RE: Track days for beginners | PH Explains

RE: Track days for beginners | PH Explains

Sunday 5th July

Track day guide for beginners | PH Explains

Never been in a pit lane before? You should try it. Here's how...



Track days are the perfect place to develop your skills as a driver and explore your car's full potential in a safe, controlled environment. They may seem daunting for a novice, but don't be nervous; they're huge fun and you'll find plenty of people in the pit lane will be happy to help you have a good time. Here's how to get started...

How to find the right track day for you

There are two main formats to a track day - open pit lane where you have the freedom to go out on track at any time (though there will be a limit to how many cars are allowed out at any given time) and sessions. Generally a session track day breaks up groups into ability: novice, intermediate and advanced. Each session will generally last 20-30 minutes. Some circuits and track day organisers such as MSVT have novice only days which are great for beginners.

MotorsportDays.com is a track day finder/comparison site, that aggregates track days from most organisers at every circuit across the UK and even Europe, so it's a great tool for finding a track day at your local circuit from a range of organisers.

Fancy joining PH on track? You can find the full details of our next track day at Brands Hatch here.


How to prepare your car for a track day

You really don't have to spend a fortune preparing your car for your first track day.

The most important things are fluids, brakes and tyres. A recent service would be beneficial; it's essential to check all of your fluids are topped up and you should check these a number of times throughout the track day, too.

Standard brake fluid will boil quickly on track due to the heat generated from heavy braking so it's advisable to upgrade to a higher temperature fluid, such as ATE TYP200. Track-orientated brake pads are also recommended to stand up to the higher heat cycles, but are not essential.

Ensure your tyres have plenty of tread on them, as driving on track will wear them faster than road driving. This is espeacially pertinent if you need to be able to drive home on them afterwards. Tyres harden with age, so the fresher the rubber the better.


What to take to a track day

Most organisers will require you to show your driver's licence when signing on and without it you may be turned away, so make sure you take it with you. Helmets are compulsory on track although most circuits offer helmet hire if you don't have your own.

Take a tyre pressure monitor and a tyre pump, as you'll need to adjust your tyre pressure throughout the day as your tyres heat up and cool down. Head out on track with your tyres at the manufacturer recommended pressures and head back into the pits after 20 minutes to drop the pressures back down as they'll heat up quickly on a dry day. After the car has cooled down at the end of the day, make sure you pump your pressures back up again before you head home.

Ensure a towing eye is fitted before you go out on track. If you leave the track and need to be recovered, marshals will use anything they can get their hands on to tow your car back to the pit lane, so make sure it's your towing eye to prevent damage to your car. Take spare fluids (including oil) and some basic tools such as a torque wrench and anything that may be specific to your car.

Make sure you have fuel! It may sound daft, but it can be a surprise just how much more unleaded is used on circuit than on the road. And with so much else to concentrate on, the fuel level might not be a concern - you wouldn't be the first to run out, put it that way. Or to annoy everyone else on the day. Most circuits offer fuel, but it's often pricey - fill up on the way.


Track day insurance

It's highly unlikely your road insurance policy will include track cover. Unlike on the road, liability on track to fix your car is generally down to you, irrelevant of fault. Excesses are likely to be higher and most policies will only cover the metal and not mechanical failure (engine/gearbox) or personal injury, so it's worth reading the small print if you want additional cover.

You can buy track day insurance for just one day through insurers such as Grove & Dean. Quite a few specialist road insurance companies offer bolt on track insurance, either on a pay as you go basis or by covering a number of track days within your annual policy.

Grove & Dean are well known for offering this and it may be more cost effective to go down this route if you think you'll be going on several track days in a year. In any case, ask your insurance company what they offer and if they can't help you, then look to move to one that can.


