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HOW & WHERE CAN I GO ON TRACK?
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HOW & WHERE CAN I GO ON TRACK?
I've been asked a few times by new comers; Where can I go, who to talk to to the in the sport of performance driving (track days)
Well let's all chip in a few pointers:
excerpted from an article by
My first drivers school is coming up, what should I expect?
You can have lots of fun just being at the track.
You’ll have even more fun with the right equipment.
SOMEONE at the track is bound to have the right tool or part for virtually any problem. Get to know as many people as possible. Be friendly. Say
and you’ll be surprised at how helpful people can be.
The amount of stuff you want to take to the track will expand to fill the available space.
Here is a brief list of essentials for the track (check your Drivers’ Info Package for more items):
Extra motor oil (at least two quarts)
Helmet (confirm that your helmet meets or exceeds the minimum requirements)
Sunscreen, sunglasses & raingear
Ground sheet (tarp) to keep the sand and dirt out of the other stuff
Watch or clock
Garbage bags (helps keep the small stuff together)
Extra T-shirt (you’ll probably get sweaty)
Extra long sleeved T-shirt (required so have one for each day)
Cooler stocked with lots of water and/or Gatorade plus fruit and snacking veggies (Absolutely NO ALCOHOL of any kind will be consumed by ANYONE on the track grounds).
Before the First Session
There are several keys to having a great first school. First and foremost is GET THERE EARLY! Absolutely nothing is more unnerving and creates more anxiety in first timers than being late, missing a drivers meeting and starting the day off wrong. Plus if you’re early, you’re less likely to make mistakes in your paperwork, cleaning out the car or missing a tech inspection.
You’ll begin the day with a group meeting with the classroom instructor and the chief instructor. They will go over the rules of the track, what the flags mean, how to pass properly and about a dozen other things you’ll need to know to have a safe enjoyable weekend. You’ll hear it about a kajillion times throughout the course of the weekend, so let’s get the first order of business out of the way.
THIS IS NOT A RACING SCHOOL!
If you’re coming to a school to prove you’re the next Jeff Gordon, impress your friends with your courage and skill, or see if you can get your moneys worth out of all those expensive car modifications,
here is rule #1:
FAILURE TO FOLLOW THE RULES AND/OR LISTEN TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR WILL MAKE IT NECESSARY FOR THE NCM OR THE TRACK TO ASK YOU TO LEAVE AND THERE WILL BE NO REFUNDS.
Please don’t embarrass the folks running the school by making them embarrass you. Everyone is there to enjoy the cars, have some fun, meet great people and enjoy a safe learning experience. About 99% of the people who come to these events are the greatest people/drivers on the road. Keep in mind that your instructor isn’t being paid. They are just trying to impart some knowledge and live to do it again.
The first priority is to clean out the car. EVERY loose object must be removed from the trunk and passenger compartment. The most important area to check is UNDER THE FRONT SEAT. Objects tend to gravitate to this area and you won’t notice them until you get on the binders really hard. Invariably they roll or slide under your feet. Going into a braking zone is not the place to have something jam under the pedals. Any item that is not attached needs to be removed. Clean out the glove box, rear package shelf, and console. All floor mats should be removed to keep them from sliding around.
After you have the car clean, your instructor or the tech crew will perform a tech inspection to check everything including your helmet. They should check the trunk, under the hood and the passenger compartment to make sure the battery is secure, all loose objects are removed, and there are no fluid leaks. They will also check the Snell sticker on the inside of your helmet.
Next is tire pressure. Due to the nature of this kind of driving, youíll need to add some air. About 34 lb cold is a good starting point. The one thing you donít want is for the tire to roll over during hard cornering and come off the rim. They will gain some pressure as they heat up, so donít go overboard and over inflate them.
For first timers as well as those in beginning run groups, you may have some on track exercises designed to help you explore the limits of your car and get a feel for how the chassis works. Before we take your pride and joy out on the track, letís go over the basics of sitting in the car.
It may seem elementary to discuss how to sit in a car. After all youíve been doing it for many years, but [no pun intended ;-)] for this type of driving, seating and body position is important. To control the car you must be able to concentrate on inputs - steering, throttle and brakes - without worrying about being a loose object behind the wheel.
