How to get your car (and yourself) ready for the trackApr 30th, 2018
After seeing a bunch of ads where your favourite Lexus is taking corners on a closed course, you might be tempted to test your car’s sporty pedigree and take it to your closest circuit for some high-speed fun. While you could simply hop in your car, drive to the track and have a great time, there are many things that you can—and a few that you definitely SHOULD—do to be safer and get the most of the experience.
First of all, it’s important to make sure that your vehicle can handle a few laps at high-speed. And since the only link between said track and your car is the rubber donuts on those shiny rims of yours, let’s start there. First, check the air pressure and adjust it if necessary; you can find the recommended pressure on a sticker located on the driver side doorsill. Also, make sure your tires are not too worn and don’t show uneven wear. If the inside or the outside of the tire is almost bald while the rest of the surface still shows plenty of tread, you may have a suspension or alignment issue. If the tires are evenly worn, consider changing them. Not only will you be able to go faster on the track, but you’ll also be safer on the street.
Under the Hood
Of course, the easiest way to make sure your car is running at peak performance is to take it to a specialist. But even if you aren’t a certified mechanic, there are some things you can do to ensure your car’s mechanical bits are ready to be pushed. Make sure the various fluids—power steering, power brake, coolant—are topped up. Also check your oil’s level and state; if it’s black and opaque, consider having it changed.
Apart from that, just make sure there are no loose parts or squeaking belts under the hood, and you should be good to go.
Make sure to go to your track of choice’s website and peruse the safety requirements for track days. Some tracks require helmets, long sleeves and/or long pants. Regardless of those requirements, you should wear closed shoes with thin soles. Expensive driving shoes aren’t necessary—sneakers are fine.
Driving on the road and driving on the track require completely different sets of skills. This means that even if you’ve been commuting for years without any problems, you probably aren’t ready to push your car’s limit on a circuit without a little preparation.
This is why most tracks offer driving instructors (and many actually REQUIRE that a coach be with you on your first track day). These people all have more experience than you do, will show you how to safely enter and exit the pits and teach you proper on-track etiquette. Keep an open mind, accept that you aren’t the reincarnation of Ayrton Senna and you’ll have a great time.
Also remember that track days aren’t the same as races. You’re not racing against other people, and the only thing you can beat is your lap time. If someone is clearly faster than you in the corners, let them through when it is safe to do so… Even if you can dust him off on the straights. Yes, getting passed by a Miata is kind of embarrassing, but look at it as an enriching experience. Observe how the driver is taking the corners, where he is braking and think of how you can use this to improve your own technique.
Happy (and safe) driving out there!