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Old 08-13-2010, 12:10 AM   #1
Chris B.
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Beginner's guide to HPDE/Track days - Version 1.0

Many people have asked me how to get started in doing track days at the various road courses in the tristate area and where to find out about track day events. Instead of answering the same questions in PM's many times. I made a beginner's guide.

Hopefully thie covers most of what a beginner needs. If I forgot anything or anyone has a suggestion, let me know. I decided to skip driving techniques, lines through corners, etc... because that's what your instructor should be doing your first few track days and something you develop as your skill increases.

Where to find track days:

www.motorsportreg.com
www.ontrackinsurance.com
hpdeins.locktonaffinity.com
www.mytrackschedule.com
www.nasanortheast.com
www.nasaproracing.com
www.trackdaze.com
www.tracktime4cars.com
www.chinmotorsports.com

Also various clubs related to specific cars such as the PCA, BMWCCA, Corvair club, Audi club, etcÖ

What to do before your first track day:

Have your car thoroughly checked over. Make sure the suspension, brakes, engine, and drive train are working properly. Do any routine maintenance that needs to be done soon instead of waiting until after the track day. Change your oil if it needs to be changed soon.

Bleed the brakes with a good synthetic fluid. Your brakes will see higher temperatures than they do on the street. Motul RBF600, ATE Type 200, ATE Super Blue all work well and have temperature ratings up to twice as high as regular street DOT3 fluid.

Make sure you have plenty of brake pad material left. You usually can use your street brake pads for your first track day if you have good brake fluid since you won't be concentrating on late braking and braking at the limit. If you continue to do track days, different brake pads for track use are advised. The temperatures that your brakes will reach on the track will cause regular street brake pads to stop working properly and wear out fast.

Check the policies and rules of the group running the track day to make sure you do everything you need to do before you get there.

Track day insurance:

Most automotive insurance policies donít cover track days even though they are driverís education events and are safer than driving on the street. This is due to the higher speeds and greater potential for damage if something goes wrong. There are several companies offering track day insurance. They donít cover every track day and prices vary depending on the track and dollar amount of coverage. Two that I have used are:
www.ontrackinsurance.com
hpdeins.locktonaffinity.com
Those sites also list track days they cover. It may be useful for finding track days in your area.

Things to bring for your first track day:
  • Any required paperwork for the event - Vehicle tech inspection form, registration form, etc...
  • Driver's License - Some groups check to make sure you have one since its usually a requirement.
  • SA2005 Helmet - Some groups allow M2005 Helmets, but not all of them. Check ahead of time if you have a M2005 helmet. You can get a new SA2005 helmet for under $150. Some track day groups offer helmet rentals, but they are usually limited availability. They can't guarantee they will have your size. If you are renting a helmet make sure to contact them in advance to see if you can be guaranteed a rental in your size.
  • Water - Bring plenty of water and other non alcoholic beverages.
  • Food - Some tracks have limited availability of food from their snack bars and its usually on the expensive side. Also you may be hungry between meals and want a snack.
  • Sunscreen - You don't want to get fried, especially for a two day event
  • Sunglasses - Your eyes will feel better and less tired if you wear them when you aren't on the track.
  • Hat - You may develop Helmet hair or just want your head and face out of the sun.
  • Folding Chair - Its much more comfortable than sitting on the ground or sitting in your car all day
  • Rain Gear - It only rains if you don't bring it. Track days do run in the rain. Driving in the rain teaches you to be smooth
  • Tarp - When you take your stuff(floor mats, cooler, snacks, extra clothes spare change, license & registration, RADAR detector, EZ Pass, etc...) out of your car put it on half of the tarp, then fold the tarp over to cover your stuff and keep it dry and out of the sun.
  • Long sleeve shirt and long pants - Many track and groups running track days have a no short sleeve rule except in extreme heat. The Under Armor/New Balance and similar style long sleeve shirts that are meant to be breathable and allow moisture to evaporate in hot weather work well. On cooler days you can wear anything long sleeved.
  • 2 quarts of extra engine oil - During track use, your car may consume more oil than usual. After a few track days you can judge how much it actually uses. You may be able to find out if you need more by talking to people that have the same car and have more track day experience.
  • 1 or 2 bottles of extra brake fluid and anything needed to bleed your brakes. It might not be absolutely necessary your first track day. Its still a good idea to bring it, especially if you are running street brake pads for your first event.
  • Tire pressure Gauge - You may need/want to adjust your air pressure at the track. Track tire pressures may be different than street tire pressures.
  • Air pump Ė You may need to adjust your tire pressures. A 12 volt automotive air pump can be purchased for under $20 if you donít have one already.
  • Paper towels and/or Rags - for checking oil, cleaning your windows, etc...
  • Window Cleaner - Its easier to drive when you can see where you are going. Its amazing how dirty a windshield can get when you drive through a swarm of gnats or mosquitoes at 100+ MPH. Also you may need to clean tire rubber off your windshield.
  • Torque wrench and socket for your wheel lug nuts Ė Youíll want to check your wheel lug nut torque several times. Check the torque once before your first track session and several times through the day.
  • Wheel chock Ė You shouldnít be using your parking brake after a track session and may find your parking area isnít level. You can buy a commercial one or use a piece of 2x4 or other wood you have around that will prevent your car from rolling.
What to do:

