Track Days are heaps of fun, but if you’ve never been to one before they can be daunting!
There are plenty of things to learn about track days – whether you’re a complete novice or seasoned driver. They allow you to test the limits of your car. But you’ll also test yourself in many ways, too.
Track Day Tips
Sign up to a driving school before a track day
Racetracks like Area 27 often host driving schools and academies that teach you the physics and theory behind race car driving. The Area 27 course has an FIA-accredited driving academy.
Drossos said: “My number one recommendation for anyone wanting to be a track day enthusiast is going to a fully-accredited school – a two or three-day program - before they even contemplate it. Especially if you’re going to a circuit that’s more challenging. You wouldn’t take someone who has never gone skiing before, throw them down a Black Diamond run and say: ‘Have at it, hope you enjoy yourself.’”
“That’s the one thing we run in to with driving, compared to every other sport – everyone thinks they can do it or knows what they’re doing. But driving on the highway or on the street doesn’t even begin to translate to what they have to learn to be very good at driving on the track.”
Equip yourself – physically and mentally
Track days take a lot of effort, both physically and mentally. It’s vital to make sure you’re well prepared!
Invest in the right equipment. A good race helmet is essential – whether you buy or rent from the track. It needs to be safe and comfortable. Some tracks have dress codes, others may tell you to dress for the weather. If you’re heading to a track day and it’s sunny, take sunglasses!
Always read the racetrack’s preparation guide. If you’re unsure, give the circuit a call. Some racetracks, such as Area 27, provide their own guide for vehicle and personal preparation.
If the track day is far away, look at staying closer to the circuit the night before. Don’t drink alcohol the night before your track day – some racetracks will test your alcohol levels prior to driving. Ensure you take plenty of breaks and drink lots of water. Eat little and often to keep your energy levels up throughout your track day.
Drossos said: “You don’t feel the physical effort so much once you’re on track because your adrenaline is so high. You don’t realize how much energy your brain requires to operate at a high capacity.”
“People get mentally tired but don’t notice it. So they’ll try for that fifth or sixth session at the end of their track day. That’s when they start making mistakes. And because they’re amateurs, they don’t know how to identify what the little mistakes are. Like if you run a little bit too deep on your braking in a lower-speed corner. It’s not that much of an issue. But it’s a sign you’re getting tired and that pretty soon, you might make a big error like screwing something up in a fast corner. That’s when you’re going to get into real trouble.”
Prepare your car
A given for any type of track day. Some racetracks hold vehicle inspection policies, especially if you are using your own car. This will be a mandatory inspection before your track day.
Make sure you use fresh brake fluid, and that your car’s fluids are topped up – oil, fuel, water. The brake hoses need to be in good condition. Brake pads should be at full thickness ahead of your track day.
Your tires should be in good condition – not worn or showing any cracks – and set at the proper pressure. If you’re driving your car to and from the track day, you’ll need to adjust tire pressures before and after. Driving on public roads requires higher tire pressures than driving around a racetrack.
Also check which way the circuit runs (clockwise or anti-clockwise). This will help with tire pressure – clockwise circuits will put more pressure on the right tires, so they can be set at a lower pressure than the left.
Don’t have anything loose in the car that can slide around while you’re on track. Try not to have your phone on you, or anything that can distract you.
Drossos said: “People overlook things on their car or take things for granted. People just don’t understand that preparation for vehicles on the track is a lot different.”
“People also think about their vehicles in terms of gaining performance on the street. They’ll put things on their cars that don’t work very well on a track. It will cause them to overheat. Sometimes they’ll fit a louder exhaust and not be allowed to drive because the car is louder than the track’s sound limits allow. So they’ve wasted all that money on a track day to find out they can’t drive their car.”
Set realistic expectations
When it comes to track days, don’t be too hard on yourself! Many tracks will offer various driving experiences to suit all skills. Be honest with yourself – if it’s your first ever track day, it’s good to go with a novice experience to learn the ropes.
Don’t drive at speeds you’re not used to – especially on a track new to you. Be realistic with your expectations and don’t push too hard. Learn how to approach the track the right way. Understand the physics and the theory behind the layout of the corners.
Drossos said: “When people find out the right way to do it, they think back to the way they were doing it before and find out they weren’t actually pushing that hard to begin with. They were just doing it completely wrong.
“Unbalancing the car and doing all sorts of things that make you think you are on the limit, when in actual fact you are creating a false limit. When you unbalance the car and it doesn’t want to change direction, brake correctly or put the power down effectively, some people think they’re on the limit. But they’re actually the ones who have lowered the limit of the vehicle by doing everything wrong. So then they find out, once they’ve learned everything and do it right, they will be way quicker with a lot less effort.”
Above all, relax and enjoy yourself – there is no greater thrill than racing your car around a racetrack!
Learn the rules – and obey them!
Each racetrack will have different rules regarding track days. You will undergo a registration and driver briefing before you’re allowed out on track – pay attention!
Some racetracks carry information on their websites about track days, including protocol and preparation guidelines.
It’s worth taking the time to research this beforehand – it will give you an idea of what to expect on the day. There may also be a map of the racetrack, including the track’s specified passing zones. Look out for rules of racing, racing flags and what they mean and general track day information.
To learn more about Area 27 race track, visit their official website.