I have this powerful car, but HOW can I drive it on a real race track?
There are race tracks scattered all across the country (and the world). Getting on one is intimidating. It can be hard to find the right information about getting on track. Many of these tracks offer exclusive club memberships. Similar to golf club membership, track memberships range from very expensive to insanity. If you want some sticker shock, go and research some. One exclusive track I found has a membership fee over $130,000 with annual dues of nearly $15,000. I would hope that includes a free car to use but I doubt it… either way it’s not something I can afford and I’m guessing neither can you if you’re reading this blog.
Disclaimer: No judgment from me on this, these memberships are part of what keeps this entire industry going and I’m happy for it. If I did have the means, I would probably do it… but I don’t.
The good news: YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE A TRACK MEMBER TO GET ON A TRACK.
My local track (New Jersey Motorsports Park) opened before I had any on-track experience, and I had no idea “the way” to get on track. Track websites don’t usually advertise much beyond spectator events and their exorbitantly priced memberships… I did what the track hoped I would, and started crunching the numbers towards buying a membership. Thankfully, I didn’t need to buy in (There was no way I would have been able to afford it).
Track schedules are mostly filled with various clubs doing what’s typically called “High Performance Driver Education”. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars for annual memberships, these clubs usually cost about $50 in dues for a year and offer track days anywhere in the $200-400 range. This still isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly not something that requires a not-so-small fortune. You bring your own car and run what you got. The full range from Ferrari to Fiesta is welcome on track, and I’ve seen plenty of each! There are also companies renting track prepared cars, but they aren’t cheap and will likely increase your cost for the day by more than double.
The “Club Formula” does vary by region. Some clubs do offer their own HPDE days for non-members, but it’s somewhat less frequent, and those days may have odd constraints (like pace cars in all beginner groups). Full Disclosure: I have a strong bias towards National AutoSport Association events. My first track day was with NASA Northeast, and the entire experience was so amazing I’ve run almost exclusively with them since day one.
While all clubs offer track experiences, there are a lot of differences between them. Many clubs run a HPDE day with “sessions” split between a few groups (split by experience level). Some clubs will include HPDE, Time Trials and full wheel to wheel racing in the same event. Other clubs only offer advanced level Racing.
Check track day registration sites like HPDE Junkie or Motorsportsreg.com for clubs that run by you, or go direct to club websites. Just a few of the names include: NASA, SCCA, SCDA, Chin, HOD, PCA, BMWCCA, etc. These clubs also vary greatly in general “feel.” Some clubs are VERY strict with driving etiquette, leveling, promotion, etc while others are less strict and let pretty much anything go, anywhere… Most clubs fall at various places in the middle. If you try out one organization and don’t like it, try another one.
Nearly all clubs out there put instructors in novice driver cars. One club recently started a lower-cost series that tosses drivers on track with no in-car instruction (as a driver and instructor I do NOT agree with this). Look for a later post to go more in depth with some of the various clubs out there, what they offer, etc. My personal advice when first starting out: make sure you find a club that requires some level of tech (safety) inspection and provides new drivers with instructors.
Lets hear what you have to say. Sound off in the comments
What club do you drive with? Why? If you don’t drive, why haven’t you started yet?
You don’t need to be a track member to get on track. Find a club who rents the track for HPDE’s and sign up.