Check the rules of the group running the track day to be prepared. Some require a pre track day tech inspection. Some require you to bring certain things. Some have rules about seats, belts, and safety equipment. If you have any questions, call and/or email them ahead of time to get clarification.

Fill up your gas tank before you get to the track. If a track does have gasoline available, its usually much more expensive than buying it off the track. Some tracks donít have 87 to 94 octane unleaded gasoline available. You may find that the lowest octane gasoline they have is 104 and that probably wonít work as well in your car tuned and designed for pump gas. If your car runs on E85, Methanol, or anything else not common, you may want to bring extra or confirm the track has it available and the pumps will be open for your track day.

Arrive early. Youíll need time for registration, taking the unnecessary stuff out of your car, tech inspection, and to go over your car.

Make sure you get a copy of the schedule. Attend the driverís meeting and all classroom sessions. Some groups that run track days wonít let you out on track if you miss a classroom session.

Pay attention to the flags and their meanings in the driverís meeting and the classroom sessions. The flags and flag stations are there for your safety.

Ask questions. If you are unsure of something or donít know where something is, ask the people running the event. If they canít find the answer to your question, they will find someone who can.

Unpack your car and place your stuff on that tarp I mentioned bringing.

Drink plenty of fluids, especially on warm and hot days. If you start to become dehydrated, it will be harder to concentrate on your driving.

Donít use your parking brake after track sessions. Put your car in gear and use a wheel chock or piece of 2x4 to prevent your car from rolling away.

The basics of driving:

"Race car driving is like sex.....all men think they're good at it." - Jay Leno

You may have experience in other forms of racing and/or pushed your car to the limits on the street and think you can drive fast. In reality, most people that think they can drive fast on the street will experience a whole new level and form of fast and safe driving on the track. You will quickly learn how much you don't know. No matter how good you think you are or how much driving and racing experience you have, you can still learn something.

Don't place any unreasonable expectations on yourself. Even if you have other racing experience you shouldn't be discouraged if you aren't going as fast as you want to or aren't learning things are quickly as you expected to. Keep a positive attitude. The best drivers in the world still make mistakes and feel they can learn new things even after years of racing and track driving. Make small goals for yourself, especially during your first few track days.

Look for the flag stations your first lap. Most of the time, your first lap or two of the day will be under yellow flag and at a slower pace. The location of the flag stations are important to know. They will warn you of danger ahead, let you know then the session is over, and help you notice when a faster car wants to pass.

Only work on fixing or improving one thing at a time. This goes back to what was said above, setting small goals for yourself.

Don't try to be fast. Try to be smooth. Smooth = fast. If you try to be fast, you won't be smooth and you will get frustrated.

Listen to your instructor.

Keep both hands on the wheel except when shifting or giving another car a point by.

Relax! Take a moment to wiggle your fingers and look at your gauges on the longer straights. When you are relaxed, you can listen and feel more of what the car is doing. If you become tense or stressed, you get tunnel vision and pay less attention to what is going on around you.

The straighter the steering wheel is, the further you can push the brakes and accelerator. You can think of the wheel and pedals being connected. The straighter the wheel is, the further you can push down the brake pedal or accelerator pedal.

Don't just look at the car in front of you, look ahead down the track.

Don't blindly follow the car ahead of you. The car in front of you may be taking a different line or the wrong line. The car ahead of you may have different handling and may need to take a different line to be fast. They may also make a mistake and drive off the track. Drive your car on your line.

You donít need race tires your first track day or even your first several track days. Youíll learn to be smooth on street tires and race tires can help cover up mistakes. Also, if it rains, you donít want to be on race tires in the rain for your first track day. I did my first several track days on 400 tread wear rating M+S(Mud & Snow) rated all season tires. It taught me a lot about being smooth.

Don't concentrate on shifting gears to get maximum acceleration. After you learn the line and learn to be smooth, you can focus more on braking and acceleration. Don't shift more than necessary and don't wind each gear out to redline. During my first few track days, I only used 3rd and 4th gear on tracks that had slower corners where I could have used 1st and 2nd gear. I learned smoothness and consistency then worked on braking and maximum acceleration.

