Track Day Prep Tips

A few tips for heading out to a road course track day…

 

Prepare Yourself:

  • Have the right info. Different organizations run track events differently, so make sure you’re aware of their rules, drivers meeting time / location, and other expectations.
  • Seriously, don’t miss the drivers meeting or any required “download” / classroom sessions. Show up early. You don’t want to be “that guy” or miss out on track time.
  • Have a suitable helmet and any other required driver safety gear. Ask if your helmet needs to be Snell “SA” or “M” rated, and if so, how recent it needs to be.

 

  • Study track maps and/or watch videos of laps around the track so that you’re somewhat familiar with the layout before it’s time for you to drive it.
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way. Everyone is slow at first, and that’s nothing to be upset about. Don’t try to be fast on your first laps. Focus on being in-control and learning the track, then focus on improving only a small number of things at a time.
  • If an instructor is available to you for free, make use of the opportunity! There’s no faster way to get up to speed, or to improve your speed, than having an experienced driver ride with you and tell you what to focus on. The best drivers are the ones who keep learning.

 

  • Stay hydrated! Dehydration is a common but serious concern at the track. Bring lots of water and drink it throughout the day.

 

Prepare Your Car:

  • Read the rules or tech requirements of the organization that’s hosting the track event. You may also be required to get your car tech inspected before or during the event.
  • Resist the urge to buy more go-fast parts. Have a safe reliable track car, and then focus on improving as a driver and making the most of what you have to work with.
  • Remove or secure anything that’s loose (or could come loose) inside the car.
  • Bring enough fuel. Some tracks have fuel pumps on site, but these can be very expensive and may not be reliable.

 

  • Double-check that your lug nuts, suspension bolts, etc are properly tightened.
  • Ensure that the wheel bearings and ball joints are in good condition and have no play. A failing wheel bearing may make a whirring or grinding noise.
  • Check for any rips in CV (axle) boots, or clicking noises coming from them.
  • Inspect the condition of your tires. Make sure they have enough tread, are properly inflated, and don’t have any problems like cords/threads showing, dry rotting or cracking, sidewall bubbles, leaks, etc.

 

  • Check for fluid leaks, especially ones that could end up on the exhaust, tires, or track.
  • Make sure all fluids are at their proper levels: oil, coolant, brakes, power steering, etc.
  • Check your fluid levels throughout the event. You’ll burn oil faster than normal, and high G-forces increase the risk of oil starvation, so keep it full!

 

  • Brakes are important and they will get very hot during road course lapping. Your actual braking heat and needs will depend on your car, your driving style, and the tracks you’re driving.
  • Have freshly-bled high-temperature brake fluid to avoid boiling.
    • Inexpensive Prestone DOT4 and some other common DOT4 fluids offer a 500F+ dry boiling point. I use this with great results in my low power / lightweight race cars.
    • For heavier cars and big power cars, you’ll want an actual race fluid with a higher rating to avoid boiling. I run Castrol SRF in my supercharged C7 Corvette.
    • A brake fluid’s boiling point will decrease over time as it absorbs moisture, so it needs to be flushed periodically. This happens to some fluids faster than others.
  • Use brake pads that can handle the heat, and that have plenty of material left.
    • Stock / OEM and equivalent pads vary widely between car models. Many are not suitable or recommended for road course track use, but could be ok for autocross.
    • Dual-purpose street/track pads are a common choice for autocross and road course time attacks, while still being streetable (typically with increased noise and dust). Take a look at Hawk HP+, Carbotech AX6, and Axxis Ultimate.
    • Race pads offer much more heat endurance and friction, but are for road course use only. They wont have enough heat to work properly for street or autocross use, and can wear excessively when at low temperatures. Hawk Blue, Carbotech XP8, and similar are typical choices for dedicated road course use and consistency during wheel-to-wheel racing.
  • Don’t waste your money on drilled / slotted rotors. Some may be functional, but most are just bling that can also be weaker. Your brake pads and fluid matter much more.
  • Stainless-Steel braided brake lines are mostly bling, and damage or wear may not be apparent, sometimes resulting in unexpected failures. You can get a very firm pedal feel with good condition stock rubber lines, if the fluid is properly bled.
  • A big brake kit is often not needed. Try using better pads and fluid first.
  • Use speed bleeders / aftermarket bleed screws with caution. These can make life much easier, but I’ve also had them let air into the system after a couple years of use.

 

  • Improperly installed or improperly used safety gear can make things more dangerous.
    • Read the requirements and guidelines in NASA’s CCR or SCCA’s GCR.
    • A driver harness will hold you in place better and help you focus more on driving, but it’s problematic to have one without a proper roll bar or cage.
      • A standard 3-point seatbelt allows you to fall out of the way of a collapsing roof in a roll-over; driver harnesses do not.
      • The angle of the belts is very important, and the shoulder belts must not be too much downward. Roll bars and cages are built with a horizontal bar at a suitable height for attaching the shoulder belts. Attaching them to the floor is not acceptable.
      • Aftermarket “harness bars” may enable proper harness angles, but don’t solve the roll-over problem and may not be strong enough to hold in a crash.
      • Only use SFI or FIA rated harnesses, and follow its installation and use instructions.
      • As an alternative to a harness in a car without a roll bar/cage, a “CG Lock” device can enhance your stock 3-point seatbelt without the cost or downsides of a harness.
    • Be careful with roll bars, and especially cages!
      • There are many frighteningly-terrible roll bar and cage designs. Lots of people get this dangerously wrong.
      • Avoid “show cages” and similar nonsense.
      • Any roll bar or cage should be built to be SCCA and NASA legal, properly padded, and properly installed.
      • Roll bars and cages can be problematic for street-driven vehicles.
        • Even with proper padding, you really want to be wearing a helmet if your head could come into contact with it in a crash.
        • Most good roll bars will be far enough behind the driver that this wont be as much of a concern, but it’s always an issue for full cages.
        • Reclinable seats can fail in crashes, particularly when rear-ended, in which case you’re likely to hit the roll bar.

 

Weston

Front4 Series Co-Director #73 White 1995 Acura Integra

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