Track day rules

Every track will have its own set of rules that will be covered in the safety briefing before you head out, but the generally accepted universal rules (and some basic etiquette) are as follows:

  • Overtaking is on the left only, on straights when the slower driver gives consent.
  • Strictly no overtaking in corners.
  • If you're faster than a car behind you on the straights but they catch you in the corners, there's no shame in backing off to let them past.
  • Don't leave anything in your car when on track. If you've got a full boot, unload it at home before going to the circuit. If you're taking tools and you don't have a garage booked, then ask a person who does have one if you could borrow a bit of space.
  • No filming/photography with handheld cameras whilst on track. You may be able to use a GoPro, but these generally need a secondary tether as well as a suction mount.
  • Each track will have slightly different noise limits. If you breach them you'll be black flagged and may not be allowed to continue with the day.
  • When you're planning on coming into the pits, back off for a lap at a steady pace and let the car cool down. In the same way you don't want to be at maximum effort on the first lap, you don't want to come in and park up when everything is red hot. When you stop, don't apply your handbrake as hot pads may bind to the disc so leave the car in gear when you turn your engine off.


Track day noise limits

As mentioned above, every track is different, with various static and drive-by noise limits in place. It's best to check your car won't breach the noise limits before booking, otherwise you may be removed from the circuit with no refund. Most standard exhaust systems will be fine, but loud aftermarket systems often breach the limits.

Some aftermarket exhaust manufacturers will be able to tell you the decibel limits on their systems, so it's worth asking. If you're still unsure, you can head to your local circuit when a track day is taking place and ask to have it tested.

How to drive on track

Other than ensuring your car is ready for track with the basics, the best investment you can make is on some professional lessons. Driver tuition will make you faster than any modification to your car if you've never driven on track before. Most circuits and organisers will have instructors you can book for a period of time on the day, but ensure you book in advance as spaces will be limited.

If you're looking to invest in more intensive training, then there are driver coaches all over the country that will come and spend the whole day with you. Check out the MotorsportDays.com driver coach directory here.

Driver61 is a great resource for free online videos and content to help improve your driving, whether it's simply learning how to approach a corner or more advanced driving techniques such as heel and toe.


PH top tips

Ready to go? Here are a few final tips from the community to make the most of your day.

  • Make a checklist of what you need to take to ensure you don't forget anything.
  • Learn how to replace consumables like brake pads.
  • If it's going to rain, book a garage. Split the cost with friends if you can and take fold-out chairs.
  • Arrive early so you're not rushing - if you haven't booked a garage there may be one free.
  • Take regular breaks and relax - focus on quality of time on track, not quantity. Remember that you're there to enjoy yourself
  • Book an instructor if you're new to the circuit or feel like you need some guidance.
  • If you get stuck in a group of cars, back off to create space or come in and go back out when it's quieter.


Fancy joining PH on track? You can find the full details of our next track day at Brands Hatch here.

Still have questions unanswered? Head to our Track Day forum here

Looking to buy a car to take on track? Browse our classifieds here

Contributors: This guide was made possible thanks to our community. Thank you to BenLowden, CaptainMorgan, brillomaster, nick_dastardly, Bertrum, Steve H and Rob_R for your contribution.





Author
Discussion

timbo999

Original Poster:

864 posts

215 months

Sunday 5th July
quotequote all
Worth noting that on a few tracks you overtake on the right. Castle Combe being the most common example, as the pit exit is on the left.

Driver Rider

558 posts

157 months

Sunday 5th July
quotequote all
Loved this quality post. I need to take myself into a track day I’ve got a m5 GTI I need to bite the bullet.

tonyg58

111 posts

159 months

Sunday 5th July
quotequote all
I always remember two points of advice i was given by an old hand at my first track day and pass them on when i can.

1) Before going on track, engage brain.

2) On your first track day, if at any time while on track you start feeling really confident, it's time to head in to the pits !!

Jamescrs

1,384 posts

25 months

Sunday 5th July
quotequote all
Blyton.is.another track where its overtake on the right.

Currently due to the pandemic track day organisers are not usually offering tuition or helmet hire.

