Getting Ready To Hit The Track - Part 1 of 3
So, you’ve signed up for your first track day with New England Driving Enthusiasts and now you’re asking yourself, “What’s next? How do I prepare? What do I need?” Fear not! We are here to help. In this blog post we will give you a good overview of what to expect, what you should bring, and some homework to help prepare you for the entirely different world of high-performance driving. A link to our Tech Inspection Form can be found at the bottom of the page. In addition to these items listed below, a full technical inspection must be completed prior to your arrival at the track.
We will divide this post into three main sub categories: The Basics, Track Day Rules and Regulations, and Track Day Driving Techniques. Each topic could be separate novels by themselves and can be rather overwhelming to research on your own. We will do our best to deliver information in a short, sweet and an easily digestible format.
Part 1 - The Basics
First and foremost, being safe on track is of the utmost importance. At a bare minimum, a Snell SA2015 certified helmet is required. There will be a holographic label on the helmet certifying that it is indeed SA2015 or better. Motorcycle, motor cross, sledding etc. will not be accepted. SA rated helmets are specifically for cars for a reason. You can find a helmet for as cheap as $250, but for this piece of safety equipment we would HIGHLY recommend spending as much as your budget allows. You will most certainly notice even a few ounces of weight difference after an hour or two of driving and will notice a difference in the airflow and cooling effects of a more expensive helmet.
Driving shoes and gloves are not required, but I can assure you that they make a big difference. Shoes designed for driving have a thin sole and breath well, allowing you to feel the peddle and have your feet in a more comfortable driving position. Gloves will also help wick sweat and allow you to continue to grip the wheel effectively. Do not underestimate just how sweaty and hot you will get in the car after only a few minutes of hard driving.
Beyond personal safety gear, car equipment while not required is a valid thing to think about as well. Convertibles require a certified roll bar to be allowed on track as well. Things like fire suppression systems, cages and appropriate harnesses and other gear are never a bad thing to consider if you have a car dedicated to tracking.
Wheels and Tires:
Unless something has gone horribly wrong, the only thing contacting the track is your tires. It is beyond explanation how important proper tires and tire care are on the track and in daily driving. We highly recommend before tracking that your car has a proper alignment and balanced wheels. Any pulling or vibration you might feel normally driving on the highway will be heavily amplified on the track. Do a visual inspection of your tires. Make sure that there is adequate tread left on all tires. Make sure that there are no cracks or bubbling in your tires, and that the tires are still within their usable life.
Tires don’t last forever even if they are just sitting on a shelf, so make sure to check that they are still good. It is not a bad idea to have a second set of wheels and tires specifically for the track. Make sure that your lug nuts are all properly torqued down. Lug nuts that are too tight can be just as dangerous as being too loose too. Tire pressure should be constantly monitored during your track day as well. Hard driving introduces quite a bit of heat into the tires, increasing the air pressure. Scuffed sidewalls may indicate that pressure is too low, and conversely excess wear in the center of the tread indicates that pressure is too high.
This is a topic that we could talk about for days on end. Good brakes on the street are typically horrible on the track and vice versa. You might think that you brake hard on the road, but that isn’t even a fraction of the braking you will be doing on track. Limit session time and do a cool down lap if you start feeling brake fade. It is absolutely a requirement to have newly flushed brake fluid in your car before a track day as well. Older fluid can absorb moisture that will boil off on hard braking, making your brakes ineffective. The same goes for pads. Pads not designed for track use will be eaten away quickly and can leave a film of pad material on the rotors, effectively acting as a lubricant (again, making your brakes totally ineffective). If you do switch pads out before an event, please make sure that you follow the manufacturers specifications for properly bedding them.
Proper oiling is arguably the most important system in your engine. For a track day, it is not a bad idea to do a fresh oil change before hitting the track. Bring extra oil with you to keep the level topped off. Low oil levels are obviously a problem no matter what setting you're in, but the effects are magnified on the track. High cornering force will starve other parts of the engine of oil. On the other hand, oil levels higher than the maximum level are also incredibly detrimental. We could go into great detail on the science of oiling, but the short version is that too much oil can cause frothing and will be just as detrimental as no oil.
Some other key points to remember are to remove any and all loose articles from the car, including from compartments in the car as well. Check lights and mirrors, and make sure that all standard car safety equipment is working properly.
NEDE - Technical Inspection Form