DO’s DON’T's and some tips
Even if you have participated on a track day before you could do worse than reading through this guide. The aim is help you enjoy your day in safety and to help you in ensuring your car and your brain are prepared for the experience. If you get it right it you will have fun day out – if you get it wrong it can be expensive!.
Each organiser will run their events in their own way, but these guidelines should work for you and help you enjoy your day. If in doubt, PLEASE ASK FOR HELP. As with all guides, remember that is a Guide, not an instruction manual. Ultimately there is only one person at the controls of your car AND THAT IS YOU!
Will I be quick enough?
Many first time participants are concerned that they will not be quick enough, will be too slow and will ‘get in the way’. Please do not worry every one has had to start at some time and as it is NOT a race it does not matter, drive at a pace you are comfortable at and gradually increase your pace with your own confidence. We will be running an open pit lane system, for those who are not familiar with this system we run the maximum number of cars on the circuit permitted by the organiser. You line up in the pit lane and wait until you are given the go ahead to take to the circuit. Do not stay out too long as your brakes and tyres will loose there efficiency as they get hotter, it is best to return to the pit and let everything cool down before heading out for another session. It is advisable to go out as a passenger with some one who has had track day experience for the first session, which will give you an idea of the circuit and what to do.
Your car will almost certainly undergo stresses far greater than those experienced on the road:
Ensure your brakes are in top condition – plenty of material on the pads/shoes and reasonably fresh brake fluid (old fluid boils more easily). Even upgrade your fluid and pads.
Check the condition of your tyres, and that they are inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Check them regularly throughout the day when they have cooled down.
If your shock absorbers are past their best the effect will be exaggerated on the track and will prevent you and your car performing at their best.
Check your engine oil level at regular intervals – better safe than sorry if the oil light comes on it is usually too late !! Always ensure you take some oil with you.
Remove EVERYTHING from the car that you don’t need to take with you, and take a bag to put everything else in whilst you are out on the track. There is nothing more distracting than to have pens, magazines, and drinks cans and so on flying around inside the car. Remember to collect them at the end of the day you will be amazed what people leave behind !!!
It is prudent to have an up to date hand-held fire extinguisher in the car – make sure it is fastened securely but can be reached easily and quickly. You may find that some organisers insist on an extinguisher being carried.
Ensure you have your tow eye with the car and if not attached it is secure in your glove box.
Also advisable to have your vehicle hand book with you, many vehicles have a accident ‘inertia switch’ which frequently active themselves on the circuit and cut the engine, your hand book will help you trace them and get your vehicle going again
It is highly unlikely that your road insurance will cover you for any track day activity unless you have specific arrangements in place with your insurer to include this type of activity under your policy. If you have specialised insurance policy,you will need to verify this with your insurance company .
At all times there is no racing or timing involved, so don’t even think about taking a stopwatch!Even if your vehicle is not covered under a track day insurance policy it will invalidate others who are covered if timing is involved throughout the day.
There are various track day insurance companies that can provide you with competitive quotes these are specialist insurers who should be able to help if you are not covered under your road policy.
Familiarise yourself with the circuit as much as you can. Watch video from race meetings (in-car footage is really useful); computer games (such as TOCA on the Playstation) are surprisingly useful; at the very least get hold of a map of the circuit and learn it.There are plenty of You Tube clips for the Bugattii and Maison Blanche Circuits at Le Mans .
The race track will probably be an unfamiliar environment to you. If you have already learned your way around (at least to the level where you know whether the next corner goes left or right) you will have one less thing to think about and may help you find a decent line and take the apexes .
Get your car preparation out of the way well before the event if you can, and GET LOTS OF SLEEP and little or no alcohol before the day. Adrenaline is great while you are driving but one of the side-effects is that you feel tired as it wears off. This may be ok while you are on the circuit however it will probably kick in when you are driving back after the event. If you have been up into the early hours preparing your car or partying you will be even more tired
What Do I Wear on the Track?
You will be required to wear an approved crash helmet. Also wear something that is comfortable and advisably covers your arms and legs especially in an open vehicle and that won’t impede your movement. If you intend to drive at track days regularly a set of fire-resistant overalls approved for motorsport use is recommended. Race gloves are recommended and eye protection for open vehicles (ie glasses or full face helmets) is mandatory.
Wear a pair of thin-soled shoes – racing boots are ideal, but trainers with worn-down soles work well. The thicker the soles, the less feel and control you will have (ever tried driving in wellies?).
What Else Should I Take?
As a minimum you should take with you:
Your road driving licence(we will require a photo copy at signing on) we insist that you have the original for inspection you DEFINITELY won’t be allowed on the circuit if you haven’t got it!! Get into the habit of taking it to all track days – that way you won’t get caught out.
A roll of duct tape or electrical tape (insulation tape). You will need to tape your lights up when you get to the circuit. Cable ties also come in useful.
A tyre pressure gauge and a footpump. With most road cars this is about the only adjustment available to you.
A basic toolkit – but only if you know what to do with it! There is normally no shortage of tools, or skilled/enthusiastic operators.
