Beginners guide to track days

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Beginners guide to track days

So what exactly is a track day?

Well, in short it’s a non-competitive, non timed, fun event that allows you to drive your own car on a proper race track. It enables petrol heads like you and I to push our cars to the limit in a safe environment, without endangering other road users or getting into trouble with the law. You’ll find driving on track an incredible adrenaline rush, it will make you a better and safer driver on the road and is a great way to spend a day with a group of like-minded people! To take part in a track day you don’t need a fast car, you don’t need to be an amazing driver and you don’t need any prior on-track experience, in-fact all you do need is a full driving licence and a well maintained car that’s in good roadworthy condition – it really doesn’t matter if it’s a Lamborghini Murcielago or your Ma’s Micra! One of the great things about track days is that you can take everything at your own pace. All of our events run an ‘open pitlane’ which basically means you can come and go on track as you please. So you can go and do a few laps, come in, take stock, let the car cool down, have a chat, then go do some more! It’s a very relaxed set up. Beginners guide to track days

How do I book a place?

At Trackdays.ie everything can be done through the website. You can find out all the relevant information about the next event here, read about tuition here, car hire and arrive & drive packages here and you can book all of those things through our shop. Payment is by credit or debit card. If you’ve got questions, feel free to ask! You can get hold of us through the contact page, via facebook or twitter or on the phone: Rob 086 6042184 Stephen 086 8170009 Beginners guide to track days shop

What will I need?

Not a lot is the short answer. The only absolutely essential items are yourself, your car and your driving licence. You will need a crash helmet but you can hire one of ours on the day if needs be. That said, a little bit of preparation and a few simple checks well in advance of your track day can mean the difference between having a great day and going home early! We’ve split the preparation into car and personal.

Car prep

A week or so before your track day, give your car a thorough inspection. If you find anything wrong you'll have plenty of time to put it right! Beginners guide to track days preparationThese are the most common failure points:
  • Brakes – Worn out brake pads are the number 1 reason people have to go home early from a track day! Ideally fit new ones if they're worn or bring a spare set of front pads or at minimum, make sure they have well over half of the friction material left. Also, check your brake fluid is topped up and check the colour of it. It should be a gold colour, like engine oil. If it's at all dirty looking or black, flush it out and change it for some new stuff. Old brake fluid is the number 1 source of brake fade on track and fresh fluid, even standard DOT4 stuff is way better than old fluid.
  • Engine oil - Top your oil up to just below the top mark on the dipstick (this will help prevent oil starvation under high cornering loads. Also make sure the oil is in good condition, if the car is overdue a service, get it done before you go out on track. Make sure you use good quality oil as your engine will be running at constantly high rpm, under extremely harsh conditions.
  • Check your coolant levels and have a good look around the engine bay and at all the hoses for signs of coolant /fluid leaks. The cooling system is going to be put to the test out on track & any small leaks should be dealt with.
  • Check all your wheel studs/nuts are tight and make sure you bring a wheel brace / torque wrench with you on the day to re-check them. We’ve seen quite a few wheels fall off in our time!
  • Fit your towing eye. If you don’t and you spin off and end up in the gravel trap the track team may have no option but to recover your car with a teleporter. Your car should have a towing eye in it’s tool kit but if not you can buy an aftermarket one
  • Remove all the junk from inside your car and from the boot, you don't want anything loose inside the car at all.
  • Check your tyre pressures and general condition of your tyres. A full day on track is going to scrub a couple of mm of tread off your tyres. If they're borderline legal before the event, chances are, they'll be illegal on the way home.
  • If you have floor mats, check the drivers mat is held securely in place. Take it out if it's not.

Personal prep

The list below covers most of the items we’d deem important for a track day. It might be a good idea to print it off and get everything ready well in advance so that if you're missing anything you can borrow it or buy it!
  • Driving licence
  • Crash Helmet
  • A basic tool kit including wheel brace and jack.
  • Tyre pressure gauge and pump
  • Duct tape and zip ties
  • Something to chock your wheels so if you’re parked on an incline you don’t have to use your handbrake
  • A change of clothes and/or waterproofs if you're in a car with no roof.
  • Full tank of fuel and/or jerry cans
  • Cash for food and drinks
  • Cash or card for fuel
  • Kit bag to keep all your gear in while you're on track

Beginners guide to track days essentials

Track Day Preparation - The Day Before:

Take a quick run through the fluid level checks you did at the start of the week to see if the car is using anything. you won't be able to do a whole lot about it now but at least you'll be aware if there is a small problem and you'll know to keep an eye on it throughout the day. Load up the car with all your tools, clothes and helmet. A word to the wise - As tempting as it might be if you're on a trip with your mates, don't go out on the beer the night before. Track Days and hangovers do not mix! If you're still drunk you won't be allowed out and if you're feeling ropey, thrashing round a track all day isn't going to improve the situation.