You should be sitting IN rather than ON the seat. Use your feet to push back and wiggle your butt into the seat. After making sure youíre in total contact with the seat, see if you can reach all the pedals. If not, adjust the seat and start again.
Next up is hand position on the steering wheel. Place your hands at 9:00 and 3:00. Notice the word hands, as in plural. This is no place for one-handed driving. Youíll get better results if your arms are slightly bent. It theyíre fully extended you wonít get good leverage and we donít give style points for looking like Fangio or Nuvolari.
Next move your right hand and place it at "10:00" on the wheel. If you can do this without moving your back away from the seat youíre probably positioned correctly. To make sure, put your hands back at 9:00 and 3:00 and turn the wheel to the right and left WITHOUT changing position on the wheel. If your elbows hit the seat back or your body, youíre too close to the wheel. Tilt the seat back slightly until your arms are slightly bent.
People who are vertically challenged (i.e. short) or those with extremely long arms may never be able to reach the ideal seating position without modifying the car with pedal extenders. If this is your case, go for the best compromise.
Before attaching the seat belt, check the mirrors. When you are on the track (and of course for everyday street driving) it is your responsibility to check the mirrors. You will be in the beginning or novice run group and there may be students who have attended other driversí schools. They may be faster. In any group of drivers there will be faster and slower cars, so be aware of what is behind you. With that in mind, your first priority is still to concentrate on the line in the turns. The mirrors are for the straight-aways when youíll be passing or being passed. Try not to let the mirror affect your line in the turn; your instructor will be monitoring the mirror as well and will give you guidance on both passing and being passed.
Next are seat belts. You want to make sure theyíre fastened as tightly as possible. If possible try to lock the inertia reel. On some C4s you can select cinch.
Riding with Instructors
You may have the privilege of riding with an instructor in their car either during an instructor session (not for the faint of heart, these guys are obscenely fast) or during an advanced student session. Donít be shy about asking for rides as most instructors love to have someone in the other seat. We actually encourage students to ride with their instructors so that he/she can demonstrate what they are teaching you.
When you ride with an instructor keep three things in mind.
They know what they are doing. If they didnít, the chief instructor would not have invited them. They will be going very fast and things happen in a big hurry. Most of them donít mind you talking to them, but ask just to make sure.
Donít compare yourself to the instructors. They have years experience and know how their car will react at any given moment. Forget about the speed and watch the line they take in the turns. If everything is done right, the car will naturally hit the apex and track out to the proper position.
Watch their hands and feet.
The biggest secret to high performance driving is BE SMOOTH!
The steering input, throttle application, braking and shifting may appear violent at first, but it should be smooth and no more harsh than necessary. They should not be making any unnecessary movements of the steering wheel, turning it only as far as it takes to get the car through the turn.
Braking should be firm and definite. The car should slow to the right speed and then the brakes will be gently released. Downshifts should be barely noticeable except for a rise in engine revs.
The throttle should be applied smoothly and when the entire lap is finished you will notice now gentle it all seemed. Just because a driver is working hard doesnít mean they are fast. The best ones are so good it seems effortless. If you get a chance, look at the Nurburgring video that is shown at the Museum.
This type of driving puts extra strain on both you and the vehicle. If youíre in a Corvette or other performance car this is how they are intended to be driven. Even with the fine engineering they still need some extra TLC at the track so hereís a short list of things to check:
Before EVERY session:
Check the engine oil. Make sure itís full, but donít overfill it either. For C6 Z06s a quart down is acceptable.
Check the wheel bolt tightness (torque to 90-100 ftlbs (or manufacturerís specs & remove security lug nut if present & replace with regular nut)
Clean the windshield.
Inspect the tires for cuts or imbedded objects.
At the beginning of each day:
Check all the fluid levels.
Check the tire pressure (start at 34 lbs cold)
Look for fluid leaks.
Make sure you have a full tank of gas. If you are sharing a car, keep a very close watch on fuel level after each run and it may be necessary to fill up at midday.
In case no one mentions it to you
. NEVER SET THE PARKING BRAKE AFTER A TRACK SESSION!
Itís a great habit on the street, but at the track itís a recipe for stuck rear brakes. The rotors get so hot during track use they are subject to warping and sticking if you apply the parking brake. Just park on level ground, put it in reverse or park (automatic) and let it cool down.
Know What You are Learning
Itís easy to be overwhelmed with all the information youíll be receiving, but try to come away with some basic concepts. If you master only two skills from this school, it will be money well spent.
