New York Safety Track Review – Profile of the NYST
New motorsports circuits are rare – especially on the East Coast where track seasons are shortened by winter’s bitter breathe.
To design something worthy of road-racing motorcyclists and car enthusiasts, there are two imperatives – a kick-ass layout that challenges even the most talented riders/drivers, and a facility with proper accommodations, especially ones that cater to the sweat-impaired.
Then you have to build it, which takes not only lots of money, but also the correct land in the correct location, a design-forward mind, and – maybe the most important – some big cajones. Thankfully Greg Lubinitsky has all of these factors.
Lubinitsky built the New York Safety Track – known as NYST – in Harpersfield, N.Y. – a town founded in 1788 by American Revolution Colonel John Harper. And it helps that Lubinitsky’s one hell of a fast rider. Oh – and he’s young. After our first phone call I thought I’d be meeting a man in his late 30s or 40s. But no – Greg is a mere 28. He was only 24 when plans for NYST started to become a reality.
First, Greg had some luck finding a location with an airstrip, which is still functional for plane landings today. Having a bold-enough attitude to take on the project solely with his father, Lubinitsky built a circuit that features non-stop elevation changes and some blind sections that – when on the correct line – seamlessly flow.
The track is not like other stateside circuits – it replicates real-world mountain roads, which gives it a feel similar to what you find at international road-racing circuits such as the Mountain section of the Isle of Man Mountain Course. NYST provides something different for track riders, and it has one of the most beautiful backdrops – especially during fall when everything appears like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
After my very first lap around the 18-corner, 2.14-mile circuit that’s 40-foot wide (think of Thunderbolt at New Jersey Motorsports Park), I knew the utmost passion went into this circuit. And now – just like many others – I’m completely hooked.
New York Safety Track – Why Not an Airport?
“It’s actually crazy how all this started,” Lubinitsky says. “In 1996 my dad (David) bought a GSX-R 750 that came with a coupon for a free track day. Obviously chasing those well-known speed demons, David used that track coupon, and Greg joined him. Greg’s first track experiences arrived when he was 14-years-old, first at Canada Mosport and then at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, where Pocono’s FUSA (Formula USA) became a staple.
The addiction towards non-stop Wide Open Throttle began its unnerving course, and soon Lubintitsky was frequenting Pocono multiple times a month. But this was back in in the early part of the 21st Century when Pocono was deemed unsafe by many, from professionals to your typical stateside trackside riders who craved smooth tarmac and the lack of walls at speeds over 150mph.
“Back then, we’d go hit the track and go as fast as possible. But it was dangerous at Pocono; one day while riding the East Course (a smaller circuit at Pocono that was also deemed unsafe by many back before it was revised) we didn’t even ride. There was a crash on the wall of the back straight, and the red flag came out. And it was so serious that we wasted an entire day without riding,” Greg says.
But it wasn’t only the factor of unsafe track conditions that nearly drove Lubinitsky away from track days; it was also the organizations that ran track events. At the time Lubinitsky and his dad also got into flying, and were soon seeking a local airstrip in upstate New York.
It took one simple Google search of “NY Airport for Sale,” and Lubinitsky found an airstrip in Harpersfield, which was roughly 30 miles northwest of home in Windham. The airstrip was located in a desolate area of Harpersfield, and was constructed in 1976. “It was all grass, trees, and trees planted for crosswinds – this guy knew what he was doing,” Greg says of the owner.
Better yet, the airstrip was located on 140 acres that features the type of unique topography and soil that was just about perfect for a racetrack. Before the purchase was even solidified, the idea of New York Safety Track was born: “We were like, um, do you want to build a track. My dad said this is a crazy idea, but yes lets do it!”
That was 2011; the purchase was complete, and the minds started rolling. Greg began non-stop research into things he had little experience in, such as design and what type of asphalt was needed to sustain itself during the frigid New York state winters that frequently dipped below 30 degrees F.
New York Safety Track – Design and Layout
At 24-years young, Greg went to work, pouring over topography maps. He began plotting out a unique design that presented challenges through elevation changes from the natural landscape, but also flowed. And of course, the original airstrip had to remain – including the dotted line known on the landing strips of aviation fields.
