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TrackDays: Beginners Guide

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Tue Nov 28, 2006 1:56 am PostPost subject: TrackDays: Beginners Guide
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First Timer's Guide - Car Days

If you've never driven on a track day before you could do worse than reading through this section. The aim is to remove the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt element and to help you in ensuring your car and your brain are prepared for the day.

Each organiser will run their events in their own way, but these guidelines should work for most, if not all, days. If in doubt, ASK THE ORGANISER. As with any of our Guides, remember that is a Guide, not an instruction manual. Ultimately there is only one person at the controls of your car.

Do I Need a Super car?

No. Obviously, something that handles reasonably well and that can get you down the long boring bits (the straights) is desirable, but a wide variety of vehicles are used on track days. When you book your day the Organiser will be able to tell you whether your car is suitable for the event and the circuit.

How Do I Know I'll Be Fast Enough?

A big worry for first-timers is that they will be too slow and will 'get in the way'. Don't worry, the Organiser will make sure you are placed in appropriate group - at many events the cars are split into a number of groups based on experience and speed.

Car Preparation

Your car will almost certainly undergo stresses far greater than those experienced on the road:
• Ensure your brakes are in top condition - plenty of material on the pads/shoes and reasonably fresh brake fluid (old fluid boils more easily).
• Check the condition of your tyres, and that they are inflated according to the manufacturer's recommendation.
• If your shock absorbers are past their best the effect will be exaggerated on the track and will prevent you and your car performing at their best.
• Check your engine oil level. If your car uses any oil, take some with you.
• Remove from the car EVERYTHING you don't need to take with you, and take a bag to put everything else in whilst you are out on the track. There is nothing more distracting than to have pens, magazines, drinks cans and so on flying around inside the car.
• It is prudent to have a hand-held fire extinguisher in the car - make sure it is fastened securely but can be reached easily and quickly. You may find that some organisers insist on an extinguisher being carried.

Insurance

In theory, your road insurance should cover you for your track day, provided that there is no racing or timing going on (so don't even think about taking a stopwatch).
However, your insurance company may have different ideas, so check before you go.

Driver Preparation

Familiarise yourself with the circuit as much as you can. Watch video from race meetings (in-car footage is really useful); computer games (such as TOCA on the Playstation) are surprisingly useful; at the very least get hold of a map of the circuit and learn it.

The race track will probably be an unfamiliar environment to you. If you have already learned your way around (at least to the level where you know whether the next corner goes left or right) you will have one less thing to think about.

Get your car preparation out of the way well before the event if you can, and GET LOTS OF SLEEP before the day. Adrenaline is great while you are driving but one of the side-effects is that you feel tired as it wears off. If you have been up into the early hours preparing your car you will be even more tired.

What Do I Wear on the Track?

You will definitely need a crash helmet approved for motor sport use. Wear something that is comfortable, covers your arms and legs and that won't impede your movement. If you intend to drive at track days regularly a set of fire-resistant overalls approved for motor sport use is recommended.
Wear a pair of thin-soled shoes - racing boots are ideal, but trainers with worn-down soles work well. The thicker the soles, the less feel and control you will have.

What Else Should I Take?

As a minimum you should take with you:
• Your road licence. Circuits controlled by Brands Hatch (e.g. Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton and Cadwell Park) insist on it and you DEFINITELY won't be allowed on the circuit if you haven't got it, even if you have a racing licence. Get into the habit of taking it to all track days - that way you won't get caught out.
• A roll of duct tape or electrical tape (insulation tape). You will need to tape your lights up when you get to the circuit, and duct tape is a great get-you-home aid if you do end up with some part of your car which needs to be re-attached.
• Replacement fluids. Oils, Water, coolant etc.
• A tyre pressure gauge and a foot pump. With most road cars this is about the only adjustment available to you.
• A basic toolkit - but only if you know what to do with it! There is normally no shortage of tools, or skilled/enthusiastic people to lend a hand.

