“What Modifications does my car need to take part in a track day?”
That’s a question we get asked quite a lot here at Trackdays.ie…..so we thought we’d answer it! In short, not a lot. I think the assumption is that you need a bunch of performance and safety mods to bring your car on track and it seems that a lot of people with standard road cars are actually put off trying out a track day because they think their cars are not suitable or just won’t be fast enough – but that’s simply not the case.
Assuming you have a standard-ish road car and you’re thinking of bringing it on track for the first time, the only modification you need to make is to fit towing eyes or straps front and back. Virtually all cars come with a captive nut, concealed somewhere behind the bumper, designed specifically to mount a towing eye. Some cars will actually come with a steel towing eye as part of the car’s tool kit. You simply remove the plastic trim panel covering the towing eye and screw it in. If your car doesn’t come with a factory towing eye you’ll need to buy an aftermarket one. There’s a bunch of different designs and most of them are universal. We stock a couple of different styles – Click here to view them in our shop
If you’re trying out a track day for the first time, after you’ve fitted the towing eyes we’d recommend you do nothing more than the following:
- Check your oil is filled up to just under the top mark on the dipstick (this helps prevent oil starvation under hard cornering and braking) Fresh oil is better than oil that’s done 1000’s of miles and top quality Motorsport oil is better again.
- Check your coolant is topped up and is between the min and max line on the expansion tank
- Check you have plenty of friction material on the brake pads
- Check you have air in the tyres and set the pressures so that they’re all the same
- Make sure all your wheel nuts are tight
So once you have the towing eye sorted and you’ve checked everything out in the list above, what else do you need to do? Well nothing really. However, the weakest links of most road cars when you drive them hard on a race track are:
- Cooling system
In that order. If you’re new to track days we’d recommend doing nothing about any of this to start with. Fit the towing eyes and do the checks mentioned above then do your first track day and see what the weak points of your particular car are. It might be perfect as it is, it will depend on the car and how hard you drive it.
What usually happens with standard road cars is that the brakes overheat after just a handful of laps. A common misconception is that it’s the pads that are overheating but more often than not it’s the brake fluid. Brake fluid absorbs moisture over time, when the fluid gets really hot the moisture in the brake fluid boils and turns to a gas and your brake pedal goes soft which in turn means
you loose braking performance, so before you start thing about 6 pot calipers, floating rotors and Carbon lorraine pads, flush and change the brake fluid. Even changing it out for some fresh, standard DOT4 like Mobil 1 will be a big help, or you could go for something with a higher boiling point. Murray Motorsport sell CL and AP racing fluid which works extremely well but is quite expensive. Some track day regulars are using DOT 5.1 brake fluid to good effect which is fully synthetic and available from any motor factors and is a lot cheaper than the racing stuff. With either type, be sure to fully flush the system before adding in the new stuff.
If that doesn’t solve your problem then you’ll want to look into uprated pads. What brand and compound of pad is ‘best’ is probably the most hotly debated topic in any track day forum or online group – closely followed by tyres! The truth is, there is no ‘best’ it all depends on your car, what you mainly use it for and how much money you want to spend. Our advice? Go join the debate – Hop on to our facebook page and ask the question!
How well your standard cooling system can cope on track does again vary from car to car but as a very broad rule of thumb, smaller, less powerful cars tend to cope a bit better as their engines just generate less heat. (the 1.25 Zetec Fiesta’s race cars can run a 6 hour endurance race on a bog standard cooling system) Again our advice would be to try your first track day and see how your car copes before you rush out and get a multi-core alloy rad and uprated cooling fans. You’ll need to keep a very close eye on the temp gauge and if you see it start to creep up, immediately back off. Don’t be tempted to dive straight for the pits (unless it’s boiling over already) the quickest way to cool everything down is to keep a good flow of air passing through the rad, so drop the car into a high gear and cruise round at a steady pace, keeping to the edge of the track, out of everybody’s way with your indicator or hazards on. Do a lap or 2 then come back in to the pits.
Standard road tyres are absolutely fine for your first few track days, just make sure they’re in decent condition. You may find, depending on the car that you want to add an extra 5, 10 or 15 psi to help stiffen up the sidewall under cornering and prevent scrubbing off the edges of the tyre as much. Tyre pressure really are a ‘feel’ thing so down the line you might want to bring a tyre pressure gauge and a pump and play around with the pressures till you find what feels right. Once you have a few track days under your belt you’ll probably be looking to upgrade your tyres as it’s an area that can transform your car on track and instantly knock seconds off your lap times. Bear in mind though, a sticky set of boots will put extra strain on other areas of the car, namely the suspension, brakes and engine (oil starvation can start to become an issue in some cases)
Road car suspension is designed to smooth out even the roughest of roads, handle speed bumps and primarily be comfortable for the passengers – all the things you don’t want or need on a race track. This can show up quite quickly on a track day – again how big the issue is will depend greatly on the car, for example the standard suspension on a Type R Integra will be perfectly fine but the suspension on Mondeo saloon will be overly soft and will roll excessively in the corners. This is all stuff you can deal with over time though and a set of stiffer springs or uprated coilovers can usually be sourced for sensible money.
So that’s really all you need to worry about for now. If you’re thinking about doing your first track day check out some of the other articles in our blog section, in particular our beginners guide and FAQ pages – there’s loads of really useful stuff in there. If you have any questions, please fee free leave a comment below or drop us a line via the Contact Us page or on facebook
Check back soon for part 2!