Edited by Jamescrs on Monday 6th July 11:39

fantheman80

189 posts

9 months

Sunday 5th July
quotequote all
First timers, make sure you hit the track day ph thread afterwards where certain drivers behaviour gets royally slagged off!! "Did you see that tit in the X?" "Why didn't that mush in the x let anyone pass" :-)

GTRene

11,814 posts

184 months

Sunday 5th July
quotequote all
and know the flags they use on the track, its important as well.

like this example they can use in the Netherlands, sadly no English version on my PC


flukey5

173 posts

20 months

Sunday 5th July
quotequote all
Done a few track days - really enjoy them, but NEVER in my own car, always on special 'tuition' days.

Only normal 'public' day I've watched was with a friend, and it's always worried me how much the others on the track were so careless around everyone else's cars. I'm honestly scared that I'll be the guy getting his car written off by someone else.

The kinda cars that were being the most ignorant were the typical 'rev-bomb underage girls at McDonald's car-park' machines - you know, "stage 2" pop & bang remap fiestas/golfs.

It just always strikes me that it only takes one person who doesn't give a st about their car to completely wipe out your pride and joy.

Antj

788 posts

160 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
Have to say some of the posher trackdays where you can overtake both sides work well, did I a trackdays.de day at Spa and it worked well on the faster track, still have to indicate , but worked well.

RWDan

42 posts

75 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
I've added:
Some tracks (I've only done Castle combe(not added to wiki)) require you to wear a long sleeved top, so bring along something suitable.

nickfrog

12,796 posts

177 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
flukey5 said:
Done a few track days - really enjoy them, but NEVER in my own car, always on special 'tuition' days.

Only normal 'public' day I've watched was with a friend, and it's always worried me how much the others on the track were so careless around everyone else's cars. I'm honestly scared that I'll be the guy getting his car written off by someone else.

The kinda cars that were being the most ignorant were the typical 'rev-bomb underage girls at McDonald's car-park' machines - you know, "stage 2" pop & bang remap fiestas/golfs.

It just always strikes me that it only takes one person who doesn't give a st about their car to completely wipe out your pride and joy.
I don't recognise your experience after 20 years of track days in my own car. Perhaps it is down to my choice of TDOs, where I only use reputable ones with very clear rules, robust briefings and swift enforcement.

I feel quite safe from other people on track as the number of car to car incidents is extremely rare IME.

I still buy track day insurance though.

sideways man

895 posts

97 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
Whatever happened to the ‘airfield’ type of track day? These were much cheaper than going to a circuit, and perfect for a beginner.

Regarding car preparation;
I’d 100% fit updated front brake pads. These are the weak link on most any production car.

If your brake fluid is less than 2 years old ( ideally much,much less), then std dot 4 will be fine for a beginner.


Edited by sideways man on Monday 6th July 09:29

binnerboy

470 posts

110 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
in my opinion the driver tuition is an absolute must if you are new as you will have more confidence when you go out. It helps you learn the line. I did a couple of novice track days first and they were great .

Try to leave your ego at home, it is fine to be overtaken by a "worse" car.

Rest as both your car and you will need it. 20 mins on track can be knackering.

"Driver tuition will make you faster than any modification to your car"

This is true ^^ even if you have experience

When you start is it better to have a softer more forgiving car

As you get more experience you can start to make it more "racecar" though at some point, if it is your daily , there will be a comprise between track and road use.

Fonzey

1,432 posts

87 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
nickfrog said:
flukey5 said:
Done a few track days - really enjoy them, but NEVER in my own car, always on special 'tuition' days.

Only normal 'public' day I've watched was with a friend, and it's always worried me how much the others on the track were so careless around everyone else's cars. I'm honestly scared that I'll be the guy getting his car written off by someone else.

The kinda cars that were being the most ignorant were the typical 'rev-bomb underage girls at McDonald's car-park' machines - you know, "stage 2" pop & bang remap fiestas/golfs.

It just always strikes me that it only takes one person who doesn't give a st about their car to completely wipe out your pride and joy.
I don't recognise your experience after 20 years of track days in my own car. Perhaps it is down to my choice of TDOs, where I only use reputable ones with very clear rules, robust briefings and swift enforcement.