Tow rope you never know when you or someone else may need. Please be warned it is illegal to ‘loose rope’ tow in France you are suppose to have a rigid bar.
Fluorescent vest and warning triangle (Compulsorily equipment in France)
Bulb kit (mandatory in France)
Vehicle documentation (log book) even it is on a trailer as you need to prove it is your vehicle if stopped plus insurance details.
There are petrol stations within a few minutes of the circuit. Generally there is plenty of time to leave the circuit to fill up between sessions.
DO NOT fill your car to the brim with fuel – fill to around three-quarters. Sustained cornering forces can cause fuel to come out of the filler pipe onto the track – expensive for you and slippery for the car behind! You will be ‘black flagged’ if fuel is leaking out of your vehicle.
Arriving at the Track Day
Before being let loose on the track you will need to:
Sign on, register and collect your circuit identification (coloured wrist band)
Attend a compulsory briefing at the circuit. You will not be allowed on the circuit unless you have attended.
It is possible you will be on the track very soon after the briefing, so try to arrive in plenty of time so you can prepare your car beforehand. Again, it is one less thing for you to worry about, making it clearer for you to concentrate on what you are about to do.
Before you venture out onto the circuit you should:
Check your tyre pressures
Check your oil level
Tape up your lights
Remove everything unnecessary from the car
Make sure you listen carefully during the briefing. If you don’t understand something, ask. The briefing will cover topics such as flag signals and where/how to overtake – make sure you are familiar with the rules, it will save embarrassment later!
Your First Track Session
It is quite likely that this will be a gentle, no-overtaking session. This might seem a bit tame, but it is done for a reason – to help you adjust to the higher speeds of a racing circuit and to learn the circuit.
Use the session wisely. Try to find the right lines through the corners – if it feels smooth at lower speeds it will probably be the correct line at higher speeds. Sometimes the Organisers will place cones at the side of the circuit to indicate the correct turn-in and clipping points. Look for conservative braking points for each corner; give yourself plenty of room from the car in front so you can concentrate on the track, not avoiding contact.
You have a long day in front of you make sure you enjoy it rather than throw it into a gravel trap in the first 5 minutes and spend the rest of the day watching other enjoy themselves.
After the Session
Even during a gentle first session your car will probably be more stressed than it is in everyday use. Give everything time to cool down use your last lap as a slow down lap your vehicle cools down better while circulating at medium speeds, keep out of the way and look out for faster cars in your mirrors. It is advisable to lift your engine cover when you return to the pits to aid cooling down and then check oil levels and tyre pressures once the car has cooled down . Keep an eye on your fuel gauge – it is frustrating to run low just before you are due on track, but very embarrassing to actually run out on the track.
You will have read and heard this everywhere but it is true: START SLOWLY, BUILD UP GENTLY. If it feels fast, you are probably going too fast.
If it feels out of control, SLOW DOWN – you probably are.
Please be aware of other vehicles around you stick to your line and be positive when making a manoeuvre on the circuit. Use your indicator when entering the pit lane or on a slowing down lap.
Once you have found the right turn-in point and the right apex (clipping point) for a corner, stick to it. If you start missing the clipping point you are going faster than the car wants to. That means you will have to back off exiting the corner, or you are going to pay a visit to the gravel trap.
If you start missing the apex of a corner there is a strong temptation to turn in earlier. Don’t do this – it will just make the problem worse. Refer to the point above and slow down.
Sliding the car around is fun but not necessarily the fastest way around the circuit. If the driving wheels are spinning or sliding you cannot apply any more power and therefore you cannot accelerate. Your tyre wear will be higher, too.
A good way of learning the limits of your car under braking is to keep your conservative braking point but brake harder each time until you feel you’ve reached the limit of you and your car. Once you’ve reached this limit you can gradually move the braking point towards the corner. This is safer than learning the limit by braking hard AND later – it it all goes wrong you will have more time and more track in which to sort the problem out.
Don’t be tempted to make radical alterations to your car in between sessions, otherwise a visit to the gravel trap is on the cards. If you make any alterations to the car, take it easy on your first couple of laps until you know what the car is going to do.
Always take it easy for the first lap or so – it lets the engine, tyres, brakes and (most importantly) your brain reach operating temperature.
Once you feel you are going as fast as you can, get some instruction. No matter how good you think you are, you will always benefit.
Don’t be afraid to pull in before the end of the session. If you think the brakes, suspension or tyres are overheating it’s probably a good idea to stop and let everything cool down.
Circuit driving is physically and mentally tiring. Brain fade is a more common cause of track day accidents than brake fade, so if you feel tired don’t worry about skipping a session and taking a rest – it’s not an admission of defeat.
Always remember that you are on a track day, not at a race meeting. It is non-competitive. If you are getting the urge to go faster it’s probably time to join your local motor club and go racing.
Most of all enjoy it and remember that your experience on a circuit will help you to learn more about you as a driver and your vehicle’s capabilities – which should make you a better driver.