First Track Day Suggestions
(Especially for Miller Motorsports Park (MMP))
Not affiliated with MMP, SCCA, or PCA
A track day is awesome fun! It is like
you are driving down the freeway, and the overhead signs start flashing
"No speed limit today!" It is hard to describe the wonderful feeling of
going 130 mph, or squealing the tires at 85 mph. Having gone a couple
of times, here are some helpful things I learned:
Step 1: Do Autocross first
Autocross sets up a mini course with
cones in a parking lot. Generally
it is just 1 and 2nd gear, and if you spin out usually you just hit
cones. It is a much cheaper and safer way to learn how to control your
car than the big track. Your big track day will be safer and more fun
if you autocross first. Do you really want the first time the tail gets
loose on you to be at 85 mph near a concrete wall, or at 35 mph near
Step 2: Can you afford it?
Step 3: Decide which organization you
want to run with.
- $500. Between tire
brake wear, flushing brake fluid, bearing wear, gas burned, track fees,
etc. a track day costs me about $500. Smaller, lighter cars tend to
cost less. In contrast, I have noticed no discernable increase in car
costs with autocross, except for tire life (my estimate is an
autocross day takes around 1000 miles of life off my tires).
- No insurance. Your
insurance will not cover you on the track. If you have a mishap with
your car, it is your financial responsibility.
- Tough on the car.
track will put alot of stress on your car, particularly your brakes and
- Higher risk of injury.
While the track itself runs "Open Track
Days," often it rents the track
to an organization. For instance, you can do MMP track days via:
Other car clubs run track days, too. It
is fun to run with your car
club, if your car club holds track days. If you have an enthusiast car,
check into your local Corvette/Porsche/BMW/whatever club. Be careful
you don't accidentally sign up for a race. You want to be sure to do
something suitable for first-timers, with "point-by" passing (passing
only when the slower driver points you around) on straightaways only.
Here are some things I have observed or
read about the various
Porsche Club: The Cadillac, uh, er,
Porsche GT3 of beginner track days.
Beginners get an instructor the whole day! The Porsche club has the
track to themselves. Your instructor runs in his own group, so you can
ride with him. Also, since he runs in his own group, he isn't anxious
to jump out of your car; he isn't missing laps because he is riding
with you. My instructor drove my car for two laps, which was great.
There were four run groups, beginner, intermediate, expert, and
instructor. Since you were lumped with people of similar skill, there
is less passing going on (a good thing for beginners). When I ran with
them, I was in a group of about only 15 cars. I would pass or get
passed only a handful of times each session. Porsche club members get
first priority, but will allow nonmembers to run if there is room left
SCCA: Self teching of your car was
permitted. It was fun to run on the
track with people I had autocrossed. All the cars run at the same time,
intermingled with other events. There were about 50 cars on track at
one time, and alot of passing was occurring. Since your instructor runs
at the same time you do, I thought it was great to have my instructor
follow me (to later critique me), and for me to follow the instructor
(what a great way to learn the line, and to realize you can be beat by
a slower car (but faster driver!)).
MMP: You must first complete their
"TORDE" class. You need to do it
only once. You can do the TORDE class in the morning, and run sessions
in the afternoon. The TORDE class is additional cost.
Step 4: Getting ready
5: Things to bring to the track
- Flush your brake fluid.
If you do nothing else, flush your brake fluid before your track day.
Brake fluid steadily absorbs water from the air, greatly lowering its
resistance to boiling. Stock fluids tend to have a low dry boiling
point. You'll want to replace the fluid with a good racing brake fluid,
like ATE Super Blue, Motul RBF 600, or Castrol SRF. If your pedal goes
soft during the track day, the fluid is permanently ruined and must be
replaced. If you have a heavy and/or powerful car, your car might also
need brake air ducts. My LT1 Camaro has boiled its brake fluid both
track days I have done, even with Motul brake fluid and brake air ducts
the 2nd time. For my 3rd time I'm moving up to Castrol SRF (alledgedly
the very best, but $80/liter), and improving my brake air ducts.
- Check with your
rules on inspecting your car. Some require you to have your car
inspected by a certified mechanic. Be sure to have this done well
before the track day, in case you need to get something fixed. If you
are allowed to do self tech, you should lift each tire and check for
suspension looseness, etc.
- Put on new brake pads.
Some cars will burn through a set of pads in one track day! Check out
the track forum for your type of car and get recommendations. Check
your disk thickess while you are at it, and replace them if needed.
Save the old brake pads and bring them to the track, in case you need
to throw them on between sessions, or to get home. Many high
performance pads have a bedding procedure, where you heat them up via
several fast stops. You should do this before the track day, following
the pad manufacturer's instructions.
