Racing your own car around a controlled race track is an exhilarating experience. Car track days offer you a safe way to test the speed and the handling abilities of a car away from public highways.
TRACK DAYS GUIDE: As a rule, driving instruction for the racetrack is not compulsory. But, this basic guide highlights several important factors to consider.
The standard driving rules for normal roads do not apply when driving on a race track. That means the driver and the car will experience extreme track racing conditions.
In general, track day car regulations place few restrictions on the sort of car you can take. But, you would not be able to race an open wheel based car.
A single-seater is a typical example of an open wheel race car - such as those used in Formula 1 racing rules. It generally means there is only one seat and the wheels are outside of the main body.
Whereas, most sports cars, street cars, and stock cars have the wheels located below the body. It usually means the wheels are inside fenders for better protection and safety.
Note: Certain types of track day events may have some restrictions on the type of car you can use. This happens most when there is a low noise limit. Always check the event details before you book a track day.
Your car will need to have a valid MOT test certificate if you drive it to the race venue. If you do not drive it on a public road (e.g. on the back of a transporter) you would not need one.
Despite not needing to be 'road legal', the car must be of a safe driving standard. That means it should not have any leaks (e.g. fuel and fluids) and it should run well. The car must have rear lights that work (or rain light) and it should have proper functioning seat belts.
The driver must have a valid driving licence and you must have it with you on the race day. Even so, many car track days operate a junior race track driving experience. In this case, a valid driving licence is not needed.
Note: You must wear a crash helmet and the majority of the events have helmets for hire. You will need to wear a closed face helmet if the race car does not have a windscreen.
The track selection is an important part of pre-race planning. The United Kingdom has a good selection to choose from. Depending on your location you should find tracks offering track days most weeks.
There are several good reasons to choose one of the tracks that is close to your home. The first is convenience (which usually relates to the cost of track days too).
The second reason relates to safety. Most beginners will be physically and mentally tired after racing round a track all day. As a rule, you will want to avoid making a long drive back home.
Note: Different tracks offer several different racing formats. Make sure you select a race track that suits the type of racing format that you have planned for.
You will find the majority of race tracks offering open pit lane racing. It means the pit lane is 'open' and usable all day to all racers. Thus, there are no restrictions on how often, and how long, you can race around the track.
There is a downside to this type of track day. It is very popular and there will be a lot of vehicles out on the track. That means you may need to wait in line to get your car out on the track.
Sessions racing means drivers will get divided into different groups. As a rule, organisers will base the groups on driver ability or the type of cars used. They will allocate different time slots - restricting when you can race round the track.
This type of car racing is a combination of open pit lane and the sessions format. It limits the number of vehicles allowed on the track at any particular given time.
Like open pit lane car races, there is no grouping of drivers or cars. The organisers will 'close' entry to the track once enough vehicles are racing. In effect, closing and opening the track creates a type of 'sessions format'.
The main aim of a beginner on race day will be making the car perform at extreme speeds. That means you must prepare several car safety features including:
Note: You may find that your local council enforces noise restrictions on race tracks. Check the car noise limit to see if will get accepted before you book the track day
You will want to start track day with a full tank of fuel. It is a good idea to note a petrol station that is close to the racetrack. That means you avoid losing too much track time if you need to refill the tank throughout the day.
As mentioned earlier in this article, driving tuition is not compulsory. Even so, paying for some tuition is never a bad idea before racing at high speeds. You also get to learn the various racing rules and regulations that vary from one track to another.
Use some caution the first time you enter the circuit. You should understand the corners and straights of the track before you build up high speeds. Before taking a break, perform a 'cool down lap' round the circuit. Doing so will help to protect the engine, transmission, and brakes from overheating.
Note: Be aware that marshals will be waving flags throughout the day. Each racing flag has a specific meaning with various instructions to follow. You will get a safety briefing before racing but you do not need to learn all the flag meanings.
Assuming all went well, there are several things to check after the event. You should inspect the car to make sure that it retained its road worthiness before driving home.
We already covered a list of things to check before racing, but here are a few more key points to consider:
Note: Failing the noise limit means they will permit it on the circuit and there will be no refunds given. Some of the bigger MOT test centres can check the noise levels. You can buy certain types of muffler devices at large car stores.
Many of the track events will have a range of prepared track cars for hire. As a rule, you would need to arrange it in advance of race day and it will involve a deposit payment.
In most cases, you will not need to wear any specialist clothing. But, you should place most emphasis on personal comfort for a long and tiring day. The organisers will not expect you to arrive dressed up like Lewis Hamilton!
Note: Safety and comfort is paramount at every race circuit. Yes, there will be an element of competitiveness, but there are no cash prizes to be won. A good pair of jeans and a sweatshirt should be suffice providing they completely cover your arms and legs.
As a rule, the decision about racing on slicks will be at the discretion of the event organisers. Contact them to check before you make a booking. Using slick tyres means the car must have either a roll cage or roll bars fitted. Even so, you should only ever use slicks if you get perfect trackday conditions.
You will need to have vehicle insurance to drive your car on public highways getting to the venue. But, as a rule it will NOT cover any damage caused to your Porsche or jalopy on the circuit. Race event organisers will have Public Liability insurance. Many of which may also offer a quote for track cover.
Almost all the UK race tracks allow extra drivers and passengers (they will charge an extra fee). The minimum age for passengers is 16 years old and all drivers need to be at least 18 years old with a valid license. Many of the tracks allow juniors to race if they hold an Motor Sports Association (MSA) race license.
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