Just shut up and show up. Part2: Track Days
Hopefully you already do track days, If not, what are you waiting for? Us track “regulars” have heard countless excuses from those “car people” friends who never seem to make it out.
“My car isn’t ready yet”
“My car isn’t fast enough”
“I need a turbo first”
“I’m going to a show that weekend”
“I don’t really trust my car yet, I still want to go over some things”
“I need to get race tires before I waste them on track”
“What if the weather doesn’t turn out to be perfect?”
…and on and on and on…
Stop making excuses, JUST DO IT.
The internet is full of people who for some reason or other are trying to scare you off. When I was a teenager, forums were all the rage (This was mostly pre Facebook and pre go-pro). I was always curious about track days, but so much of what I read focused on breaking cars, wrecking cars, and generally having a bad, expensive time.
Track days certainly tax your car more than usual, a motivated driver will be at full throttle for extended periods of time, braking HARD, then right back to full throttle after. However, If your car is decently well maintained, it should be FINE. The most common issues come from forced induction cars (Turbo & Supercharged), especially if they didn’t come that way from the factory. We’ll get more in depth on how to modify your car in a “Track friendly” way in a later article, this is just about showing up.
We’re talking about your first track day here. VERY few people show up and look like Steve McQueen their first few laps around a real racetrack. Almost every new driver underdrives their cars (your instructor thanks you for that). A real racetrack is a very intimidating place and if you are instantly “Flat out” it can not only be dangerous, but you will skip over the important foundation skills. So if you didn’t get your miata’s full race brake pads, didn’t install a racing seat, or you’re on all season tires YOU WILL BE FINE! The first few days are about getting comfortable and establishing a foundation of good habits.
I’ve read stories from self-righteous forum members shaming new drivers that hadn’t flushed their brake fluid the week before the event. Another story was an instructor berated a student who didn’t check their lugnut torque that morning. All those angry people really did was distract a new driver who was already having a SUPER intense day with details that were still pretty far from the realm of immediately important. A “what to do for your first trackday” youtube video included what looked like thousands of dollars of over-the-top, mostly unnecessary, preventative maintenance. Don’t read stories like that and worry. Sure, it’s a good idea to check your lugnut torque and flush the brake fluid the a couple days before the event, but it shouldn’t ruin your first day if you don’t.
If you get serious into trackdays and racing all of this will become second nature. I check my wheel torque a few times a day (As I swap wheels and tires around), monitor tire pressures, flush brake fluid pretty regularly. But don’t WORRY about this stuff during your first day, it will only take away from your experience at this current moment. I make sure to maintain my car to keep it safe, but not going overboard on redundant and unnecessary maintenance helps keep me on a budget
Okay, there is a “But”. If you have something that is a monster: a z06 corvette, CTS-V, Hellcat Challenger, or otherwise silly fast high horsepower car, (and/or very heavy)… you will want to take a close look at those brake pads, consider having a track specific set after a couple days. While these cars were meant to be very fast, they aren’t really meant to be tracked without serious maintenance. (Take a look at some pro race cars, C7R road race corvette makes 500 hp, while the street Z06 makes 650+). But hey, if you’re reading a blog about getting started and doing track days on a small budget, you hopefully already know, these are not the cars for you. ALL costs go up exponentially when you have several hundred horsepower in a big heavy car. Sure, these cars are a blast for a day or two, but if you want to continue on a budget, it’s time to start shopping for something with less power and weight.
Some clubs require you to “pre-tech” at a certified shop, others suggest it. It is certainly a good thing to think about having done because nothing is worse than getting turned away in the tech line for something like a bubble in your tire, broken lug nut, or worn brake pad. However, If you are technically savvy and your car isn’t a pile of crap, a good self inspection of all the major components of your car should be fine. If you have a newer car, just make sure you have plenty of meat on the brake pads, shake each wheel and make sure you don’t hear any clunks, and make sure your tires (Whatever they are) aren’t bald or bubbled. If your car is older (say 15 years old or more) I would suggest taking a good look over all your rubber hoses and lines and doing a more detailed inspection of all your suspension components.
I’m all for “JUST DO IT!” but don’t be that person who argues with the tech inspector over a bubble in your tire, broken lug nut, or low brake pads… they are a few of the actually dangerous things… We don’t want you to crash, and we Definitely don’t want you to crash into us.
This week’s Takeaway:
If you only have a finite amount of money in your budget, you need to know when to stop spending it all on your car and start putting it to entry fees.
Next up: Part 3 – The “R” and “C” words