Getting on track can be one of the most rewarding and exciting things you’ll ever experience. Everything we do at Revo is designed with this in mind and the track is your chance to really see what you, and your car, is capable of. Track days offer an environment designed for speed without worrying about breaking any laws which is both refreshing and exhilarating.
But it can also be a little daunting – especially if it’s your first time. There are some key do’s and dont’s – so we’ve put together this quick guide to help you prepare yourself and your car for a session on track.
1. Choose your event carefully
There are a wide range of track days available, from 20-minute sessions at car shows, through to dedicated open pit lane days with limited numbers. The key is to find which is best for you.
While track time at events such as Ford Fair and TRAX is relatively inexpensive (about £30 a session), you’ll be out with a lot of others, with a large crowd watching. So for a first timer, it makes sense to find your feet with a dedicated day at one of the UK’s many circuits.
This will give you the opportunity to take things at your own pace and focus on the basics, rather than trying to go fast right from the off. You can also book an instructor (highly recommended) and be secure you’re in a session with drivers of a similar level. Expect to pay from around £70 for an evening session at Cadwell Park, up to £500+ for an open pit lane event at Silverstone’s GP circuit.
2. Top up fluids
You’ll be subjecting your car to far more stress than normal, so be sure to check brake fluid, coolant and oil – and top up if necessary. Extreme cornering and braking forces can potentially starve an engine of oil, so topping up may help to minimise the risk, but don’t overfill it.
Check the fluids after every session and always allow the car plenty of time to cool down. Also leave your car parked with the handbrake off at the end of your session and allow the brakes to cool down first, otherwise you risk warping those expensive discs.
3. Take some tools
You’re going to be putting the car under a lot more stress than usual road driving. You should have checked bolts on critical components like your brakes and exhaust, but depending on the age of your car, things rattle loose, hoses pop off, bits of trim come loose and you might need to change a wheel.
Make sure you have the right tools, a basic set is fine, but if you plan on changing wheels etc., then a trolley jack makes life a lot easier. Don’t forget duct tape and zip-ties – these can be very handy for makeshift repairs. If you’re unsure what you’re doing, then take it to a specialist garage first.
4. Check your wheels
Yes, we know they look sick, but we’re being serious. Make sure your wheels are securely attached, especially if you’ve swapped your road wheels for a track set-up.
Nuts or bolts should be torqued up to the manufacturer’s settings – don’t just do them up as tight as possible as this can lead to sheared bolts. Pay particular attention if you’re running spacers or hub adapters.
5. Consider insurance
Although it’s a considerable investment, specialist track day cover can offer peace of mind, especially for those with high-value cars.
Some regular policies offer this and an additional package, or you may need to find a specialist such as Adrian Flux or PaceWard. Expect to pay from around £100 for the day, with significantly increased excess.
6. Check tyres
Tyres are one of the most important elements of any track day. They’ll be subjected to far more abuse than on road, so it’s essential to give them a thorough check beforehand.
Look for any damage to the sidewalls, objects that could cause a puncture and of course check the tread. While worn rubber may not be an issue in the dry, if it rains, you’ll certainly know about it! And after a few hard sessions on track, those worn tyres may be illegal for the drive home.
7. Check brakes
As with tyres, make sure your brake pads have plenty of life left in them before you book your track day. Build up of hot gasses can eventually overwhelm brakes resulting in fade, where they stop working.
A couple of hard laps will soon leave worn pads begging for mercy and you’ll be forced to come in. Keep an eye on your brake fluid as this can heat up to the point where it ceases to work efficiently, leading to loss in braking power.
8. Fill up close to the track
Just because you can average 40mpg on the motorway, don’t neglect your car’s fuel demands on track, especially if you’ve tuned it. Make sure you fill up as close to the circuit as possible; some tracks have their own fuel pumps, but they’re expensive.
9. Remember long sleeves
All circuits require drivers to have their arms and legs covered during track sessions, so remember to bring the right clothing. Easy to forget on a hot day.
