One of the most exciting things that you can do with your road car or daily drive is to take it to the track. This can be a very unique experience, but there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. Before your first time, you may not be sure how best to prepare your car for the track.
5 steps to make your road car ready for the race track are:
- Make sure the car is in good working order
- Check out the track’s rules and regulations
- Make the right modifications
- Take it for a test drive
- Sort out your insurance
Each of these considerations will prove vital if you are to have a successful day at the track, and doing things right will save you both time and money. But first, let’s go over some other considerations you may wish to make before you head to the track for the first time.
Things To Note About Track Days
The first place that you will probably be taking your road car for a shot on the track will be what is called a track day. This is an organized event where people are allowed to bring their own cars to go around a real racetrack. They are frequent events that take place all across the country, and they can be a really good opportunity to see how your car handles on a track.
There are local events and national ones too, and finding one near you shouldn’t be too difficult. They are often held on weekends, and sometimes they take place over several days as well. This means they are fairly easy to fit into even the busiest of schedules.
Several Different Types
There are different types of track days. The first type involves you getting out on the track at a specific time slot, or for a specific length of time at a time of your choosing. This means you are limited to how many laps you can do, and you will be told where and when to get onto the track, and when to leave it, by marshals or other officials at the track day.
The other type allows you to go onto the track for as long as you like (within reason) whenever you like, provided there are not more cars than the particular event limits at any one time. Both types of track day will have a limit of how many cars can be on them at any one time, and this means you won’t have to worry too much about it being overcrowded.
It Is Really Up To You
Which type you choose to go for – if you are able to choose – will usually be a matter of personal preference. The price for the second option is usually a bit higher, but the price itself is usually dependent on the amount of track time that you are given. It is always best to check out the event in advance so that you can make a decision before you arrive, so that you can plan around this.
Check Out The Rules
Another thing that you will need to check in advance is the rule setup. Each track day will differ, and some will be much stricter than others. Getting a solid understanding of the rules and regulations before you arrive will save you a lot of time and potential embarrassment, should you accidentally or unknowingly break any of them when you get there.
Are You Up For It?
Finally, you will also want to make sure that you are up to the task of driving around a track. This means you have to be fairly physically fit and free from injuries, as you will likely not be used to the speeds and forces you’ll experience when driving around a race track. You don’t need to be an athlete to have a good shot around a circuit, but like your car you will need to at least be in working order!
Now that we have gone over the basics of what to get sorted before your first track day, let’s now consider the car-specific considerations you should take into account.
5 Steps To Make Your Road Car Ready For The Race Track
1. Make Sure The Car Is In Good Working Order
This is obviously important, and it goes without saying that your car will need to be in working order before you even think about taking out onto a race track. It’s often not enough to simply know that it drives as you normally drive it, and instead you will probably want to get it serviced before you head to the track.
Aside from the usual service, you may wish to give the car a check yourself. This means checking everything from the underside of the car to the inside. You don’t need the car to be as good as new, and as long as everything is in working order and the car drives safely, it is usually enough to know that you are ready to take it to the track.
Check Your Tires & Fluids
Some key things to check are the tires and your fluid levels. Make sure that your tires have a decent amount of tread left on them, as you will wear them down a little on the track. Oil levels are another critical thing to check, and you will usually want to top up all of your fluids before you head out. You should also check all of these things regularly throughout the day when at the track.
You won’t usually run into any issues on the track so long as you don’t really push the car beyond its limits. However, if this is your first time taking it out that is probably the last thing you will want to do anyway. As long as you drive sensibly and prepare yourself in advance, you will usually be able to keep everything in working order after taking it out on the track.
Give It A Quick Tidy
We will go over some more specific modifications that you might consider making to your car before taking it out on the track, but for the moment all you need to do is give the car a quick tidy up on the inside. This means removing any loose items that may cause a problem if they fly around your car as you take corners at high speeds, both for your safety and your sanity!
Aside from checking it over and giving it a quick tidy, you are pretty much good to go at this stage. However, if you really do want to get the most out of your track day experience, you may wish to make some additional modifications to your car. But before we consider those, let’s first consider the different rules and regulations you might want to look out for.
2. Check Out The Track’s Rules And Regulations
Most track days will come with a set of rules and regulations. These are usually in place for your safety, and also for the safety of the other drivers around you. Some rules are simply there to make sure that everyone is able to have the best possible experience at the track, and so adhering to them will make everyone’s day much more enjoyable.
There Are Rules For Everything
The rules can cover all aspects of the day’s experience, ranging from what you should wear – usually no shorts or t-shirts allowed – to what you need to bring. Normally you will just need your driving license, or a specific track license if you don’t hold a standard one. You will usually need to wear a helmet as well, so you should try and bring your own if possible.
Aside from this, you will also want to find out when you need to arrive at the venue, and of course what kind of track day you should expect. Find out when you are due to go out if applicable, and for how long. Then you will want to learn the various track signals and flags that might be in operation, as these will dictate when to enter and leave the track, among other important things.
The Rules Of Overtaking
The most important rule to follow at a track day is the overtaking rule. This will vary from track to track, but there will normally be a defined way that you are allowed to overtake other cars, and this is usually on the straights. You will need to let other cars go past you if they are looking to overtake, so paying attention to your mirrors and the marshals is essential.
