Do you have a High Performance Drivers Education event coming up? Here are some helpful tips and information to help you prepare. First lets start with your car…
Preparing your car for the track (recommend you find a good reliable performance shop for your brand of vehicle to help you with the preparation)
1. Brakes!!! – The most important thing that you will need on a track day is good brakes. Some people say tires, but it is much easier to stop on skinny all season tires with good brakes than it would be on fat Michelin Cup 2’s without brakes. Brakes work on the principle of friction (sliding 2 materials against each other to create drag). The by-product of friction stopping is heat. Huge amounts of heat!!! Now as you can imagine braking corner after corner increases that heat exponentially. The pads and brake fluid that manufacturers put on most cars are great for the street, but not typically made for track duty. So this is one area you do not want to skimp…
- Brake Fluid – Brakes rotors can generate over 1000 degrees of heat during a track session. If your brake fluid boils, your brake pedal will go to the floor but NO BRAKES. You need a fluid that can deal with heat better than typical street brake fluid. It is highly recommended that you change your fluid out with a DOT4 level fluid. There are many on the market. Talk to your performance shop about what they suggest for your vehicle.
- Brake Pads – Find a good performance pad. If this is your daily driver there are plenty of pads that can perform double duty (street/track). Talk to your performance shop. Autozone specials are probably not going to be the goto pad. Carbotech, G-Loc and EBC are just a few of the many great track and street/track pad manufacturers. Don’t cheap out on pads as it could be the difference on whether you stay on track or not.
2. Tires: For HPDE events, there isn’t a need for expensive, sticky, R-Compound tires. Sure they will make for better lap times, but HPDE’s aren’t timed, so no need to waste the money. For a first timer your stock tires should do fine as long as they are in good condition. For those that want something better, go with a decent high performance street tire (i.e. Michelin Super Sports, Bridgestone Potenza’s, etc.). These tires should last several HPDE events and can be driven on the street daily.
3. Suspension: You do NOT to spend thousands of dollars! Everyone seems to think suspension upgrades are a MUST before doing any track driving. The only thing you need to worry about with suspension is that everything is in good working order. Check for play in wheel bearings, ball joints, tie rods, and anything else that moves. Check all bolts and ensure the car has no unusual clunking, rattling, grinding, chirping, barking, squealing, or whatever other sounds that aren’t normal. If you haven’t had one lately, an alignment wouldn’t be a bad idea either. That’s it!
4. Engine: Less power the better. Do you think every formula 1 driver started in formula 1? You will learn MUCH more starting with a slower car and that is a FACT. Other than that, change the oil, check for leaks, and if you’re boosted, make sure you are running some good I/C clamps/pipes. Oh, and make sure your battery is 100% secured and you have the positive terminal covered.
5. Safety Equipment: Starting with your head, you MUST have a Snell 2010+ rated helmet. Most tracks will rent these. Natural fiber clothing is recommended, and at the minimum jeans, a cotton shirt & closed toe shoes. If your car is utilizing a harness, it must be a minimum 5 point and mounted correctly. A neck restraint, race suit, proper roll cage, fire system, fixed back race seat, battery cut off switch, fuel cell, are all recommended but not required.
Preparing yourself for the track
This is ultimately THE MOST important thing to deal with. Drive within your limits. No need in trying to drive balls to the wall. Your life/car as well as someone else’s life is NOT worth the risk. Start your first few sessions slow, brake plenty early, and get a feel for the track and your car. Find the race line, and make small changes and slowly build up to the limits. A good driver will always analyze every situation (subconsciously) with the “risk vs reward.” Is driving 10/10th worth it? If you are doing an HPDE event, the answer is always NO. Dial it back. The reward is driving your car home.
Some other tips:
-Always be prepared. This means be on time, and even better, early.
-Hydration. Bring water and some healthy food.
-Bring some extra tools, spare tire, jack, Torque Wrench, Windex, rags, tarp, umbrella, extra clothes, a chair, and a good quality friend.
-Extra set of brake pads/rotors and extra brake fluid.
-Research, read some driving books, knowledge is everything.
-Find an experienced friend that you can tag along with.