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At the risk of sounding boring, this is going to be a rare occasion to get out and drive your car like it should be driven. If you are a trackday newb and unsure about what goes on and that's putting you off, here's my guide to what to expect:
TRACK DAY TIMETABLE
Times may change slightly on the day, but as a guide, the structure will be as follows:
07:30 – Arrival at the circuit
08:00 – Sign in—signing a waiver and presenting your driving license
08:30 – Safety Briefing—usually lasts around 20 minutes
09:00 – Sighting laps
09:30 – Circuit is open for lapping
12:30 – Chequered flag: lunch break
13:30 – Circuit is open for lapping
17:00 – Chequered flag: end of day
We have one of the highest noise limits assured for the day. We have a Cat 2 105dB static/ 101dB drive by limit.
During a static noise test
a decibel testing device (which looks a bit like a mini metal detector) is held at a 45 degree angle half a meter away from the exhaust exit. You will be asked to hold your revs in neutral at ¾ of maximum revs for a few seconds
The drive-by noise limit
is often used as a secondary test carried out whilst the vehicles are on track. It’s more than likely to be done on the start/finish straight or at the point of a circuit that is closest or most exposed to the local residents and measured around 10 metres away. The drive-by limit will be less than the static limit so drivers will need to be cautious if they know their vehicle makes a louder noise at certain gear changes, boost levels or RPM.
How can you test your vehicle?
There are several phone apps available on the market that will provide a reasonably accurate decibel reading up to 100db and your local garage might be able to provide the service. I have found the Decibel App pretty accurate to Goodwood's sensors. Another belt and braces way if you're really concerned is to pop along to a track day and get it done even if you are not booked on (check first). In most cases if your vehicle has the manufacturer’s standard exhaust with no modifications you will be fine anywhere.
OPEN PITLANE AND SESSIONS
There are two typical formats to track days depending on the organiser and the event. We are expecting Sessions for the morning, but this may be reviewed over lunch depending on how noisy our cars are on a whole during the morning's sessions. If the average noise is down and certain cars can be identified and not run together, there is a possibility of OPEN PITLANE for the afternoon.
Open pitlane track days leave the pitlane open to all cars so you can go out on the circuit whenever you please and stay out as long as you want.
Sessions do exactly what they say: cars and drivers lap around the circuit in separate sessions. Note that the groups can be formed by drivers’ opinion of their speed, so please be honest when explaining your driving level.
Cars and drivers are usually split into three groups with sessions that typically last 20 minutes, so you’ll get one session per hour. This means you’ll be surrounded by cars driving at similar speeds and shouldn’t be overtaking/overtaken constantly.
Both formats have their pros and cons, but most people prefer Open Pit. I do.
COST IS £380 BUT WHAT ABOUT THE COST OF OTHER TRACK DAYS?
The cost of track days varies between organisers, but as with most things, you get what you pay for. You can expect to pay between £120 to £500, with the main difference in price coming from circuit hire costs and how many cars are booked for that track day: the fewer cars, the more expensive your spot will be.
We will have much fewer cars on the track than most track days. When there are too many cars on track, there’s heavy traffic and you never get a free lap which becomes frustrating. AND all the cars will be Mustangs! Last thing you want on a first track outing is some muppet in a £500 uninsured Corsa up your arse all day...
CARS TYPES TO EXPECT
Mustangs. Obviously, but there will be everything from classics to boosted S550s here. We may split the sessions into similar age groups.
As you can imagine, speed differences can be huge, but this is a track day, not a race day. Any drivers who are misbehaving and should know better are usually dealt with quickly and firmly, so there’s no reason to be concerned. Which brings me to:
TRACK DAY RULES AND REGULATIONS - DRIVING SAFETY
It seems that because people drive cars on the road every day, they think driving on a circuit shouldn’t be much different. Put simply, this is absolutely not the case! Even if you feel you are a good driver on the road, please respect the racing circuit.
We are looking to make some instructors available for those who've never been out on track before. Even if you’ve been on many track days, I would advise booking one if they are available—a good coach will make you faster, safer, and more consistent, and will keep you from forming any bad habits.