10. Get your car expertly set-up
For ultimate peace of mind, you can’t beat having your car checked over and set up by a professional. A pre-track day inspection will reveal any shortcomings, which can be fixed well beforehand, such as worn brake pads or tyres. Brakes may be upgraded with harder compound track pads and fluid with a higher resistance to heat build up.
If you’ve fitted adjustable suspension, then this can be set for firmer dampening to keep the car planted through the turns. All road cars are designed with a neutral factory chassis set-up, but a track-biased set-up can make a big difference, especially to turn in. Tuning specialists will be able to advise you on what’s best for your needs, taking into account your car and any aftermarket upgrades you’ve made.
11. Research the track
Even a basic knowledge of a circuit will give you an edge. Look for the track map to see where the start/finish line is, as well as the pits. Then familiarise yourself with the corners, paying particular attention to those that are trickier with less run off. A quick search on YouTube will reveal videos from every circuit, and there are even some guides with pro drivers talking you through a lap.
12. Go with an experienced track driver
One of the best ways to learn a circuit is to go out for a few laps as a passenger with a more experienced track driver. You’ll be able to see where they position their car for turns, the braking zones, what gear they’re in as well as observing any flags and how they deal with other traffic, such as letting faster cars pass.
13. Record your day
Although hand-held recording devices are not allowed, fixed cameras are fine. There are many available from cheap and cheerful units to the latest 4K GoPros, which can easily be attached to windows, headrests, dashboards and roll cages.
14. Invest in a helmet
If you’re planning even semi-regular track days, it makes sense to buy a helmet. While you can hire them on the day, nothing beats the feel of your own lid. Decent open-face helmets start from around £70. As you progress you may with to invest in some gloves for maximum grip of the wheel, along with a set of driving shoes.
15. Lower tyre pressures
Air expands when it gets hot, which means your tyres will have a higher PSI after a few laps. To allow for this, let a few psi out of your tyres (start with 5psi, then increase as necessary). Don’t forget to re-inflate them before you drive home – a tyre inflator and pressure gauge is a very handy addition.
16. Clear out your car
As tempting as it may be to just get in and go, take some time to remove any clutter from the inside your car before going on track. Things flying around are very annoying, but also dangerous – the last thing you want is something rolling under your brake pedal as you approach a turn at speed.
All drivers must bring their licence to sign on for track. Without it you will not be allowed to drive.
18. Sound check
All circuits have strict noise limits (usually between 98 and 105dB). There’s no room for negotiation, so if you fail the static 4,000rpm noise test, you will not be allowed on track. Check with the circuit beforehand to avoid disappointment. However all is not lost; if your car is too loud, it’s possible to invest in silencing (at the expense of some power) to get you on track.
19. Learn the flags
Yellow – Danger ahead. Slow to half speed and do not overtake until you have passed the incident. A green flag may be used to indicate all is now clear.
Red – There is danger ahead. Slow to half speed and no overtaking is allowed, but this time it refers to the whole circuit. You must also return to the pitlane immediately
Black – Return to the pitlane immediately and report to the organisers. There maybe something wrong with your car that you are not aware of or the ma need to chat to you about your drivingYellow and red stripes – Slippery surface. Be very careful there maybe oil or other fluid on the track
Blue – The overtaking flag. There is a faster car behind you wishing to overtake, move over when next on a straight
Chequered – End of session. Drive slowly around to the pits giving the car a chance to cool.
20. Slow in; fast out
Smoothness is the key on track. It puts less strain on tyres and brakes, but also helps you keep the car balanced, so get used to dong this before you get to the track. Get your braking and gear changes done in a straight line, then turn in, and get back on the power once you’re through the apex and exiting a turn. Coming into a turn too fast, then backing off the throttle will unsettle the car and can result in lift-off oversteer.
Bonus: Have fun!
So there we have it. Getting your car on track can be daunting at first, but once you’ve experienced it, you’ll never look back. If you’ve tuned your car, then it’s the ideal opportunity to test out the upgrades and feel how they’ve improved the drivability. The key is to always drive within your limits and make sure both you and the car are prepared. Follow these simple tips and you’ll arrive at your track day confident that you’ve got everything ready, so you can focus on the main thing – having fun!