hotel room is, there’s nothing like your own bed, is there? But I don’t think it’s that.
Va Va Voom
There’s an argument to suggest that the extra support you receive at your home race is the thing that puts the lead in your pencil. The thing that gives you that extra ‘va va voom’. And I’m sure seeing a few banners and flags waving in the crowd with your name on won’t hurt. But at the same time, you can have too much support. When you’re trying to concentrate on the job in hand, and you’ve got all and sundry wanting a piece of you, it’s a bit of a pain in the arse. Old friends, distant relatives and people you’ve never met before all wanting a selfie or an autograph because it’s the first time anyone from their town has reached the dizzying heights of Z-list celebrity.
No, I think the reason we see people having unusually good results at their ‘home circuits’ is two-fold. I think 50% of it is the extra circuit knowledge they have. And the other 50% is the confidence they have of the back of that. Let me explain what I mean using Rory Skinner’s Knockhill performance as an example. The lad’s done a lot of laps round Knockhill. He knows it like the back of his hand. He’s got every braking point, turn-in point and apex nailed, even though it is the first time he’s been there on his ZX-10RR superbike. But, to be fair, most of the grid will have also done plenty of laps round the place. They’ve all got it nailed. All except a few of the foreign lads, maybe. And at 1.3 miles, it’s not as though it takes a lot of learning.
As most of us know, being good at bike racing is 90% in your head, give or take. Like every other bike racer approaching his (or her) home race, he’ll have been bursting with confidence, knowing he’s on for a good result. And that confidence makes as big a difference as anything. In fact it can quite often make the biggest difference.
And now, after sticking it on the podium twice at Knockers, he’ll be riding to Brands Hatch on the crest of a wave. He’s not going to have the home race advantage there, but he can still feed of what it’s given him.
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how he gets on there. Good luck Rory, and all at FS-3 Racing Kawasaki.