For a lot of enthusiasts in the sport compact car scene, there is a goal to their build or a reason as to why they want to perform modifications to their vehicles. Not all enthusiasts have the same goal in mind, and many enjoy building a nice vehicle that will likely never see track use. There are also those enthusiasts that seek raceways across the world for the thrills. These series of articles are geared towards helping those enthusiasts better understand what to prepare for when heading to the track, and what certain modifications will do for them to better the experience. Whether for beginners or amateurs, planning for your first event can be overwhelming. What should you bring? How do you prepare your car? What do you need to watch out for? Will they laugh at me?While I can say with certainty you will come away with one of the best experiences of your life, there are definitely a few things you can do to be more prepared.
The very first thing to start with is finding an event. Many organizations and raceways exist no matter your location. It seems far too often I hear people claiming to not have any organization nearby, while a quick google search for “SCCA” brings up multiple results. The SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) or NASA (National Auto Sport Association) are the two biggest groups in the United States right now, and are typically the go-to places to find out about events in your area. When it comes to performance driving, checking with your local raceway is always great option as well. If something like Drifting is more of your cup of tea, there are multiple organizations across the country as well. There are no nationwide sanctions besides the pro level Formula Drift series. For grip oriented performance driving, there are usually a variety of events. From autocross to open lapping track days, and to even more advanced events like wheel to wheel racing.
For a beginner, your best bet is to try out an open track day like HPDE, or an autocross event for the ease of entry. HPDE stands for High Performance Driving Event and it’s a great place for enthusiasts to get on track at many famous world class raceways through NASA. The price of an HPDE can vary from region to region, and costs can be around $150-250 per day. This may seem high at first when compared to something like an autocross through the SCCA. But when you do the math, most HPDE events allow for multiple sessions ranging from 20-40 minutes each. By the time that day is over and you have had a good 3-4 20-30 minutes sessions on track you will have definitely had your fill.
On the other side of the spectrum there are SCCA autocross events. While autocross events are mild in comparison to running an open track day, a raceway can be much easier to plan for. Jumping into an event on a whim can be easier, and requires less planning since a lap seems to be under 60 seconds. Generally you will see about 10 runs for the day, while an HPDE will wear down brakes and tires much faster at higher speeds with longer runs on track. Cost tends to be a lot cheaper for an autocross as well, but the track time per dollar ratio tends to be a bit less.
When it comes to prepping yourself and your vehicle for these events, you’ll first want to make sure you have the right equipment. One of the most important pieces of equipment for the task is a helmet. Not any old helmet will do because there are specific guidelines and classifications for helmets that must be met. Luckily we already have an article in the link below regarding helmets, ratings, and how to determine size.
Beyond the scope of helmets, you will want to make sure the organization you plan to run with does not have any other requirements. For example, if your vehicle is an open top car like a Miata, you may be required to install a 4 point roll bar. They may also have specific requirements on long sleeve shirts, pants, and closed toed shows are also mandatory. Another thing to check is that your car is up to date on maintenance. Any and all fluids should be at their proper levels, and refreshed if needed. There’s no set date on when somebody should change their fluids in high performance driving, but it’s still a good idea to have a fresh oil change before your first event. You will want to make sure all components of the vehicle are operating properly. Take a walk around, and make sure you do not have any missing lugs, fluid leaks, and nothing on the vehicles is loose. Make sure the interior of the car is cleaned out of any unsecured items. Finally one of the most overlooked of course is having a proper battery tie down. If there are any problems, your vehicle may not pass your local organization’s tech inspection. This will be the first step in ruining your first track day.
Besides the obvious safety items such as your helmet and anything else, you’ll want to consider other items to bring. Sunscreen, water, lunch, tools, are all very important items. Take a look at the venue beforehand, or ask an experienced local driver to see what facilities are available. You don’t have to take your entire toolbox, but you may get into that habit later on. Make sure you have tools related to common issues you come across with your vehicle. Need to swap your wheels when you get there? Consider the Cusco Cross Lug Wrench. Have an intercooler hose clamp that likes to come off all the time? Bring that flathead!
There’s so much more that can be planned for, and should be considered depending on your location and experience with the vehicle. Consider speaking with your local organization for more information. When at your first track experience, make sure to listen to the instructors. Pay attention to driver’s meetings, and request an instructor while taking their advice on track etiquette and course techniques. Keep in mind this is no competition, and you can take it at your own comfort level. You are out there first and foremost to learn new techniques, while having fun testing the limits of your vehicle. Now put those RallySport Direct parts to the test!