Other Things To Look Out For
There are also usually noise limits in place, alongside various safety regulations as well. These are important to consider when it comes to making modifications to your car, and so making sure that you adhere to them will save you a lot of money and headache, as you do not want to be turned away from the event because your exhaust is too loud.
3. Make The Right Modifications
Perhaps the most important considerations before taking your road car out on the track involve the modifications that you choose to make to the car. These can involve pretty much every part of the car, and it is really up to you how far you take it. Modifications are usually not essential, and so this is only really for those that want to get the most out of their vehicle on the track.
Shed Some Weight
The first thing you might want to do in terms of modifications involves the weight of the car. In order to make your car faster and more responsive, you will want to save as much weight as possible. This means getting rid of unnecessary things, but not necessarily everything. Keep components like the wing mirrors, but consider taking out the back seats and anything in the trunk.
Saving weight is a fairly easy modification to make, but you don’t need to go overboard. A rough guide is usually that less than 10% of a weight difference is not enough to notice, so don’t worry about getting rid of near weightless components. Next, you might want to consider changing your suspension, as track car suspension is set up differently to normal car suspension.
Tweaking The Suspension
A popular thing to do is to tweak the suspension so that it points slightly toe in. This affects the way that the car will corner, and it usually makes it a little more responsive. It might not be that noticeable for an absolute beginner, but it can also make a big difference if you know what you are doing and apply the right amount of tweaking.
Note: We only recommend making modifications (or having a professional make modifications) that you are comfortable with. Not everyone needs to modify their car's suspension to have an enjoyable time at a track day.
More Advanced Modifications
Engine tuning may also be on your agenda, and this is another thing that is really only of concern to those that really want their car to perform out on the track. You may wish to tune the engine to make it more powerful, or you might even take it to the next level and replace the engine entirely. This is only really advised if you plan to do a lot of track racing, as it is obviously expensive.
Aside from the engine, the transmission is another area you may wish to consider making modifications. Enhancing your transmission will make it easier and faster to shift gears, and the faster you shift out on the track the faster you will be able to go around it. The clutch is therefore another key area for performance tweaking, but both of these components can be expensive to alter.
Consider The Brakes
The brakes are another important component you might want to change, and usually this involves changing the brake pads. The forces that your car will experience on the track will be stronger than usual, and so you will be doing a lot more braking and it will be much stronger than when you are simply slowing down at a stop light from 30 mph.
So, you may wish to upgrade the brake pads to something more tuned to racing, and again this can be expensive. It is also only going to be really effective if you are planning to drive fast around the track. Normal brake pads will usually be enough for a few laps at average speeds, but if you want to push it to its limits, you won’t go wrong with upgrading the brake pads.
The final things that you might want to consider modifying are linked to the safety regulations of the track itself. As you will be driving a lot faster than normal and braking a lot harder than you usually do, it can help to install a harness rather than a seatbelt. This will hold you closer to the car, and it can make a world of difference when you are taking corners at high speeds.
The seat itself may also warrant some modifying, as you will also want to ensure you are comfortable driving it around the track. A roll cage will usually not be vital, and it can actually hinder your experience as it adds weight and can get in the way of your driving if it is very bulky. So, this is not usually something that you need to consider adding.
4. Take It For A Test Drive
After you make each modification you should take it out for a test drive. This will ensure that you know where any problems are if they exist, and it will make it a lot easier than having to take everything apart if you run into trouble on the track. It doesn’t have to be a long drive, just make sure that the car still drives well after making any changes.
Simply taking the car out for a test drive when you have made modifications could save you a lot of money and hassle. Obviously, things can still go wrong when you take it out for the first time, but it is better to limit the chances of that happening as much as you possibly can.
Not only will taking it out for a test drive allow you to identify any potential problems, but it will also give you a chance to get a feel for the changes that you have made. This will make your first few laps on the track less nerve-racking, and it is always good to get in a bit of a practice session before you head out on the track, even if it is at low speeds!
5. Sort Out Your Insurance
The final thing to consider is your insurance. This is a vital thing that a lot of people overlook before they head out for their first track day. As you will be pushing your car more than normal, you will be subjecting it to far more opportunities for something to go wrong. These can be minor fixes, but they could also end in disaster for you and your car.
Some insurance policies will cover track days already, but many don’t. This means it is essential that you find out before you book your track day in order to avoid any issues or wasted money. If your insurance provider does allow for track days, then you still want to read the terms and conditions so that you don’t end up getting caught out.
Usually Not That Expensive
If you are not covered already then you can apply for single or multi-day policies from a range of insurance providers. They usually don’t cost too much, especially if you are only planning one or a couple of track days per year. They may end up being well worth the small cost should you run into any expensive issues out on the track.
However, incidents are extremely rare out on the track, as the entire day is not intended to be a racing event. As long as you adhere to the rules of the track, you shouldn’t end up in any tricky situations. Plus, if you don’t push your car past its limits, there should be no worry about bringing it home in the same state in which you left. Nonetheless, insurance can provide some peace of mind.
Before taking your road car out on track, you should make sure you find out as much information as you can about the track itself. Find out key information, and it will make your day much more enjoyable. Stick to any rules and regulations they enforce, and you’re bound to have a great time!