A Guide To... Track Days.
With today’s roads clogging up with ever more traffic and speed cameras seemingly positioned at every turn, track days provide the ideal opportunity to stretch your car’s legs without it leading to a visit to the judge.Here Rob talks you through all you need to know about getting the most out of your day…
Choose Your Track
First job, where to go? Money can be saved by sticking locally, (as there will be no overnight stay). However, no two tracks are the same so look at each site on its merits.
Some tracks are better suited for the novice racer, Brands Hatch and Snetterton spring to mind.
Places like Oulton Park will give you a rewarding experience but can be unforgiving should things go wrong. If you are new to a track, try and get yourself a place on the tuition course whilst booking. It only takes half an hour or so once your there and will improve your track knowledge immeasurably.
Stuff You'll Need
There are a few bits you’ll need to sort before you hit the track. Helmet: These can be rented at the circuit for around £25 but if you intend to make this a regular thing, or simply don’t fancy the prospect of wearing something that countless sweaty heads have occupied before, it’s probably worth you investing in a decent helmet. Some tracks now insist that helmets meet certain safety criteria, (SNELL 2005). If you’re buying new, make sure it meets these regulations. Don’t be tempted with a really cheap helmet. The market is awash with Chinese knock-offs that might look the part but will provide you with the same impact protection as wrapping your head in Edam. Remember also, if you are going to track a soft top, pick up a full face design as some places will insist on it.
It’s important to make sure your car is up to standard before you go. Take a poorly looked after vehicle on a track day and you will be rewarded with a thrilling time, picking up parts of your engine’s innards off the straight. And that’s if you’re lucky. Make sure the engine oil is in good condition. Likewise for all the other fluids. Tyres and brakes are the other areas that should receive special attention. You’ll be amazed at how quickly these things can wear out. Remember also that they’ve not just got to survive the track, they need to get you home again as well. Finally, check you exhaust volume. Whilst you might find it mightily satisfying to run a car so noisy that small children run and cower at the very sound of it at idle, the organisers at the track day will take a dimmer view. They are under massive pressure now to keep noise down at their circuits. One of the first things you must do before you race is have a probe stuck up your exhaust to measure the noise your car emits. Too noisy and your now a bystander. If you’ve fitted a decat or something, swap it back.
Get all this stuff together the day before you go: Driving License, BOTH PARTS!! Crash Helmet. Money, (for extra fuel and food). Change of clothes, (you WILL sweat) Small bottle of screen wash. Tyre pressure gauge and pump. Basic tool kit. Gaffer tape, (Fixes 99% of problems FACT) Cable Ties, (Fixes the other 1%)
Also, it’s a good idea to fill your car up with fuel to save time on the day. Have an early night! Apart from being dangerous, if you turn up to a track smelling like George Best, you’re not racing. Simple.
On The Day
It’s best to get there nice and early. Most track events start at around 8am but check your booking info. Get signed in and get your car tested for noise before the queues get too big. You’ll be given a briefing of the track, PAY ATTENTION! It’ll give you any information you need to know. Next will come your slow laps, again another chance to get to know the place as well as you can. Before you get out there, lower your tyre pressures by a few psi.
Out On The Track
When you start off, take it easy. Let your tyres and brakes get up to temperature and give yourself time to learn the layout of the track properly. Be aware of other people out on the circuit. There will be people a lot quicker than you, let them past when they come up behind you, it’s not a race. There will also be people far slower than you. Make sure you overtake them safely. NEVER overtake during cornering or under braking. It may play up to your fantasies as a world class NASCAR driver but you’ll more than likely find yourself booted off the track for your trouble. If it’s an open circuit, (you can stay out as long as you want), don’t go more than about 20 minutes at a time. Your car won’t be used to such a thrashing so will welcome the rest. However, don’t just pull in and stop, have a slow lap around to let the car cool a bit before you come in. When you do, let it run for a little while until the fan kicks in. Never put the handbrake on either as the hot pads could meld with the discs and leave you stuck fast. When you are ready to return to the action, check your tyre pressures again and give the whole car the once over. Rejoin the track, have another slow lap whilst the tyres reach temperature and then have another 20 minute burst. Remember to drink plenty of fluids. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be sweating buckets.
After your successful days driving, where you have appeared manly and awesome to the opposite sex, (probably), have a good look around your car before you set off home.
Check the tyres and brakes particularly as these would have seen some punishment today. When you get out of the compound, for God’s sake drive like you’re meant to. Like a pub at closing time, the police will often lay in wait for unsuspecting would be racers, ready to rid them of their licenses. Not to mention the safety aspect obviously. In the cold light of day the following morning, check over the car again and take it for a little test drive to make sure everything works as it should.
By this point, you should have caught the bug and be destined to a life of spending your weekends removing interior trim and taping your boot shut in the pursuit of that elusive ‘perfect lap’. Now’s the time to book your next one…
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