Fuel

Some circuits have fuel available on site, and others have petrol stations within a few minutes of the circuit. Generally there is plenty of time to leave the circuit to fill up between sessions.
Do not fill your car to the brim with fuel - fill to around three-quarters. Sustained cornering forces can cause fuel to come out of the filler pipe onto the track - expensive for you and slippery for the car behind!
Saying that, do not run with too little fuel. Cornering forces can lead to fuel starvation.

Arriving at the Track Day

Before being let loose on the track you will need to:

• Register
• Attend a briefing

It is possible your group will be on the track very soon after the briefing, so try to arrive in plenty of time so you can prepare your car beforehand. Again, it is one less thing for you to worry about, making it clearer for you to concentrate on what you are about to do.

Before you venture out onto the circuit you should:

• Check your tyre pressures
• Check your oil level
• Tape up your lights
• Remove everything unnecessary from the car

Make sure you listen carefully during the briefing. If you don't understand something, ask. The briefing will cover topics such as flag signals and where/how to overtake - make sure you are familiar with the rules, it will save embarrassment later!

Your First Track Session

It is quite likely that this will be a gentle, no-overtaking session. This might seem a bit tame, but it is done for a reason - to help you adjust to the higher speeds of a racing circuit and to learn the circuit.
Use the session wisely. Try to find the right lines through the corners - if it feels smooth at lower speeds it will probably be the correct line at higher speeds. Sometimes the Organisers will place cones at the side of the circuit to indicate the correct turn-in and clipping points. Look for conservative braking points for each corner; give yourself plenty of room from the car in front so you can concentrate on the track, not avoiding contact.

After the Session

Even during a gentle first session your car will probably be more stressed than it is in everyday use. Give everything time to cool down, then check oil levels and tyre pressures. Keep an eye on your fuel gauge - it is frustrating to run low just before you are due on track, but very embarrassing to actually run out on the track.

Going Faster

You will have read and heard this everywhere but it is true: START SLOWLY, BUILD UP GENTLY.

• If it feels fast, you are probably going too fast
• If it feels out of control, SLOW DOWN - you probably are
• Many Organisers ban overtaking in braking areas. This is a Good Thing. It means that you can concentrate on the corner - glancing in the mirror just before you turn into a corner takes your concentration away from the job in hand.
• Once you have found the right turn-in point and the right apex (clipping point) for a corner, stick to it. If you start missing the clipping point you are going faster than the car wants to. That means you will have to back off exiting the corner, or you are going to pay a visit to the gravel trap.
• If you start missing the apex of a corner there is a strong temptation to turn in earlier. Don't do this - it will just make the problem worse. Refer to the point above and slow down.
• Sliding the car around is fun but not necessarily the fastest way around the circuit. If the driving wheels are spinning or sliding you cannot apply any more power and therefore you cannot accelerate. Your tyre wear will be higher, too.
• A good way of learning the limits of your car under braking is to keep your conservative braking point but brake harder each time until you feel you've reached the limit of you and your car. Once you've reached this limit you can gradually move the braking point towards the corner. This is safer than learning the limit by braking hard AND later - it it all goes wrong you will have more time and more track in which to sort the problem out.
• Don't be tempted to make radical alterations to your car in between sessions, otherwise a visit to the gravel trap is on the cards. If you make any alterations to the car, take it easy on your first couple of laps until you know what the car is going to do.
• Always take it easy for the first lap or so - it lets the engine, tyres, brakes and (most importantly) your brain reach operating temperature.
• Once you feel you are going as fast as you can, get some instruction. No matter how good you think you are, you will always benefit.
• Don't be afraid to pull in before the end of the session. If you think the brakes, suspension or tyres are overheating it's probably a good idea to stop and let everything cool down.
• Circuit driving is physically and mentally tiring. Brain fade is a more common cause of track day accidents than brake fade, so if you feel tired don't worry about skipping a session and taking a rest - it's not an admission of defeat.
• Always remember that you are on a track day, not at a race meeting. It is non-competitive. If you are getting the urge to go faster it's probably time to speak to the Motor Sports Association (and the Bank Manager) about going racing.