If your car has a race seat(s) and a harness you may need one for both front seats. Most groups running tack days want equal seating and belts for both the student and instructor. Check their rules. You canít be sitting in a race seat with a 6 point harness while the instructor is in a stock seat with a standard 3 point belt. The instructor will be tossed all over the car and have difficulty instructing while you are firmly strapped into your seat.

If it rains, it will help you work on being smooth. Don't be afraid of the rain. Use it as a learning opportunity.

After a couple on track sessions, if you don't feel like you and your instructor are working well together, talk to the head instructor and see if it you can get a different instructor. Some people have communication issues and some personalities don't work well together.

Your brake pedal may get soft and spongy or your brake pads may overheat. Don't panic. This can be expected, especially with street brake pads. Let your instructor know and either take it easy for a few laps until your brakes cool down or pull into the pits and let things cool off. You may need to change your brake fluid.

Last edited by Chris B.; 08-13-2010 at 04:44 AM.
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Old 08-13-2010, 12:54 AM   #2
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I like it! Instasticky. Thanks for posting this...
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Old 08-13-2010, 01:54 AM   #3
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is there a class you need to take before participating in any events?
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Old 08-13-2010, 04:43 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daewoo View Post
is there a class you need to take before participating in any events?
No. Most groups that run track days give you a 30-45 minute classroom session before your first time out on track and a second class later in the day. They usually review things such as what the flags mean and proper lines through various corners.
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Old 08-13-2010, 08:58 AM   #5
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Chris that is a great write-up.

After my first track day my face hurt from smiling so much.

Check out http://www.emraracing.org/ $100 off for first timers
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Old 08-13-2010, 10:07 AM   #6
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Awesome Chris!
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Old 08-13-2010, 03:03 PM   #7
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Chris,
great idea and presentation for this highly worthy sticky.

If only more people would try these track days and realize how much fun they are and how much you will learn about handling your car, I'm sure more people would participate.
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Old 08-13-2010, 08:21 PM   #8
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Learned alot, glad i read it. Great write up.
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Old 08-13-2010, 11:33 PM   #9
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Thanks chris for the writeup. I am looking forward to V1.1 and so on.
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Old 08-14-2010, 10:40 AM   #10
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Great intro for something I've been actively researching getting into. Thanks, Chris!
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Old 08-14-2010, 10:51 AM   #11
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I was just searching for something like this thanks!
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Old 08-14-2010, 05:31 PM   #12
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very good write up. I started doing HPDE's with what ever club I could at NJMP in Millville NJ since its only about 45 min from my house. After 2 summers of HPDE's I wanted to step it up and start racing. I race with NASA in the American Iron class. Right now I'm second in points. The thing I like about NASA is they have a class for anything you could ever build.

heres a link to a race I did a little bit ago at Pocono raceway.http://performancevids.com/index.php?video_id=334
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Old 08-19-2010, 08:05 PM   #13
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great writeup! i sure as hell didnt read much of it, but i know its a much needed post. a lil late in the season to be posting this tho, imo.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick 95 6sp View Post
If only more people would try these track days and realize how much fun they are and how much you will learn about handling your car, I'm sure more people would participate.
exactly. i beg ppl all the time to come with me to stuff and no one ever comes through.

if ppl tried it just once most of them would be completely hooked. its a blast
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Old 08-20-2010, 04:01 PM   #14
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Thanks for this, appreciate it!
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Old 08-20-2010, 05:26 PM   #15
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I learned this my first track day back in the day. Very well put.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris B. View Post
You may have experience in other forms of racing and/or pushed your car to the limits on the street and think you can drive fast. In reality, most people that think they can drive fast on the street will experience a whole new level and form of fast and safe driving on the track. You will quickly learn how much you don't know.
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Old 04-15-2013, 04:06 PM   #16
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Very helpful post. Looking forward to my first track days/HPD weekends this summer. Thanks!
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:43 AM   #17
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I wish I did this with my miata before I sold it. Question though, I kind of convinced my GF to try this. She doesnt want to drive stick though, is there any kind of requirement regarding transmission type?
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Old 04-19-2013, 10:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
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I wish I did this with my miata before I sold it. Question though, I kind of convinced my GF to try this. She doesnt want to drive stick though, is there any kind of requirement regarding transmission type?
There are no transmission type requirements.

A little secret, some of the Ferrari guys don't shift manually at all.
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Old 05-02-2013, 10:32 PM   #19
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Great writeup!

-mike paisan
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Old 05-29-2013, 12:35 AM   #20
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great post. Thank you. Question, leave tc/esc on or off?
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