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Steeda UK Guides - Track Day Tips - The Basics

As we are all owners of Fast Fords that love to live up to the Steeda "Speed Matters" motto, some of us might want to escape the traffic hell of public roads and let our cars off the leash a bit on a track day. These are very accessible now, with tracks all over the UK and Europe offering access on Track days and half day or evening sessions.

However, some people can be a little intimidated or confused by the idea of track days, so here is a small "beginners guide" to help you out. Even if you have done a track day or two, we hope this helps a little too. We are talking about Circuit days here rather than drag strip sessions.

THE MAIN THING TO REMEMBER AT ALL TIMES: TRACK DAYS ARE NOT RACES

They are an opportunity to have fun in your car, and take your car (and you as a driver) up to the limits and speeds it is capable of in a safe and legal environment.
Once you have done a few track days and have some experience, you might want to actually race, and there are plenty of ways to start doing this but that's a topic for another blog post! 

You can have a fully modified track car Or a stock / almost stock road car. 

      

There are a couple of different kinds of track days:

1. What I will call "activity days or airfield days" like Steeda's Driving Experience Days which take place on an airfield or circuit or car park / open tarmac area, and which are usually run in a "one car at a time" format, and used to improve your driving skills and get to learn the performance and handling of your car and have fun, usually with little to hit other than a few cones etc.

2. Actual race circuit "track days" for example at Brands Hatch or Snetterton (or indeed the Nurburgring). These involve multiple cars on circuit at the same time, and are more hazardous environments as the track can be surrounded by gravel traps, armco barriers and other things to avoid, plus of course other drivers. As such these days always require the driver and passengers to adhere to minimum safety apparel regulations. This usually means normal cloths that cover up the arms and legs (ie no shorts and T shirts) and a helmet of some kind. I prefer an open face helmet for comfort and to allow conversation with passengers / instructors etc IN A CLOSED ROOF car. In a convertible / open top car a full helmet is recommended.

Track Days often come in 2 formats:
1. OPEN PIT LANE. This basically means a free for all! Drive whenever you want, for however long you want, the choice is yours. This gives you the most freedom of choice.

2. "SESSIONED" track days. This means the organisers of the track day split the day into different sessions and allocate cars to each group. This allows them to have "novice sessions" and "experienced sessions" for example. This is a good option if you are  a rookie and want to make sure you are with drivers of a similar level. It also means a more controlled and predictable day.

Once you have chosen a day and a circuit to go to, then the fun begins. I would always recommend trying to go along with some friends both to share the experience and allow you to rest and passenger with each other and help each other out if needs be! Steeda UK organised days are good  for this or club days and such like. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and Blog for opportunities but there are plenty of reputable track day organisers out there. If you find someone good, try and stick with them, as badly organised days can leave a bad taste in your mouth if they tolerate bad driving or overbook and under control.

The Track Day and our Cars

Now that we have learned that track days are NOT RACES. We must also admit that our cars ARE NOT RACE CARS (even if it is painful to do so!)

People worry about wear and tear on track days, but generally it is very minimal and manageable. Massive wear and tear and indeed damage tends to occur due to overheating. This is your main enemy on a track day. However much you have modified your car, unless you have built it specifically for the track (in which case you dont need to read this!) it will be a road going car. This is NOT a bad thing. Temperature is an essential variable for car components. They are designed to work within operational parameters, and a track / race item tends to have a much higher operating temperature range than road parts. This does NOT make them better. Just different.

For example a race / track focussed  brake pad operates at MUCH higher temperatures than road one. This means as you hammer the brakes lap after lap they keep working. BUT when they are cold they dont work at all. This is why race pads are a terrible idea on a road car. They literally wont work at normal minimal braking operating temperatures on the road. Its the same with tyres (which is why F1 drivers frantically weave about before the race starts trying to get heat into the tyres. WITHOUT heat they just dont grip!)

As such I always say HEAT MANAGEMENT is an essential part of track day best practice.

You can go on an Open Pitlane All Day session, and say do 5 sessions where you:

1. Go out for a warm up lap, and sighting lap
2. Hit 4 "hot laps" as hard as you feel comfortable
3. Coast back around for a cool down lap, with minimal throttle and braking (these can often be nearly as fast as your hot laps as you are driving much more smoothly!!)
4. Come into the pits to let the car cool down.

Have a rest drink some water, go for a ride as a passenger with your friends to see what lines they are taking and where thy are braking etc. Especially if they are more experience than you. Then you are ready to go back to step 1

Doing that, you would have done 5 x 6 laps (1 in, 4 "hot" and 1 out / cool down) for a total of 30 laps, and your car will (should) be fine.

BUT if you decided you are Lewis Hamilton and that the track day is the British GP, and your car is race prepped by McLaren, and you decide to hit out 30 laps in 1 session (after all its Open Pit Lane so you can). There is a VERY good chance you will DESTROY your brakes, DESTROY your tyres, and potentially overheat and damage your engine. Not too mention dead brakes and or tyres could mean a loss of control and a crash or incident, none of which counts as "fun". Even you as the driver can suffer from tiredness and poor decision making. Track days are mentally and sometimes physically draining!

The bigger and heavier your car, and the more powerful the truer this is, as they will build heat much faster and put more pressure on the cars systems. So a supercharged Mustang, or high HP Focus RS needs to be doubly careful in this regard.

Now of course you can help mitigate the heat issues with modifications, from the very simple and cheap (and highly recommended) Rad Relief heat management additive through to uprated brake systems, such as our slotted discs set and braided brake lines for Mustangs or Fiesta. Grippy track day tires can help improve times and handling and control heat better. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 is our recommendation BUT the best practice is to keep your runs broken down into small stints. However much you have modified your car, your car and YOU will last the day better if you take it easy and break up the track day into stints. You will get a feel for what is the "perfect stint" for you and your car. 3 Hot laps? 6 Hot laps? But keep it short!

Now that is out of the way, we can talk about how to have fun, and what to remember on the day.

Step 1: Car Prep

A track day isnt a normal days driving. You will be full throttle a lot of the time, and hard braking repeatedly. As such step one should occur BEFORE you set out for your track day. Check your car over, and make sure its in good condition. Is the oil topped up, are the brake pads and discs in acceptable state, are your tyres OK and properly inflated. Check your wheel nuts, especially if changing to a set of track wheels.  Many tracks will only allow in car camera / phone mounts that they regard as adequately safe, and often suction mounts are not allowed. If you want to film make sure you have a bomb proof mount. After all do you want a camera flying loose and smacking you in the face as you try and corner at 90mph? A Full tank of premium fuel is a good idea too as on track your car will GUZZLE that stuff! MPGs can easily hit single digits.....

NOISE!!!

An important part of car prep is understanding that a lot of UK tracks have strict noise limits, and if your car fails the noise test it wont be allowed on track. Even if you pass the static test in the pits, you can still be "black flagged" and thrown off track if you fail the drive by tests while on the circuit. A lot of tracks will allow you to pop in and sound check your car if you are unsure. This is an essential check, as you could find your self wasting a lot of money and time if you book a trackday and then fail sound check. If you have a loud system you can buy baffles etc to tone things down.

The GUIDE CONTINUES in PART 2- CLICK HERE


Created On  21 Jul 2017 12:22 in Steeda UK Blog  -  Permalink

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