Orig doc from http://www.uktrackdays.co.uk/
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Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:35 pm PostPost subject:
Fee
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SIDC - Knockhill Events


First Timers:

First time drivers at Knockhill are strongly recommended to use the services of the instructor [free of charge throughout the event], or ride along with an experienced participant at the start of the event. This will enhance your enjoyment and safety whilst ensuring that proper track etiquette is adhered to.

Please start off gently until you learn the where the track goes and how your car handles (especially if it is wet), and then build up gradually from then. Do not feel obliged to drive at a faster initial pace at that you aren’t comfortable with – it will most likely end with an expensive mistake!! It would be best to join the warm-up sessions towards the end of your group if you don’t know where the track goes.

Please use you mirrors frequently, and let faster drivers pass on the straight sections by pulling over to the right. You will learn much more by following faster drivers than forcing them to wait behind you. Please also pull over to let them pass as early as possible – do not wait until a faster car is right on your rear bumper or entering the braking zone before you indicate and pull over to let them pass. Check the pit lane lights each time you come round the hairpin, pulling into the pits if they are red.

Make sure that there are no loose items in the car before going out onto the track. Items like mobile phones, cameras and soft drink cans have a knack of finding their way into the driver’s footwell and lodging themselves under the brake pedal at the most inconvenient time!

Track Sessions:

The track will operate with an open pit-lane. This means a limit is placed on the number of cars on track at any time (usually 25), and drivers are free to spend as much or as little time on the track as they wish. The Pit-lane marshall will only permit cars to join the track when it is safe to do so, using the traffic light system at the end of the pit-lane. Only enter the track on a green light, do so promptly, keep to the left of the white line and accelerate quickly. If you are in queue waiting to join the track - wait a few seconds to ensure the light stays green and it is safe to join. There might only be time for one car to join the track safely.

For cars with standard braking systems, we advise that sessions are limited to around 8 – 10 laps maximum, as continuing beyond this can lead rapidly to brake fade and seriously reduced braking performance. Cars with poor brakes are a serious hazard to the driver as well as other participants! Overheated brakes can take in excess of 40 minutes to cool down sufficiently for braking performance to return to near normal levels. You will get much more enjoyable track time by completing many short sessions instead of several longer sessions and waiting for ever in he pits for your brakes to cool!

On a hot day, road tyres will start to go “off” after about 10 laps (depending on how aggressive you are), and start to slide under hard cornering or braking. You should take this as a strong hint to return to the pits after performing a cooling down lap.

Helmets:

No one (including passengers) will be permitted on the circuit without a helmet. Knockhill have a limited number available for hire if you do not have your own. You will have to lodge a deposit of £10, with £5 returned when you bring back the helmet. We recommend you bring your own or borrow one if you can.

Clothing:

You must wear a long sleeved top, fleece or jacket whilst out on the track. This includes passengers!

Fuel:

There is no fuel available at the track, so please ensure you have sufficient fuel prior to arriving at the circuit. We would recommend a full tank, as fuel consumption on a track is very high, e.g. 10 mpg or less, and you can easily use a whole tank in the three hours available. The nearest petrol station is in Dunfermline Auto Centre (Ford dealership near the sign-posted football stadium in Dunfermline). It is about 5 miles (10 minutes) from the circuit. The Wheels Around truck will happily look after “Jerry” cans of fuel for you whilst you are out on track if you take spare fuel with you.

If you require Optimax/Super Unleaded fuel, then the easiest petrol station to find is located near Drum about 8 miles (12 minutes) away. Turn left out of the circuit and continue on this road until you reach Powmill (5 miles). Take a right at this T-junction, and you will find a Shell petrol station about 3 miles further along the road. Please note it does not usually open until 8am at the weekend! Please sign on at the circuit early and then head off for fuel, and not the other way around please.

Racing and Timing:

This event is NOT a race. There must be no timing of cars on the track or racing. Any drivers reported to be racing, driving aggressively (e.g. overtaking under braking or around corners) will be immediately black flagged and prevented from further participation.


Overtaking

The rule on SIDC events is that faster cars must pass on the left which requires the co-operation of the car in front. If a faster car is approaching from behind, please indicate and pull over to the right to let it pass safely. However, do not wait until the faster car is sitting on your rear bumper, or you are approaching a braking zone before indicating or moving across, as this greatly increases the risks involved.