Look up! The human brain is one of Godís masterpieces. Weíre internally hard wired to go where we look. If you learn the skill of looking through the turn youíll be pleasantly surprised to find that if you have done everything right up to that point (enter the turn at the correct speed) youíll end up going where you look. Concentrating on the 10 feet directly over the hood is one of the worst habits any driver can have. The farther ahead you look, the more time you have to weigh the options and make a good decision.
Be smooth with the inputs. Nothing upsets the car more than a jerky throttle, steering and braking. If youíre doing it right, itís smooth.
Are We Having Fun Yet?
If you have any problems communicating with your instructor, let them know. Chances are that they just donít recognize what you need. Everyone is different. If you need lots of feedback, make them aware of that fact. If theyíre talking too much or not giving you any positive reinforcement, say something. If you are not getting the kind of help you need or not having any fun,
ask the Eventmaster or Chief Instructor
about getting a new instructor.
Most first timers are anxious about asking for another instructor, but donít be shy. If you have a great instructor let them know. If you want someone else, do it at the end of the first day. Whatever you do, donít go away wishing you had spoken up. Just make sure you do it in a mature adult fashion. However keep in mind that the problem could be your attitude. If youíre having the same problem with a second instructor, re-examine your actions and see if the problem is you.
What can you do to make the car better?
Donít go overboard on modifications. Take it one step at a time and youíll save money and frustration. Most changes to the car are unnecessary until you hone your skills with several schools. Should you want to invest in some extra goodies for your ride, consider these:
Handling and brake upgrades
Creature comforts at the track
Until youíve had at least a dozen schools, you donít need to be concerned with more horsepower.
The best investments in the beginning are:
Better brake pads. This is a case of the right tool for the job.
Fresh suspension. New bushings, ball joints, and shocks will go a long way toward making even an older car handle like new.
Anything that will make the day at the track more enjoyable such as a canopy (be sure it will fit in the car) and a good folding chair.
A good seat. A well made seat will make you a part of the car and enable you to get a much better feel of how the chassis talks to you.
Good harnesses. Nothing adds more confidence and comfort than being held firmly in the car. Keep in mind that harnesses must be installed on both seats and must pass through the seats; going around the shoulders of a Corvette seat is NOT acceptable or safe. Having to use the steering wheel as a brace is the quickest way to lose concentration. This is not recommended for first timers at all.
Some good driving shoes and gloves. These help you fine tune the interface of you and the car (plus they look sharp!).
Just exactly what is
the Red Mist
If you hear an instructor warn you about the red mist, what they are referring to is the tendency for drivers to make bad decisions. These lapses in judgment can be attributed to:
Lack of experience
No one can do anything to control your ego, but you. We can remind you to
Drink plenty of water and/or Gatorade. Forget the colas...they just make you more thirsty.
Get plenty of rest.
Donít drive if youíre overheated.
If you are too tired to have some fun, you are too tired to be a safe driver. Donít think you have to drive every lap to get your moneyís worth. If you find that you cannot concentrate, sit out a session. The track will still be there later and youíll have more fun if you are able to focus.
to get on track hit the safety stuff first. make sure car is ready and brakes are good and wear a quality helmet!!! know you have limits and realize it isnt a smash the peddle out of every turn thing. slow is smooth and smooth is fast
Agreed,it's not a race,just a fun day hauling ass.So learn,improve,and have fun.
What are guys paying to get onto the track? I've done 2,2 day HPDE events(4-25min sessions per day)with PCA at New Jersey Motorsports Park.Each 2 day event I paid $330(instructed).Are there less expensive venues?
Rockrau: That's pretty good, actually.
Less expensive but less active time: Autocross.
Less expensive but more active time: Become an instructor in 5+ years.
Out here in california the price per day really depends on the track...big name tracks cost more to rent and thus the cost is passed on to the individual racer....the smaller or less known tracks can be had 4-6 sessions (or more if you talk the purveyor into letting you into more than 1 group) for 100-150.
early sign ups also cut cost down here for a few of our hpde providers
Here are a few links to look at and follow. They organize events at a cheaper rate.
I'm signed up forNJMP-I Thunderbolt. March 22&23!
Another good organizer for those near Indy, Mid-Ohio, & Bowling Green:
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