How To Participate In A Track Day And Survive
You know you’ve thought about it. Watching Jeremy, Richard, and James blasting around a race track makes you want to try it. Speaking from experience, it is one of the best and most enjoyable things any automotive enthusiast can do. I have participated in 6 track days and they get better each and every time. High performance driving experience or HPDE is an amazing way to learn your vehicle and your driving skills. But, it takes work and preparation to make sure you arrive, drive, and survive.
Vehicle preparation is arguably the most important part of any safe successful and track day. Without this step, an exhilarating experience can turn into a dangerous and expensive one. The vehicle you will be driving needs a complete inspection. The forces and temperatures that your vehicle will endure are outside of the normal levels from everyday driving. Brakes, tires, steering, suspension, cooling and other systems that will be taxed while on track. Bring spare fluids and tools in case any onsite repairs are necessary. Also, make sure to have the proper safety equipment based on the regulations for your organizing body.
A good track day experience can be ruined without a basic knowledge of a track. Luckily, this is a very easy thing to do. Track layouts should be available from all tracks that hold open track days. Online forums or Facebook groups can help with specific strategies for any given track. In my opinion, GoPro videos from YouTube are the best resource for research. You are able to see the layout from a driver’s perspective, braking zones, corner and straightaway speeds. While they are not the end all be all, it really helps you visualize the track and give you a plan for how you will drive.
This is going to hurt, you probably won’t be the fastest on track. You might be the slowest or somewhere in between. It is your responsibility to be respectful of everyone else on track. No reason to hold up a faster car for the sake of your pride, when you could pressure yourself into a mistake. You are all out there to enjoy yourselves so be respectful while on course.
Have Fun And Be Safe
You are driving your car on a race track, enjoy it! Run though 2nd, 3rd, and hit 4th gear, hit triple digits, rev match downshift into turn 1. But be safe when you do it. You can’t brake as late as Lewis Hamilton, you can’t carry the same corner speed as Alexander Rossi, you can’t hit the same max speed as Kyle Busch. Remember to drive within the limits of your car and your skill set. If you are uncomfortable in a group of cars, wave them by and get back in your rhythm.
Open track days are something every gear head should experience, no matter the vehicle. Just be smart and safe, but most importantly, get after it.