“My muse was the upstate New York back roads – make everything as blind and technical as possible,” Greg says. “At New York Safety Track, you’re not going that fast into turns, but they are beyond challenging at speed. The off-camber turns hug you into the corners, and NYST was designed so if you do crash, you will sustain minimal injury, if any (hence the track’s name). It’s technical over fast-flowing circuits, and you won’t encounter any walls if you do run off.”
Greg doesn’t have a degree in engineering, but designed the entire circuit himself. And this is no simply task for a 2.14-mile circuit that contains 450-foot elevation changes – roughly 40-stories high! Due to the cold temperatures and snow, New York Safety Track had to be elevated quite high and feature correct drainage. Plus, the asphalt had to be just right so no deterioration would occur during the winter months; the asphalt needed the ability to stretch and shrink without losing longevity. And due to the trick design, you’ll never find a puddle on the track.
Purchased in 2011, the track was built in a mere five months from May through September of 2012. During these months, workers “hauled ass” to clear trees, excavate and turn the old airport hangar into a modern garage and bathroom facility. The latter is needed for sweaty riders and drivers who not only need toilets and sinks, but showers. By summer of 2013 – following some battles with fellow residents of Harpersfield over noise – NYST had hosted its first track day for both motorcycles and cars.
When the work was complete, Greg won something he had never knew existed – asphalt awards. And since 2012, the tarmac has remained as fresh as new, regardless of some harsh winters that lasted nearly six months.
New York Safety Track – Riding NYST and Lap Records
My first experience at NYST was earlier this summer. A good friend of mine got into the trackside life after years of Harley riding and one year of sport riding. But once he was bite by speed, the Wide Open Throttle disease took hold. He rode with a few clubs, but after only two days at NYST, he was hooked. And of course I had to see what the track was all about.
By the end of my warm-up laps on an older RC51 I’m building into a Joey Dunlop replica, my energy superseded normal levels. A lover of international road racing such as the Isle of Man TT and the Ulster Grand Prix, my muse – like Greg’s – resides in back-country roads. The circuit’s layout truly caters to this muse, and the feeling is natural – one that allows that same rush of ultimate focus needed on back-country roads, but in a controlled environment.
Sure, other favorite circuits present controlled environments where speed is safe, but NYST delivers the rawness of speed freedom. Once you began braking at turn one for the sharp, off-camber left and roll through turn two with the knee on deck, focus needs to be at the forefront.
Turn two descends downhill as you pick your line through a fast and wide turn three, which brings you back uphill towards a kink considered turn four, and a switch downhill towards another kink considered turn five. From there your head is pointed downwards through a double-apex turn six that brings you roaring up to Wheelie Hill – a blind turn that needs correct negotiation for the optimal line to get back to Wide Open Throttle.
While WOT, you hit an early apex on turn seven, another right kink that drops you onto the back straight – the second longest on NYST. Letting the bike sway out towards the right of the track, you keep it pinned for one of the quickest left-handers on the track, turn eight. From Wheelie Hill to turn eight and the transition from right on turn nine to left on turn 10, you can make up loads of speed.
Turn 11 presents another double apex situation towards another deceiving, off-camber right (turn 12) that quickly transitions into yet another double apex turn 13. From there you stand it up and tightly nail the apex at yet another kink, turn 14, as you move towards a slow left turn 15. From there you can follow the five-time Daytona 200 Champions Scott Russell’s advice of “point and shoot” and create a nearly straight line through the left-hand turn 17.
Run the right side of the track and apex left on the final turn – 18 – and get that tire on the meat for WOT onto the front straight. Pay attention to the dotted lines, staying to the left if you don’t see any bikes coming onto the circuit. From there test your talent for the latest braking possible before turn one – but note there are some slight bumps; if you brake to early at full speed, the suspension can quickly unload and send that back tire flying via Marc Marquez. But this just means you were on the brakes WAY too early.
And the best part? You get to reverse these challenges when running NYST “downtown” instead of the usual “uptown.” Riding NYST downtown challenges the mind further, especially at the back flowing section leading towards wheelie hill. Essentially, you have two tracks in one, and the best thing to do is run them like two completely separate circuits – forgot about the other configuration because it’ll just slow you down.
