Track days: all you need to know

Track days

Track days are a great way of safely finding the limit – of both you and your car (Picture © Vauxhall)

Track days are all about letting drivers have fun in their car in a safe environment away from public roads. They’re not about going faster than the next person or overtaking lots of other cars, despite what some track day regulars might insist. They’re about developing your skills at the wheel and exploring the limits of your driving ability and those of your car. 

The bonus of driving on a track is that there aren’t any speed limits and there are plenty of like-minded drivers of all abilities on hand to watch, mingle with, and ask for advice. There are extensive safety briefings that drivers must abide by and dangerous driving definitely isn’t tolerated so there’s no need to feel intimidated. Here’s all you need to know about track days.

Track days: Which sort is for you?
Broadly speaking there are two types of track day. There’s the kind that culminates in you driving something very special such as a single-seat racing car or a supercar such as a Ferrari or Lamborghini. These are usually known as ‘experiences’. The other sort of track day is when you take your own car and enjoy putting it through its paces on a circuit. With experiences you usually pay more. However, you do frequently get tuition and you’re putting wear and tear on someone else’s car. Taking your own car means you have to arrange – and pay for – everything from insurance to replacement brake pads. But the track days are usually cheaper and you get more time out on the circuit.

Track days: Tyred out
Frequently, people who do ‘experience’ days catch the bug and want to put their new-found knowledge to good use. The first thing to do is to decide whether your car is fit for purpose. Hot hatches are a good choice, as are more focused sportscars. The majority (not all) of track days demand that cars are road worthy (have a valid MOT). Then you have to consider the tyres and brakes. How much life do they have left in them? Some people take along a different set of tyres for track use. They can then relax knowing that however much they wear them, they’ll have road legal rubber to drive home on.

Track days: Don’t brake down
Brakes too are worth thinking about. They will be punished repeatedly through a track day, far more than on the road. Find out if your brake pads have enough life in them. And check that your car’s vital fluids – oil, coolant and brakes – are at the right levels. Some avid track-day goers get round the problem of using their everyday car by buying a motor specifically for circuit use.

Track days: Getting covered
If you’re taking your own car, it’s vital that it’s properly insured. Some cover providers will cater for non-competitive track days. Chances are, your regular insurer will probably give you short shrift if you explain you crashed on a race track. However, there are specialist insurers who cover track days. And the good news is, it isn’t as expensive as you might think. Be aware though: insurance frequently only covers your car, not anyone else’s, although incidents of people driving into other cars are extremely rare.

Track days: Race track or airfield?
There are two sorts of bring-your-own-car track day: race circuits and airfields. For pure beginners, airfields are probably best as there are fewer things to hit. A lot of race tracks have gravel traps at corners, which can mess up your paintwork. But airfields tend to have quite a dirty surface so paintwork could be hit with small stones.

Track days: What else do you need?
You’ll have to show a valid driving licence and you’ll definitely need a helmet. It might also be useful to think about booking tuition if you’re a novice.

Track days: Remember to have fun
Top speed isn’t everything. Going quickly round a circuit is more about how you can handle braking for, and accelerating out of, corners. At the start, you will get used to being overtaken a lot by more experienced drivers in faster cars. The most important thing is to have fun. And as long as you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll want to come back for more.

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