Tuesday Tip: Starts with Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith has long been known as one of the holeshot aces in East SX Lites action, so we asked him for some of his tips on getting out of the gate and leading the way to the first turn to nab another holeshot check.

“One of the most important things I like to do is get a good routine down. Once I’ve go a routine down, and it’s proven that it works, I just like to stick to the same thing. For example, I always start with two feet down. I always start in second gear. I always let the clutch out until I feel it grab and then just barely pull it back in.”

Where does he focus his attention when waiting for the gate to drop? “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, you’ve got to watch the pin or watch a certain thing. I just watch the gate. I just make sure I’m focused on that. I hear nothing else, I see nothing else except for that gate, and the second it flinches, I flinch. I’ve just got to be in the zone on that.”

How about throttle application and using the clutch out of the gate? “I think a lot of people make the mistake of pinning it and dumping the clutch. It’s not just all about that. It’s finesse, too, like a drag racer would want to do. You’ve got to ease the clutch out to an extent, not just slip it. You’ve got to find that fine line of what works the best, shift as quick as you can to keep it in the power and not over-rev. Once you get that routine, then it’s not hard to keep it, especially if you’re racing all the time, you’re doing it all the time. So it’s not just practice, practice, practice. Initially, you need to get it down. Make sure you’re in the right RPM and it’s pulling.”

How about gate prep? “When I get the gate ready I like to make sure it’s downhill from rear to front, except for the last six inches where I build a perfectly smooth ramp that’s the same height as if the bar were down on the ground. I want it to be as smooth transition, I’m kind of guessing, since the gate’s up for me while I’m building. When I go on my parade lap, I make sure my mechanic matches it up perfectly.  Once it’s down, he makes sure it’s long enough and the right height so that it’s a smooth transition straight off. Otherwise if you gas it and hit it with the front tire, it’s going to bounce up and cause you to wheelie, and if you hit it with the rear tire it’s going to cause wheelspin…especially on a lot of these really slippery plastic billboards that they’re putting on them. As smooth a transition as you can build, the better.”