With the inevitable mix of talent in variously powered and gripped cars on track, overtaking—and being overtaken—can be difficult. Thankfully, overtaking rules among the track day organisers are simple.
Firstly, there must be no overtaking in the more risky areas of braking and cornering. So, overtaking must only take place on the straights, where there is much less chance of a car spinning or going off the circuit.
“Lunging” another car into a corner at the last second will usually result in a visit from the Chief Instructor and a warning, with a second incident likely ending up in an early bath. This may sound a little harsh, but safety is the priority here.
The second rule, which is in use with every track day organiser I know, is that you must overtake on a given side. The left-hand side. This rule makes sense, as it ensures minimal opportunity for misunderstanding when overtaking occurs.
If you have a faster car behind, make sure that you move your vehicle to one side (the right) gently yet obviously—do not just sit in the middle of the circuit. You should also indicate to which side you’re moving. If you’re in a powerful car that may not be so fast in the corners, you may have to lift on the straight to let the faster (on an overall lap) passed.
When you’re overtaking, make sure you’re fully past the other car before you reach the next braking zone. This is important, as if you’re only alongside or halfway along the car you’re overtaking, they may not have seen you. Then there is the possibility that they might turn across you into the next corner, resulting in unwanted contact.
Track days use the same flag or light systems as you see on TV with F1 and you are expected to respect them in the same manner.
Sometimes, it can be hard to spot a circuit flag—especially when you’re so focused on driving—but you must be observant, as flags are the only way officials and marshals can communicate with you whilst on circuit.
The colours of track day flags and their meanings are:
Yellow flag: There’s danger ahead—maybe a car has spun out or broken down. Slow down, be prepared to drive around a stranded car, and do not overtake until you pass the next marshal’s post or green flag.
Yellow and red striped flag: There’s debris or fluid on the circuit. Be prepared to avoid debris or to experience a reduction in grip.
Blue flag: This means another, faster car wants to overtake you. Stay on your racing line or, if on a straight, stay to one side (usually defined by the track day organiser) so the faster car can overtake.
Red flag: There’s been a serious incident, and the session is being stopped. Reduce speed, do not overtake, and return to the pits at the next opportunity.
Black flag: Your car has a problem that you may not be able to see, or there is an issue with your driving standards. Slow down, return to the pitlane, and report to a track day official.
Chequered flag: The end of the session – complete the lap at a reduced speed and return to the pits. You will only see the chequered flag at lunch time and the end of the day on a track day.
Driving your pride and joy around a circuit will be fantastic fun—however, as I’ve mentioned already, accidents on track can happen.
Track day insurance is a good idea. We will post a list of companies offering this at a later date.
CAN I BRING A PASSENGER?
If you can find someone brave enough to sit next to you on a track day, YES! 1 per car.
They’ll have to be over 16 years old and wear the same equipment as you (helmet and limbs covered). They’ll also need to sign a waiver. Prices are per car, so your passengers are FREE.
When taking part in a track day event, it is not necessary to have the complete racing driver’s kit.
The bare minimum kit you need is a helmet and to have your whole body covered in clothing—jeans and a jumper will do just fine. If you don’t have a helmet, you can hire one from Goodwood for a few quid.
The next equipment to buy is a good pair of racing boots as you want as much feel on the pedals as possible and thin soled boots allow this. But you can just use shoes or trainers that have a really thin sole—running shoes with a thick sole will really make things difficult.
Finally, and if you’re willing to make the investment, gloves and overalls. Gloves will help you grip your steering wheel, especially when the adrenaline is flowing and you’re sweating buckets. From a safety perspective, fire-retardant overalls can be important—you can pick up a good entry-level pair for just over £300. Personally, I make do with Gloves and Helmet and trainers. A good helmet though!
As well as preparing yourself, it’s very important to prepare your car for a track day. Even though your car doesn’t require an MOT, or even road registration, it’ll require some checks and maintenance if you want it to last the entire day.
