..For your track day?
As track days become more and more popular across the world I thought I'd finger my keyboard to give the heads up on - what I think - are essential items to check before and during your big day out. A lot of this is common sense, but you need to have a plan for your track day and prepare your car. It’s lovely to think that you can just rock up and have fun, but the chances of having problems if you do that are reasonably high.
Do not underestimate the increased stresses through the car or the accelerated wear of the components. Track days are incredibly hard on cars.
I’d suggest the following checks before/during your day:
As my last rant was about tyres we’ll start there. Are they in good condition? Despite the fact that you may only be doing a hundred miles or so (or less) on your track day, the wear on your tyres will be equivalent to thousands of road miles, so if your tyres are ‘just legal’ when you start the day, they’ll be down to the plies by the end of it.
Pressures are also very important. Make sure the pressures are spot-on before you start the day, then re-check them when the tyres are hot after a few laps. You will find you need to drop the pressures quite a lot to get back where you started, but this is important to ensure tyre wear does not become uneven. Recheck after every session when the tyres are hot.
Are the wheel lugs tight? Don’t laugh – wheels flex and can loosen the lugs. If track days are going to be your thing then buy yourself a good quality torque wrench and check the tightness before every session.
Is the oil in good condition, and is there enough of it? Track days are hard on all components, and oil is a component. If you’re close to an oil change being due, do it before you go to the track. Check the oil level and continue to check through the day. Take oil to top-up if you need to.
The same applies to coolant. Make sure it’s topped up before you go, and check it again if there’s enough of a break to allow it to cool down. Check the tightness of the hose clips and the condition of the hoses.
If you’re running a car with solid tappets, check the valve-lash. Not only will it optimise performance, but if anything nasty happens in the valve train then it will be easier to diagnose if you know the clearances were spot-on when you started.
Depending on the age of the car you may need to check the points, timing, spark plugs, leads etc. TOP TIP if you’re running a points distributor, fit two condensors in parallel. Modern condensors will more-than likely be made in China and are sh*t, and you don’t want to ruin your day for the sake of a few dollars. The twin condenser trick is used by lots of classic racers, and it makes the systems about as reliable as points can get.
Modern ignition systems (coil pack, COP) probably won’t need anything done to them, but a visual check wouldn’t hurt.
Check the gearbox and axle oil levels. The transmission works hard on a track day!
SUSPENSION & STEERING:
Jack the car up and have a wiggle of the wheels. Look at the bushes/joints, and it wouldn’t hurt to throw a spanner at the suspension & steering fixings at this time.
Have a visual check of the dampers. If they look damp (no pun intended) they may need replacement.
Look at the brakes. If they are more than half-worn then change them, or at least take spares with you. Track days are very hard on brakes and again you don’t want your day ruined because the pads are worn out, or worn so low you can’t push it on the track as you’ll need to drive home!
Brake fluid. If it’s close to being due for replacement then change it. If you can afford to go for full synthetic fluid then do it. Most mineral brake fluids are hygroscopic (they absorb water) which will, if left, damage the calipers/cylinders. Even if the fluid looks clean I’d still bleed the brakes before your big day. Only fill the reservoir(s) about 2/3 full. DON’T fill the reservoir(s) to the top level as the heat expansion will almost definitely make it/them overflow all over your engine bay.
Make sure you have plenty of fuel. Your usual fuel economy will go out of the window as soon as you hit the track, but my advice would be to only fill the tank ¼ full and then top up to the same level before every session from cans. The weight of a full tank of fuel is going to be in the region of 60kg which may make the car feel very unwieldy on track, but the subsequent weight loss may make you feel like there is a problem. Start every session with the same amount of fuel, then every improvement you make is an actual improvement, and not because you’ve lost the weight of a dead body from the boot!
Wipers in good condition? Washer reservoir full?
Any loose trim or bodywork?
When you arrive at the track, remember to take everything out of the car that you don’t need – spare wheel, baby seat, tools, spare CD’s etc. etc. Not only from a weight-saving point of view - you don't need your spare keys flying across your eyeline on a tricky right-hander.
Are you OK? If you’ve had a night on the sauce then you won’t feel 100%. Get a good night’s sleep and ensure your concentration levels are up there.
IMO there is no point in spending money on a track day if you and your car are not in the best possible condition. Although you are there for fun there may be others who are more serious, and if it’s an open track day there will probably be race cars circulating. A lapse of concentration with big speed differentials can be very dangerous. Remember you are not just risking your own neck…
I'd suggest the following items as essentials to take with you. Obviously if you're going with friends then only one of you needs to take all of it....
Tyre pressure gauge
And just in case:
Some say he can fix a Mustang using just a banana..
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