How to Prepare for your First Track Day!
Track Day Checklist! How To Prepare for your First Track Day
Taking your car to the track can be an exciting adventure. You'll always remember your first trip to the track, so why not be prepared and ready for anything? In our years of experience building and testing race cars, as well as holding our own little racing event called Proving Grounds (maybe you've heard of it?), we've learned a thing or two about the track. We know what can break first, how to avoid finishing last, and what upgrades will help you make the most out of your experience.
So whether you're hitting up the road race track or taking a few laps around the local autocross course, use the checklist below to prepare yourself. Then check out Brainerd International Raceway Driving School or CWSCC to get some track time in and get on top of your game!
- ✔ Tires and Brakes
- ✔ Suspension
- ✔ Interior
- ✔ Under the Hood
- ✔ Safety
- ✔ Preparation
Keep in mind that all of these tips are for people who have at least some driving experience. We don't condone driving your brand new car hard on the track without first learning how it will perform. The best thing you can do is spend time at the track, taking a few easy laps to learn the car. We suggest you do this before making any significant modifications. Heavy track driving requires certain mods that will help get the most out of the car, so before going too hard or spending too much money on aftermarket parts, head to the track a few times to test the limits of your car.
Install the Best Racing Tires and Brakes
Tires and brakes are two of the most important components on your car for daily driving, and they're even more important when ripping around the race track. Without proper tires, you'll never get traction in the corners, and without the right brakes, you'll have trouble slowing down and entering corners. All of this will lead to slower lap times and premature wear of the components, requiring replacement. Running stock tires and brakes is fine for the beginning, but any serious competitor should bring upgraded brakes and tires as the stock ones wont last long!
The best racing tires depend solely on the car. Give us a call if you have questions regarding the best road racing tires or tires best suited for racing in general. We've used everything from Dunlop Direzza's to Hankook Ventus R-S3's. As for brakes, we suggest running a high quality, temperature resistant brake pad and rotor, such as Hawk Pads and Girodisc rotors for the best mix of life and stopping power!
Get an Alignment
Most expensive does not always equate to the best suspension for racing. Coilovers are not always the save-all solution for suspension when it comes to speeding around the track. Truth be told, most coilovers are not suited for racing applications and may actually hurt your time. Even then, coilovers that are not properly set up that lack proper supporting components are worse than your factory suspension.
The best modification you can make for the money is an all around, factory spec alignment. Making sure everything is just the way the manufacturer intended it to be is guaranteed to make you faster in the corners. If you take the car to an alignment shop, they can check for things that may be worn or wearing out, that may become a casualty at the track. Things like bad wheel bearings, leaking ball joints, and movement in the tie rods can make a car handle like crap, and very dangerous to drive on the track.
For most, OEM wheel bearings, tie rods, and ball joints will be sufficient enough. For the weekend warrior, however, performance components may be needed. Manufacturers like Moog, Whiteline, and Tein are known for providing durable, long lasting suspension components with a proven track record. If you're looking to beef up your suspension, give us a call! We can help answer any questions regarding the best suspension components for your car and build experience.
Remove any Unnecessary Interior Weight
Cars today come with a ton of bells and whistles. While these accommodations are nice for your commute to work or long trips with the family, they add pointless weight to the car that just isn't needed on the track. You can cut some serious time off your laps by removing these items and keeping them at home!
Start by removing simple things like the spare tire in the trunk, floor mats in the cabin, and extra stuff in the glovebox. Even air fresheners and CD's on the visor add up and slow you down. From there, you can start the process of taking off more weight, which may not be as easy. The rear and passenger seats, cabin carpeting, air conditioner core, and interior paneling all add up to some considerable weight. While not exactly ideal items to remove from a daily driver, these items will cut a bunch of time off your lap!
For the extreme racer, you may even consider getting some lightweight carbon fiber body panels. These will replace heavy items such as the factory spoiler, bumpers, hood, and side skirts, all while making the car look more race-car! Careful though, while carbon fiber may be light, it isn't for everyone. Carbon fiber can crack and be a costly item to replace.
Check All Fluids and Replace Worn Belts
The engine is what makes the car go, so it makes sense for it to be in good health. Checking it's vitals for low fluid and topping off with quality oil and coolant where necessary is the best method of being proactive regarding potential failure. It's also a good idea to take a look at the accessory belts and replace any that look worn. Nothing is more frustrating than having to call it a day because of something like a snapped belt. If you're behind schedule on a full tune up, go ahead and complete it with the best tune up components for your platform before you head off to the track. You'll want everything in tip-top shape for ripping cones or taking corners, and the best way to ensure everything is ready is a good basic tune up.
Many tracks also have rules regarding fluid leaks, so inspect your engine bay for any potential leaks that may compromise the quality of the track surface. Some tracks may even decline your safety inspection if they see any potentially harmful areas for leaks. Lastly, make sure your positive battery terminal has a cover. Give us a call if you have any questions regarding a tune up for your car!
Get Your Gear Ready
Almost all track events require you have proper, approved safety equipment. These can range from full flame-proof suits to just a simple helmet. Verify the safety rules at the event you're attending and plan accordingly. If no flame-suit is required, it's in your best interest to wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and closed-toe shoes. No sandals, no basketball shorts, and no tank tops! The helmet is important, as it must be a Snell approved helmet for auto racing. Sorry, but the foam bike helmet you picked up at Walmart wont cut it here, and you'll be asked to leave.
Another good idea is to install some gauges to monitor your car while you have it performing at it's highest. Things can go wrong in the blink of an eye, leading to unsafe driving conditions for others. It's a good idea to have the appropriate monitoring devices in your car working at their utmost highest potential to ensure nothing catastrophic happens, and can be prevented before they occur.