WHEELS AND TYRES
Your car’s tyres are the only point of contact with the race circuit; therefore, it is extremely important that you take care of them and prepare them properly.
The first thing to do is ensure that the wheels are balanced. If you have any vibration or feedback when you are driving on the road, it will be much worse on a track.
Next, make a visual inspection of the tyres. Make sure they have enough tread to last the day (you will be shredding them) and that the tread and sidewalls are in good condition; you should be looking for cracks or tears that may be troublesome once you’re driving quickly.
A Cracked Tyre - Do Not Use!
Before you head out on the track for the first time, check the torque of all the wheel nuts and make sure you continue to do so throughout the day, as they can become loose while lapping.
Finding the correct tyre pressures is important when tracking your car—when you drive around the circuit continuously, your tyres will get warm and their pressure will rise.
Therefore, you must set your tyre pressures when “hot.” My advice is to do one session to get the tyres warm, and then check carefully to see how the tread is scuffed.
If the sidewall is becoming scuffed, increase the pressure as you need to make the tyre stiffer.
On the other hand, if only the center of the tread is scuffed—and it doesn’t cover the whole tread—reduce the pressure.
Make sure you check your tyres after each and every session. It is most likely that you will have to reduce tyre pressure after the first session from usual road levels.
At the end of the day, remember to check your tyre pressures again, once they’ve cooled down—it’s likely that you’ll have to increase the pressure once more before you head home. It’s also a good idea to check the wear and condition of the tyres at the end of the day to make sure you’re legal.
Brakes are often the Achilles heel of road cars used on track days. You may think that you brake hard on the road, but this will be nothing compared to the continual heavy braking you’ll do on track. Especially you auto box guys!
The first thing to do is to keep your sessions short—this will reduce the brake temperature that builds up over many laps. I recommend keeping your outings to around 15 minutes.
Once you’ve completed your 15 minutes or so of track time, make sure you do one lap of brake cooling before entering the pits. The idea here is to get airflow over the brakes, without using them heavily, which will allow them to cool more slowly and prevent the discs from warping or cracking.
In between sessions, make sure you do not use the handbrake. The handbrake clamps around the rear discs and if used when the discs are hot, can damage them.
A track day will subject your engine to more stress than your usual dash to work, so it’s important to do a few checks before you head out.
Ensure that the engine oil is in good condition and filled to the maximum mark—your car will be cornering faster than ever before and oil surge is possible if the level is low. If the oil is old, have it flushed and changed. Remember to take some spare oil to the track day itself, so you can top up if necessary.
Before you head out onto the circuit, you must bring your engine up to temperature. Depending on the ambient temperature, simply start your car five to 10 minutes before you want to go out and ensure that the water temperature is over around 50°C.
During the day, keep a very close eye on water and/or oil temperature.
As with cooling the brakes, I advise reducing the engine’s RPMs on your in-lap to give it some opportunity to cool before you finish your session—it’s the same idea of getting as much air through the radiators with as little stress (RPMs) as possible.
Now that you’ve taken care of the wheels, brakes, and engine, there are just a few more things to think about before you can enjoy your day.
Make sure you remove any loose items inside the car—they will likely become dislodged when driving on track and could possibly get caught under a pedal, which is obviously not what you want.
Check your lights and indicators throughout the day. It’s important that they’re working whilst you’re on track, in case you need to move out of the way for a faster car.
Also, check your mirrors before you head out; it’s poor track day etiquette if you do not see a faster car behind and slow them down for a number of corners.
Be sure you check your fuel at regular intervals—you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get through it. There are no fuel stations on site but we will tell you where the closest (cheaper) fuel station is in the morning’s briefing.
TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
It’s advisable to take some tools on your track day, as you don’t want a small problem to stop your running for the day.
Your checklist should include:
torque wrench and wheel nut socket
funnels (for oil and water)
tyre pressure gauge
I'll post more info nearer the date, but by all means, ask questions here.....
If you haven't booked yet, come on. Don't miss this one!!!