Will this be your first experience on the track? To be clear, there are many different types of tracks and track days, but for this article we are concentrating on road courses. Road courses are a great way to learn car control, car limits and to really get comfortable with your car. We recommend participating in a drivers education event, aka HPDE (high performance drivers education). You will begin with an instructor either riding along with you or with you as the passenger in your own car--or perhaps in the instructors car. Depending on your skill and comfort level on the track, you may get some solo time as the day goes on.
So what should you be thinking about and preparing for in the weeks leading up to the event? Safety, first and foremost. Something that a lot of people like to skimp on, or borrow is a helmet. We recommend not doing either: invest in a good (well known, trusted brand) comfortable helmet. You'll be wearing it for 20 minutes or more at a time and wont be able to adjust it while on track. Go to a local shop and buy from them...not only will you be supporting a small business, but you'll know it fits and you'll start forging a relationship with a shop that may help you out down the road. As you get more into racing and trackdays, issues arise..usually at the last minute, and you'll want a local resource you can count on so you don't miss out on a paid for in advance track day. Ask how we know this.
Next up is car prep, which again, especially as a beginner, is all about safety and general maintenance. There will be a safety inspection once you get to the track, so it's best to be prepared ahead of time. Here's what to look for:
1) Seat belts in working order and not frayed
2) Battery. Must be securely fastened. If it's been relocated to the cabin, use a box.
3) Belts and hoses. No leaks, frayed hoses, belts in good condition.
4) Suspension. Make sure you don't have binding of springs etc if you are on aftermarket coilovers etc. Make sure everything is tight.
5) wheel bearings. In good working order, no wobbling of the wheels.
6) Wheels and tires. This isn't the place for bent or out of balance wheel/tire. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and the lug nuts are torqued to the specified range. Yes, having a torque wrench is a great idea, if not a must. Tires should be in good condition, no exposed cords etc.
7) Brakes. Firm pedal, lots of life left in the pads and rotors.
8) general cleanliness. Remove everything loose from inside the cabin and trunk. In the event of an accident, you don't want to be hit by flying objects. Remove the floormats once you get to the track. You don't want them moving around and getting stuck under the pedals.
This is a very basic list, go as deep as you want into preperation. It's not a bad idea to procure HPDE insurance as most policies do not cover track days.
What to bring with you?
1) Food and Water. At least water, there will typically be food available at the track. Stay hydrated, but also having a few gallons of water isn't a bad idea should your car overheat.
2) A plastic storage bin to keep your stuff in, track side. Your jack, tire iron etc.
3) basic tools
4) a tarp to keep things dry, also comes in handy if you need to crawl under your car.
5) an open mind. Listen to your instructor. Also while waiting your turn, talk to and listen to others. They may provide valuable knowledge about lines, hazards etc.
Above all, have fun. You will be a bit nervous, that's natural. Try to relax and have fun. Smooth is fast. Look ahead, several turns ahead. Don't hit things. Brake early. Trail braking can be fun, but it's not for beginners. Be aware of track marshals and corner workers....watch for and know the flags they may raise and point at you.
Keep an eye out here for more tips, we'll get more advanced as time goes on.
Stay safe and have fun!
-Fred aka TheBeard
Here's a great video from Andy Smedegard (one of our favorite Evo drivers) and the guys at Boosted Films.