Format

The typical format of one of our track days is as follows:
  • 9am – Sign on
  • 9.30am – Safety briefing
  • 10am – Familiarisation session for first timers
  • 10.10 – Pitlane opens for the morning track session
  • 1pm – Lunch break & sign on for drivers booked for the afternoon session
  • 1.30pm – Briefing for drivers booked for the afternoon session
  • 2pm – Familiarisation session for first timers
  • 2.10pm – Pitlane opens for the afternoon track session
  • 5.30pm – Chequered flag signals the end of the track day

On The Day:

Make sure you have your licence! Top up with fuel and get yourself a bottle of water or 2. An energy drink can be a good idea too – it’s going to be a long day!

Sign-on

Once you’re at the track go and get signed on, now is the time to book any additional drivers if you haven’t already. At Mondello Park sign-on usually takes place in the Grand Prix suite, above the pit garages.

Briefing

Everybody needs to attend the drivers briefing, even if you’ve done a hundred track days and been racing since you were a nipper. There will quite often be special instructions or circumstances specific to that particular day so it’s very important to attend. The briefing will cover the flag system, the entry and exit points to the pitlane, overtaking zones (it's not a free for all on a track day and overtaking is usually only allowed on the left hand side on the straights and not in the braking zones or through the corners) The instructor will most likely give a stern warning about driving standards and our advice is to pay close attention as infringements can mean an end to your day, but as long as you stay alert, bring the right attitude and keep a close eye out for faster cars you’ll be fine. Check out this article to familiarise yourself with a typical drivers briefing

Familiarisation Session

In both the morning and afternoon there will be a 5-10 minute familiarisation session before the main track session gets underway for people who have never driven the circuit before. You will follow the safety car for a few laps in single file to help you get to grips with the track and where the pit entry points are

On Track:

With open pitlane track days the first 10 or 15 minutes of the day is always a bit manic as everyone scrambles to get out on track immediately – our advice – hold back, you’ve got absolutely loads of time, so avoid the traffic, take it easy and leave it for about 10 or 20 minutes before you go on track. Use the time to give the car a final check over, check the tyre pressures and check the wheel studs again. When you do get on track, the number 1 piece of advice I give when I’m instructing is to relax and take it easy for the first few laps. You want to build up your speed gradually as you learn the track and your confidence grows. Let your tyres, brakes and engine warm up gradually too. What we often see is lads tearing out of the pitlane, bouncing off the limiter, absolutely flat out. More often than not these are the lads who are in the gravel trap by turn 3! It's a good idea to break the day up into 15 or 20 minutes sessions, much longer than that and your car is likely to be getting hot and bothered (you might be too!) so do a cool down lap at about half pace to get the water and brake temps back in check. Come in, take stock, let the car cool down properly and give yourself break too. When you park the car up leave it in gear with the handbrake off, use the block of wood/Wheel chock you brought to stop the car rolling (hot brakes can cause the handbrake to stick on) or just leave it in gear with the handbrake off if you're parked on the flat. It's also worth your while checking out our article on overtaking track day ettiquette!

Tuition:

The best investment you will ever make when it comes to track days isn’t on engine upgrades, new anti-roll bars or even those sticky tyres you’ve had your eye on, it’s in yourself. Tuition is without doubt the best value for money you can get when it comes to going faster on track. As the saying goes: “The easiest nut to fix is the one behind the wheel!” At Trackdays.ie we have the some of the fastest racing drivers and most experienced instructors in the country on hand to help you achieve your goals on track. Whether that’s to simply go faster, drive safer or limit the mechanical stress on your car, our instructors will be able to help. We offer tuition in a number of different packages to suit all levels of ability and budgets: From a word of free advice to a full day’s driver coaching with car set up advice, data logging and video recording. You can read more about it here.

At the end of the day:

Before you leave, have a quick check over the car to make sure nothing's hanging off it that shouldn't be. Check your wheel studs are still tight and that you’ve still got some tread on your tyres. Take it easy on the way home as the Guards are often in the vicinity of the track. Now all that’s left to do is get online, check out the awesome photo’s on trackdays.ie and on our facebook page and have the banter with your mates on the various forums! If you've got your own photo's or videos feel free to send them in, we'd be only too happy to add them to our gallery - email trackdays.ie@gmail.com