Track days a significant departure from what people consider “normal”. Since my first time at the track (and still to this day) I pinch myself and ask “Am I really here? Can this really be happening? Whether you come for a Track Day or are there for Competitive Racing, there is nothing else like it in the world.
With this experience comes a lot of “What is happening? What do I need? and “Where do I go? questions. So here you go – Below are some of the most common questions for people considering their first track day: Click the story links under many of the questions for posts that dive deeper on the subject.
15) I want to go RACING on a real Race Track. Can I do that?
YES! There are multiple paths to go “Racing” on a race track. There are also several different definitions that people use for “Racing”. The “In Crowd” refers to Racing is as a timed, competitive event. Most have very strict rulesets and require some form of special license and isn’t something someone jumps straight into. BUT A typical Track Day is called a “HPDE” – High Performance Drivers Education event and is open to everyone. HPDE Events are the vast majority of “Track Days” you see and hear about. They are part open track day, part performance driver’s school.
Not someone who enjoyed school? Don’t worry! For new drivers, these days usually include a few short but informative classroom sessions and a LOT of time on track with an instructor in your car. For Advanced drivers these days are often open format to work on their skills and have fun doing so.
14) Do I need a special license or some specific driving resume to get on track?
NO! As long as you have a standard driver’s license you are welcome to sign up for a HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) Track Day. Different clubs have different leveling systems but you typically begin in HPDE-1 and progress up through different levels based on your skill development.
If you eventually wish to Compete in Time Trial or Wheel-To-Wheel (Traditional) Racing, you would typically complete a comprehensive “Racing School” or participate in HPDE and get promoted through levels before finishing a Licensing program.
13) Do I need to buy a very expensive club membership from a race track if I want to go there?
No. Nearly every race track in America either has either 1) Their own open track days, 2) Is visited by Clubs (Like NASA, Chin, SCDA, BMWCCA, etc) who offer days to the public for a very small membership fee, or 3) A combination of 1-2.
12) Can I bring MY OWN car on track, or do I get to use a race car?
Nearly everyone brings their own car for their first track day. There are rental track cars available at nearly every HPDE (Track Day) event out there… but the cost is often significant (at least Several hundred dollars) so most choose to run their own vehicle; Whether it is their daily driver, weekend cruiser, or purpose built race car.
11) Does my car need a rollcage?
NO! The best thing you can do for your first track day is bring a BONE STOCK car. No Turbo, no engine work, no racing seats, etc. A Mechanically sound car with relatively fresh DOT4 brake fluid, good brake pads, and tires is a great starting point.
Modifications to a car quickly become a slippery slope of added rules, lost reliability, and exponentially higher running costs.
10) Can I bring a convertible to the track?
Yes and no. While many convertibles are typically allowed, there are some notable exceptions. A Miata is one car that does require an aftermarket rollbar . Check with your club’s rules or reach out to the club’s administration to find out where your convertible falls.
9) My Car is NOT fast, Can I bring it to a track day?
YES! Your car is slow? That is fantastic! While manufacturers keep pumping out “Track Edition” after “Track Edition” there is a secret that people who go to the track already know. These cars are NOT good cars for MOST people to bring to the track.
The truth is, most modern performance cars are so fast that they are extremely hard to drive at their limit and driving them hard wears out their tires and brakes very quickly. If you wish to go to the track and “Win” HPDE by being the fastest car in your group, go ahead. If you want to go to the track, have fun, learn a lot, and not spend $1,000 in tires for one weekend… a “slow” car like a Mazda Miata or Subaru/Scion BRZ/FRS may be the right car for you.
8) Do I need to buy a helmet?
Not quite. A Helmet is required for track days, but most clubs do offer loaners. Feel free to try out a track day (or a few) before you make the investment on a helmet.
7) My Neighbor has a cool old Motorcycle Helmet in their shed, can I use it?
No, you can’t use that. To get on track, you need a current SNELL Rated helmet. “SA” (Special Application) should be accepted everywhere, most Tracks and clubs allow “M”(Motorcycle) Rated. Simply having a “DOT” rating is not enough (Though many SNELL rated helmets also carry the DOT stamp).
6) Do I need a fire suit?
No. for your first HPDE all you generally need are closed toed shoes, long pants, and a helmet. Some clubs require long sleeves.
5) How do I sign up for a track day?
This will vary based on the track or club you choose to go with. Try a website like HPDEJunkie who will link you to either a Club’s day, Track’s own day, or outside scheduling website like MotorsportReg.
4) Does my regular car insurance cover me if anything happens?
First off, crashes in HPDE1 are VERY rare. Unfortunately, typical car insurance companies no longer cover these rare on-track incidents. You may see a few anecdotes online where people had incidents covered, but most are old stories and they were few and far between. There ARE companies who do offer specific HPDE Event insurance for your car, but it is expensive and after a few weekends the cost often exceeds what you would pay for a typical miata anyway.
If you are bringing a very expensive, newer car to the track, I recommend at least researching a policy… But I still say it is best to have a track car that wouldn’t cripple you financially if (in the extremely rare event) you had to write it off.
3) How do I find sponsors?
No one really sponsors drivers at HPDE Events. Even at the racing level, sponsors are quite rare. There just isn’t the viewership that would provide sponsors that return on their investment. While there are some sponsors who provide parts or provide small chunks of the costs for some racing drivers, don’t expect to be able to participate in this hobby for free… Read through other posts on this site to get the most track miles out of your dollar.
2) What do I need to bring to the track?
There are dozens of posts on the internet for what you need at your first track day: To sum it up as quickly as possible:
- Your Car
- Tape or Magnetic numbers
- Your “Gear” (Helmet (if you have one), long pants, shoes. And anything else depending on the weather (Jacket, Hat, Umbrella,etc)
- Water and Snacks
- A Basic Tool Kit
- Tire Pressure Gauge and Air Pump
- Torque/Lug Wrench
- Extra Oil
- A bag to store everything you clear out of your car
1) Can I bring a friend to the track?
YES! Absolutely, Friends are more than welcome! Track days have some incredible cars and scenes, however they may get a hair boring for people that aren’t driving. So, convince your friends to drive too! Many clubs also run referral programs so take advantage of discounts for both of you.
This all seems expensive, How do you have a website based on not spending money then say I need to spend my money signing up for these days?
There’s an old cringeworthy joke out there: “Why is Divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it” While I hate the content of the joke, the sentiment rings familiar with track days. “Why do we pay so much money to drive our cars around a silly track? Because it is worth it.“ No one gets rich putting on track days: Plenty of clubs are out there scratching by, or even losing money. Rental costs are high, insurance rates are high, events take a ton of time to setup and run… yet people do the work and people pay entry fees and spend endless time and money on their cars because this stuff truly is life changing.
What else? Do you have any other questions? Is there something I missed?
My question to you, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? My only regret with track days is taking so long to start doing them.
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