How to Prepare Your Car for Your First Track Day

So you’ve decide to take your pride and joy out on the track. Obviously you’re excited to see what you and your car can achieve. But remember, first you must prepare your car and yourself for your first track day.

Below are a few simple but helpful tips to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable day.

Racewear

Firstly make sure that you have adequate clothing. This doesn’t mean that you need to hit the track dressed as Lewis Hamilton, but it does mean that you should wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. Make sure that you wear thin-soled shoes as this will ensure that you have a good feel for the pedal.

If you’re looking to attend multiple track day events, we would also recommend purchasing a new racing helmet rather than using the circuits old sweaty ones that you have to rent for the day. Get yourself a decent brand such as Arai, Bell or Stilo.

The Tyres

It doesn’t matter what people tell you, your tyres are the most important parts on your car, they are what keep you on the tarmac.

If you have any vibration in the steering wheel, go get your tyres balanced. If you can feel it on the road you will definitely feel it on the track.

Next inspect the tyres. How deep are your treads? You will require at least 3mm for your tyres to perform there job of keeping you between the white lines. Inspect the sidewall for any cracks and tears. Remember if you need to replace any of your tyres don’t replace just one, replace either the front pair or the back pair or all four if you’re feeling flush.

It’s also a good idea if you can afford it, to have a set of track day tyres and road tyres. If you can only afford one set make a good compromise between a road and track tyre.

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.

Remember give your tyres a quick check after each session. Record any different tyre pressures you use.

Finally before heading home at the end of the day remember to check your pressures. You may have to increase the pressure for the drive home. Give your tyres the once over before heading home make sure there’s 1.6mm or more of tread and inspect for any uneven wear or sidewall damage.

The Brakes

The brakes on a track day take a serious beating. If you think you push them hard on the road wait till you get on track. The amount of continual heavy breaking on track will wear the pads and disc down quicker than on the road.

Make sure all the discs are in a sound condition with no cracks and that you’ve plenty of life left on all the pads.

Once out on the track remember your brakes will warm up quickly so keep your sessions to about 30 minutes. Coming back into the pits make sure you give your brakes a cool down lap.

If your using new pads and discs make sure you’ve bedded them in properly. Have a look online for your disc/pads recommended bedding in procedure.

This may seem obvious but don’t use the handbrake when parked up. When the brake discs are hot, the handbrake can damage them. Just keep the car in gear and if you have one, put a chock of wood behind the tyre to stop the car rolling.

The Engine

Before heading out on your track day make sure you check the engine oil. If the oil is old replace it with new oil and make sure it’s filled to the maximum mark. Your car will be cornering faster than before and oil surge is possible, if the level is too low. Also take a spare tub of oil with you to the track and top the engine up between sessions if required.

At the track start your car up and let the oil and water warm up. While its sat idling give it a few revs. The water will warm up quicker than the oil. Take it steady for the first lap or two. We usually let the oil warm up to 60°c – 70°c before putting our foot down.

During the day keep your eye on the water and oil temperature. If the water or oil gets to hot, above 90°c for the water and 115°c for the engine oil take your car to the pits as soon as you can. If it does get this hot your car will probably have an alarm or the gauges will flash. Let your car cool down check for any underlying issues. If your car appears ok after a check go back out and enjoy yourself, but don’t push to hard. If your car is drinking oil or has a water leak take it home in the safest manner possible. Always get a second opinion especially if you’re not mechanically minded.

General Stuff

Check your lights are all working. Make sure your mirrors are all visible and functioning. Its poor track day etiquette if you don’t move out of the way for a faster car which you wont do if your mirrors are knackered. Remove any loose items in your car. If you crash these can be used as missiles and cause serious damage to you, your car and others that are using the track.

A few tools will also be helpful just in case. So remember to take the following:

  • Selection of spanners 10,13,17mm
  • 3/8 socket set
  • posi and flat head screwdrivers
  • torque wrench and wheel nut socket
  • jack
  • tank tape
  • jubilee clips
  • cable ties
  • engine oil
  • funnels (for oil and water)
  • tyre pressure gauge
  • foot pump

Don’t forget to check your fuel regularly on the day. You will burn through it faster than you think. Most circuits have a local filling station but be warned they are expensive. So plan ahead and find a cheaper alternative near by. The organisers or google will know!

Lastly remember enjoy yourself, make some friends, gain some experience and stay safe!