I feel quite safe from other people on track as the number of car to car incidents is extremely rare IME.

I still buy track day insurance though.
Likewise, I've never felt like my car is at risk from other people in the trackdays I've done (5-8 per year since 2013). I've got a couple of family/friends that I've been trying to talk into trackdays for years now and both seem to carry this same misconception that there's a high chance of their car coming home in bits on a trailer. If you manage your stint lengths properly, it doesn't need to be any harsher on your car than a few weekends of b-road blasting with a significantly lower chance of finishing in a ditch!

There are some tits I'm sure, but luckily those people seem to spend more time talking about trackdays on Facebook than they do actually attending.

Jamescrs

1,384 posts

25 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
flukey5 said:
Done a few track days - really enjoy them, but NEVER in my own car, always on special 'tuition' days.

Only normal 'public' day I've watched was with a friend, and it's always worried me how much the others on the track were so careless around everyone else's cars. I'm honestly scared that I'll be the guy getting his car written off by someone else.

The kinda cars that were being the most ignorant were the typical 'rev-bomb underage girls at McDonald's car-park' machines - you know, "stage 2" pop & bang remap fiestas/golfs.

It just always strikes me that it only takes one person who doesn't give a st about their car to completely wipe out your pride and joy.
I've done loads of track days now and in my experience the worst drivers for ignorant driving tend to be the Caterham/ Westfield type cars. Usually seen trying to chase each other round the track with zero consideration for other drivers.

You are right about how it only takes one person who doesn't give a st to wipe you out but in my experience those people usually wipe themselves out on corners without anyone else being involved, they are usually easy to spot early on and best just letting them pass if they get near and losing a few seconds on the lap time.

Frimley111R

11,012 posts

194 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
Did a novice TD with a friend and the car in front of us coming out of the pits had a cage and was stripped out! The day was no different to any other as its hard to define what a novice is.

Fonzey

1,432 posts

87 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
Frimley111R said:
Did a novice TD with a friend and the car in front of us coming out of the pits had a cage and was stripped out! The day was no different to any other as its hard to define what a novice is.
Agree it's hard to define novice, and I've never had experience of booking onto a novice day - but I know PLENTY of "track weapons" with stripped out/cages etc that have never even seen a pitlane before hehe

adambcvg

45 posts

133 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
If a car has come up behind you, it or the driver is faster than you so let them past. Just because you have a R8/GT-R/whatever doesn't mean a 306/clio/whatever isn't faster over a lap

Assume everyone hasn't seen you and is an idiot

The quickest cars are never the ones you think they'll be

Drink loads of water during the day

Bolt check everything regularly and keep an eye on tyre pressures, especially after breaks

Do warm up and down laps, let the car temps settle after coming back in (no handbrake for a bit)

You aren't <insert F1 driver here>

UTH

1,411 posts

138 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
Be aware that you might have to get up very early, spend a whole day driving the car at high speeds and using a lot of energy, then drive home......you'll be tired so don't fall asleep at the wheel!

Tripe Bypass

495 posts

163 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
I haven't been to a track day for years but is everybody going 9/10 tenths these days? Their personal 9/10 tenths rather than the absolute limit of the car.

Does anybody go 6 or 7 tenths which for a lot of cars is far too fast for most public roads?
E.g. someone with a 911 who wants to stretch it a bit but doesn't want to go Harry Flatters.

Jamescrs

1,384 posts

25 months

Monday 6th July
quotequote all
Frimley111R said:
Did a novice TD with a friend and the car in front of us coming out of the pits had a cage and was stripped out! The day was no different to any other as its hard to define what a novice is.
I started out doing novice track days with MSVT and if I recall correctly they stated that you could do up to 5 novice days before you were in theory meant to move over to open pit lane days instead. That said when I was doing the novice days I spoke to a few people who weren't novices at all. The day wasn't that different from open pit days except the sessions were limited to 20 mins and not on and off as you please.