- Fill your tires to the max
sidewall pressure. This is to keep the tire from rolling under
or even separating from the rim under cornering stress. My car seems to
run best with 6 to 10 psi above in front (yes, 50 psi in a 44 psi
tire), and 40 to 44 psi in the rear.
- Make sure your cooling
- Make sure the oil is
If the oil is low, the cornering forces can starve the oil pump.
- Roll bar. If you
convertible, a roll bar is a must. Some associations do not recognize a
factory roll bar as adequate -- check with your association. If you
have T-tops, check with your association.
- Buy a helmet. Be
check what your association requires. Then check out other forms of
racing that might interest you -- it would be a shame to get a helmet
that is legal for one thing and not another. Generally a full-face,
recent Snell "A" spec helmet will do the job.
- Memorize the track layout.
Print it out and refer to it every day. It is much better to know the
track map beforehand than to waste valuable track time or speed
learning the course. It is also a good idea to learn the turn numbers
or names. Some tracks are in the PlayStation's GT4, that would be a fun
way to practice.
- Learn what the various
This list is a bit conservative -- many
people don't bring all this stuff and are fine. I'll put down a fuller
list as food for thought, if nothing else.
- Paperwork that your
- Lug nut wrench.
- Water for you and a
sprayer for the car.
- Brake fluid in case you
boil the fluid and need to change it.
- Spare brake pads.
- Camera, in car cameras
must be securely mounted.
- Lunch, suntan lotion, hat, etc.
- Extra oil, even if your
car never uses a drop of oil, you might find it gulps oil during a
- A full tank of gas. Not
only will you burn through this tank, you'll likely need to buy more at
the track. Gas is much cheaper on the way to the track than at the
6: Things to do on track day
- Leave your ego at home.
You probably think you are a great driver. You probably have alot to
learn, grasshopper. I had several people with 1/2 the horsepower pass
me on my first day. Assure your instructor you have no ego so he'll
freely critique you.
- Look at the flag stations.
- Know your brake pedal level,
if your brake pedal starts sinking you may need to pit to cool the
brakes. I found going through the "hot pits" at 30 mph would cool my
brakes enough for another lap, my first day before I had brake ducts.
- Keep glancing at your
mirror, and let faster cars pass. Do passing and being passed
with a point-by, if required, and in legal passing areas.
- If you start to spin, both
in, in other words, push down hard on the brake and push in the
clutch (so the motor doesn't get spun backwards). The helps your car
skid in a more predictable straight line and other drivers to avoid
you. People trying too hard to "save it" sometimes swing back onto the
track into traffic. Your association might have rules you need to pit
and talk to an official if you spin. You might have a spin limit -- so
try to avoid doing it so you don't get kicked off the track.
- Drive off the track like
mean it were words from one of my instructors. It is better to
go off going straight, than to slide off sideways and possibly roll.
- If you go off the track
drive parallel to the track and enter at a point off the line, so you
don't dump a bunch of gravel or mud in a turn. If you go off the track
your association may have rules you need to pit and talk to an official.
- Do late apexes.
safer and faster. Google on "late apex" if your aren't sure what it
- Slow in and fast out.
is better to hit the brakes a little too soon, than too late and
wishing you had hit them sooner! Also, if you slow a little too soon,
you lose time for those 10 or 20 feet that you hit the brakes too soon.
If you blow a corner and exit it slowly, you've lost speed for that
whole next straightaway. It's like drag racing -- tap the brakes a
moment before the lights won't affect your time much. Blow the launch,
and you get a lousy time no matter what you do after that.
- Stay off the brakes, and
use the handbrake after a session so your pads don't stick to
the disks, or warp them while they are hot.
- Use the cool-down lap to
down, don't drive it all out. The moving air cools your motor
and brakes better than when parked.
the car right after a session, look at the brake
thickness and the tires. Be careful your don't burn yourself, the
exhaust and brakes will be extremely hot.
- Give the car alot of time
cool down, and just before the next session check the tire
pressure, lug nut tightness, and oil level. Check the lug nut torque
after they have cooled! If you torque down hot wheels, when they cool
the studs might snap! Many cars that never use oil will use alot of oil
under the duress of a track day. Check and top off the oil. Be careful,
the oil can be very hot even after the car has cooled for a while.
- For my big, heavy,
I needed to water the brakes and tires, they were getting so hot during
a session. I would also water the radiator to help cool the motor. If
you do this use distilled water so you don't get deposits.
- Fill your gas tank
way through the day. Some cars will starve the fuel pickup under hard
cornering, even with several gallons of gas in the tank.