The lap record at NYST going Uptown? A 1:29 by Corey Alexander aboard a Yamaha YZF-R6 spec’d for the former AMA Supersport class. My goal? To come into 1:31s on a liter bike, which is much more challenging to ride at NYST than a supersport.
New York Safety Track School – Rider Enrichment Brings safety, Grows Sport
One kick to being a motorcycle journalist is riding some of the world’s best circuits with some of the world’s fastest riders. I’ve ridden tracks from Circuit of the Americas in Texas to Almeria in Spain with talent like Keith Code, 1998 250GP Champion Roland Sands and AMA Champions Josh Hayes and Eric Bostrom. I also attended some of the best schools, including California Superbike School, Cornerspeed, and Yamaha Champions Riding School.
Knowledge builds, and one learns how to correctly find apexes and solidify lines at any track. Many track organizations offer schools at the many circuits they frequent, but if you are a newbie at NYST – regardless if you hold a professional license or have a wall of trophies – the track’s school is highly recommended.
They have a novice class for complete newbies, but the talented staff can show even some of the fastest riders how to quickly get up to speed. Racers win because they absorb and study – not just ride balls out – and why not learn from the ones who ride this track practically every weekend during prime season, which runs from May through September? There are certain trees you should aim for at Wheelie Hill, and a few bumps you can avoid like the one just left of the early apex before turn four, so why not ride with the best?
But NYST’s riding school is more – just like the design of the track, the school was well thought out and is focused on not only training riders, but focusing on the betterment of riders. It’s very structured, and the underlying goal of safety means people return, which grows the sport. “Once they see the vision that is NYST, people keep coming back – and it all begins with training riders correctly from day one,” Greg says.
Unlike some track-day organizations, most NYST coaches only train on the NYST track, giving them ultimate authority at a circuit they know extremely well. These coaches go through rigorous training before the season so everyone is up to par on the NYST training philosophy.
Most of the school is one-on-one coaching. But it’s not just rookie schools, which take up about 80 percent of the enrollment on any given weekend; NYST also has intermediate and expert training. The best part? There’s no extra charge for the schooling; if you paid for a track day, the school is included. First-time riders must attend the novice school, but after that it’s a matter of choice.
Are you a rookie without gear or a bike? New York Safety Track has you covered, and offers full gear and/or bike rentals – for some extra scratch.
New York Safety Track – Experience it for Yourself
Since opening its asphalt to riders in the summer of 2013, the track gradually garnered more and more popularity. This is evident in the season passes; NYST sold 30 for 2014 and 2015. They go quick, though, usually within a week of releasing them in September.
Riding at New York Safety Track is highlighted by two major positives – track time and the ability to ride nearly every weekend. Track time is much – on a typical day, about 80 riders are split into three groups – Novice (white), Intermediate (yellow) and Expert (blue). This gives each group about 20 minutes of riding time.
During my first day of riding at New York Safety Track, I got in seven sessions at 20-minutes each. Some folks also rent the track and host private days. I was present at one in July, and the entire day was an open session; ride as much as you want – the ultimate test of your physical condition. Can you last more than 30 minutes at full speed? These private days are typically by invite only, and invitations are not hard to come by since the camaraderie within the NYST paddocks is loaded with energy – it’s also a great place for networking for people like motorcycle journalists.
The other positive is the ability to ride more. New York Safety Track runs every weekend from May through mid-October, giving you more opportunity to work on skills or just feed the WOT part of the brain.
New York Safety Track is doing more than most track day club organizations, and it’s only in its third year of existence. Greg has a natural attitude that leans towards growth, and this will surely be reflected in the future of NYST.
Plus, as I mentioned, Greg is one hell of a rider – one that I’m going to learn from every time I’m there. His passion for not only riding, but teaching, will help me chase a task that’s been on my mind since my first lap – setting a new track record.
New York Safety Track is my new “home” circuit where I will spend much time, and I’m already planning some private days hosted by Ultimate MotorCycling. Hope to see you there.
For more, visit NYST.com, where you can view the upcoming schedule and prices.
Photos by Bryan Finch of 572 Creations