January 31, 2018
You have just worked on your sports car, and fine-tuned it, and now you want to take it somewhere and test it to its limits. So where can you go? The obvious answer is to attend a track day, but if you rush into it without any preparation, it could be the first and last track day of your life. Here are some of the things you need to consider when going to your first track day.
Don’t think that driving on a race track will be like driving fast on a freeway, or in some suburb. Off-track there is no time or opportunity for you to be able to take your car to its limits. That is why on a track, your mental, and driving skills will be tested in a way like never before. Actually, it is much safer driving on a track than it is on a freeway, or in town and its suburbs. The reason is that a track has been designed so that you can take your car to its limits at high speeds without any serious repercussions. A track is a controlled environment, and more spacious. There is no one else on the road to worry about – the converse is true when you are driving off-track. In any case, racing on a track is governed by a lot of strictly enforced rules, with the maximum degree of safety in mind.
Seeing as you are about to put your finely-tuned car through the paces on the track, an obvious issue to consider, but generally overlooked, is to thoroughly check your car beforehand. Just because your car has gone for a regular service, and has been well-looked after, does not necessarily mean all is well.
Seeing you want to test the car to its limits, you will be placing maximum stress on the engine and other car components. This means checking the depth of the tyre tread, the age of the tyres, the condition of the brakes, the steering, and the suspension. So it is all about safety on the track – the last thing you want is to have brakes fail, or say a wheel come off. Not only would you place your own life at risk, but also possibly the lives of others who happen to be near the track at that time. In addition, you preferably do not wish to write off your car, for which you have cared so much.
A safety prerequisite is to wear a racing helmet as well as driving shoes. You cannot compromise on such items. Consider buying racing insurance from a reputable company, which is also an absolute must before the start of any track day.
Prior to the race, a meeting is usually held with those wanting to go on the track. Here, all participants will be debriefed by a track official about all the rules involved in going on the track. Take careful note of all the instructions. An official will check your car for any obvious deficiencies, but don’t count on him seeing everything in such a brief inspection. An instructor will accompany you on your first few practice laps, letting you know what is permissible and what’s not.
It is a well-known fact that tyres heat up as you start travelling, owing to friction caused by the tyres on the road. Thus, if you have been on the track for a few laps, the tyres will be really hot.
After you have come off the track, and parked the car for a little while, rather leave it in gear than engaging the hand brake. The reason for this is that you should not use the hand brake when the brakes and brake pads are so hot – rather let them cool down.
When the car has been off the track for some time, the tyres will have cooled down. When it is your turn again to go onto the track, remember to take the first lap not too fast, so that the tyres can have a chance to warm up slowly.
What tyre pressures to use on the track is a hotly-debated issue. Not many drivers know why tyre pressures are crucial. No matter what type of tyre you are using, the whole idea of having the correct tyre pressure is to maximise that particular area of tyre that is in contact with the road. That in turn will affect your handling of the car. It’s when you consider that your only contact with mother earth is via those four areas of rubber, that you begin to have the revelation on just how critical the role of tyre pressure is for maintaining safety. Measuring the temperatures of tyres after a race is important to get an idea if the tyres are correctly inflated. If the centre part of the tyre is too hot, the tyre pressure needs to be lowered, and if the sides are hotter than the middle of the tyre, the pressure needs to be increased.
You need to remember that travelling at 120 km/h means you are covering a distance of 33 m or about 6 car lengths in just one second. At that speed, if your brain notices something serious and then takes one second to decide, 33 m will have been covered in the meantime. That is quite a distance.
At the end of the day, road racing boils down to really only one thing – namely, cornering. Like with everything in life, it is all about technique. If you want to stay out of trouble, you need to understand that a corner consists of three sections – the entry, apex, and exit. The entry is when you enter a corner, the apex is in the middle of a corner, and the exit is when you leave a corner. You must never enter a corner at maximum speed and continue like that all the way through the apex and exit. No, the idea is to enter a corner and travel to the apex safely, and only then open the throttle when you are about to exit the corner.
There was the case of one driver who was on the track, and after a few laps, the rear of his car started giving way around one of the corners. This incident took his car, going at 120 km/h, off the track and onto the off-track dirt part, where fortunately there were no serious consequences. The track marshal asked the driver if he had left his hands off the steering wheel, when the car was spinning around. The driver responded he had not, despite the marshal’s instructions to him before starting on the track. It so turned out that the side wall of one of the tyres was seriously damaged.
When you have taken your car through some gruelling sessions on the track, it will be most unadvisable for you to just get into your car and drive home.
Remember you have taken your car basically to its limits for just about the whole day. Under such serious physical stress, leaks of any kind could appear, because, at such high rpms and vibrations, bolts and nuts may become slightly loose. Thus check all fluid levels in the car.
PMD doesn’t support track days and this is an exclusion in the products that PMD has available however there is plenty fun to be had with the potential savings you could make if you consider PMD’s affordable cover. You can save time too if you buying your car insurance online.