BLOG: Fancy A Track Day? Get Involved!

In these days of speed bumps, speed cameras, and exponential levels of grindingly slow traffic, exploring the outer limits of your sports, performance or classic car on the open road is all but impossible, not to mention unsafe and largely irresponsible. So what are the options if you simply must find out just what your car is capable of, how good a driver you really are, and feel the rushing wind of high-octane driving in your face? Is a trip to Germany the Ring and the autobahn really in order?
Not necessarily. There is an answer much closer to home. If you want to find out what your car is really capable of, or how good a driver you actually are – in a safe, but high-octane environment, then book yourself on a track day! They’re superb fun – wet or dry – and we’re spoiled in the UK (and Northern Europe) with a huge variety of great circuits, cars and track day providers to choose from.
You can book a track day at any one of the top motor racing circuits across the country including Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Donington Park, Thruxton, and of course the world famous Silverstone (with its new layout). Or why not travel a bit off the beaten track and do Anglesey, Cadwell Park, Croft or Castle Combe? They all allow you to bring your own car and race around the track, without a ferry, tunnel, steak on a stone or lederhosen in sight (although we do recommend ALL of that too!).
There are plenty of experienced and safe Track Day Operators (TDOs), many of whom have been running track days for decades and have a very loyal following indeed. A typical track day might range from £100-500+ per session, depending on the exclusivity of the event, the number of cars attending and whether its an open pit lane so you can get on and off the track as you please, or sessioned which means you’re allocated 15-30 minute sessions throughout the day, usually based on your ability: beginner, experienced, or pro. Drop your ego and pick the relevant one...
One thing you should consider is personal track day insurance from a specialist provider, to protect your pride and joy and give you peace of mind. If you’re buying a track day for your son or daughter, a friend or a husband-to-be, then safer is absolutely better than sorry, right?
If you’re totally green to the track day scene, you might also want to consider a nice and safe airfield-based event, where there’s plenty of run-off and no nasty barriers to hit, but still plenty of speed. But be warned, airfield surfaces can be rougher than purpose-built race tracks and can be harder wearing on tyres and lead to more stone chips. So if you’re looking to race your freshly painted 1966 classic Cooper S post restoration, then a professional race track is probably a better bet.
If you do plunge straight into a circuit-based track day, think about getting some high quality instruction too – usually from an ARDS-qualified racer provided by the circuit. These are expert instructors who will show you the right racing lines, teach you how to avoid traffic and overtake safely, usually on the left and on the straights only, but some circuits are insured to allow you to overtake on either side and through the bends, just like Lewis Hamilton does on race day! They’ll also help you learn the dark arts of track driving, from the basics of brake, turn-in, apex and exit, to the finer skills of cadence braking and oversteer. 

Every track day starts early and begins with you showing your driving licence and signing-on and signing an indemnity. Then comes the safety briefing explaining the rules of the event, what the flags mean, and the house rules. This is the perfect opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have, book an instructor and fuel-up with bacon rolls, coffee and er, fuel, for the fun-filled day ahead. Tracks are usually open from 9am-5pm, with an hour pit-stop for lunch which not only gives the safety marshals a break, it also gives you the chance to refuel and meet like-minded enthusiasts.

As for what to drive on the day... many modern and classic cars make great track day cars, even if they’re your daily driver. Although if it is and you do use it to drop the kids off or commute to work then make sure you can afford to be without it, should the worst happen, and always make sure you’ve got nothing loose bouncing about inside – many a track day dad has been hit on the head by a teddy bear who should have been wearing a seatbelt, or better still left at home because less weight equals faster driving.
If this is more than a one-off gift and something you think you might do again, it might even be worth investing in a few choice modifications like a set of sticky track day tyres and some uprated brake pads for fade-free stopping prowess. Or you might even wish to consider buying a road-legal track day car, or even an ex- race car (not road legal, to trailer to events), which will be lighter, safer (caged-up) and more suited to the task in hand i.e. tuned with massive brakes, uprated suspension, motorsport tyres and usually lots more power. But this level of commitment is something to build up to, if you get hooked – not as a starting point. You can have lots of fun even in a fairly average road car.
The other option to consider is track day car hire – where you can rent a car that’s all geared up for the track day experience. This option is pretty good because there’s no need to worry about driving home on what might become barely legal tyres, setting the car up and preparing it for track use, filling up with fuel or anything else for that matter. This is a low stress, high fun way into the track day scene – and need not be too expensive if you club together with some mates to share a car all day.
The last thing to consider is safety gear. As a very bare minimum, you’ll be obliged to wear long sleeves and a race helmet. Most circuits hire helmets out but it’s nice to have your own that’s just got your sweat in it. Ideally, buy one bearing an MSA approval sticker too. And if you’re not buying a set of racing boots it’s worth your while wearing thin-soled shoes so you can feel what’s going on at pedal level. A pair of racing gloves is also highly recommended, so your hot hands don’t slip from the steering wheel when you’re flying at full chat around Graham Hill bend!
Finally, get ready to get addicted. Track days are great fun, approached in the right manner. Prepare to be hooked...


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