The only overtaking points (also pointed out in the drivers briefing) are:

1 The short straight (Brabhams) after the chicane.
2 The back straight (Railway Bend) which leads to the hairpin
3 The pit straight after the hairpin.

Track Etiquette:

Please use your mirrors very frequently, and try to anticipate the behaviour of all other cars on the track at all times. Where possible, use your indicators to inform the following driver in plenty of time that you are going to let them pass on the next straight. With most cars having similar straight-line performance, it may be necessary for you to lift off momentarily (preferably near the start of the straight, and not just before the braking zone) to let faster drivers pass safely. There is nothing more frustrating and potentially dangerous than a driver who refuses to let faster cars past. Ignorance of their presence is no excuse!

Likewise, if you catch up a slower car whilst out on the track, please DO NOT drive aggressively or very close to them, especially under braking. This intimidation will distract the driver in front and make them much more likely to make a mistake. Please leave a sensible between cars when cornering and braking. Switch your headlamps on if necessary (but don’t flash them) to alert the driver in front of your presence, and that you wish to pass.

Please acknowledge any slower cars that move over to let you pass.

Please take extra care and be more forgiving of others mistakes during the first sessions, when others may be learning the track and their car.

If at any time you spin or crash your vehicle, it may be necessary to stop circuit activity. This causes unnecessary loss of track time to both yourself and your colleagues, and it therefore suggested that you take every care to ensure that your car is driven to the conditions (track, driver and car’s capabilities), and not beyond. Drive slowly off-line around the track as you return to the pits if you do go off. This will minimise any mud dragged onto the track, and prevent stones being thrown onto following vehicles.

When returning to the pit lane, please indicate to the left as you exit the hairpin and keep hard left until you have entered the pit lane (slowly!!). This is the only time that cars should pass you on the right whilst out on the track.

IMPORTANT: If you see anyone driving dangerously, aggressively, or who refuses to pull over to let faster cars pass, then please report them immediately to the chief marshall on the pit lane. We will talk to the driver(s) involved regarding their behaviour. Any further infringement will result in them being sent home immediately with no refund. Please don’t stay quiet on the day and then complain afterwards, as it is too late for the organisers to do anything about it.

Cooling Down:

When completing a session on the track, your engine, tyres and particularly brakes will be very hot. Completing at least one cooling down lap before leaving the circuit makes a huge difference, and will let you rejoin the circuit much sooner than speeding to a standstill with red hot brakes. The ideal pace for cooling down laps is that which allows you to complete a whole circuit without using the brakes, but not so slow as to be a major hazard to other drivers. Remember to keep to the right at all times during this cooling down lap. Owners of turbo cars should permit at least 2 - 3 minutes of idling before switching off the engine after returning to the pits.

Where possible after parking in the pit lane, leave your car in gear and do not apply the handbrake as there is a risk of warping brake discs due to the heat retained in the pads and callipers. At a previous event, the handbrake of one car lost grip as the brake components contracted slightly when cooling, and the car rolled gently backwards towards the barriers. Luckily it was caught and no damage was done.

Number of Cars on Track:

The maximum number of cars permitted on the track at any time is 25 although for safety reasons they would prefer no more than 20 at road car events. At previous events, an average of 15 cars were are on the track at any time. There are busy periods (first and last 20 minutes) and quiet periods (most of the other times!).

Car Preparation:

For maximum enjoyment and safety, we would encourage each driver to carefully ensure that their car is suitable for use on the track. Please check all fluid levels are adequate, and there are no leaks from any hoses. Your brake pads should be checked before and during the event to ensure that there is sufficient pad material to complete the event, and drive home safely. Many owners bring a spare set of pads with them, just to be on the safe side.

Tyres are very important, and you should check and adjust your tyre pressures prior to the event, and ensure that they will not be illegal for road use after the event. Some owners take a spare set of wheels and tyres specifically for use on the track, and change them before and after the event.


General Notes – Road Cars

Pre-Event checks

a) Make sure the car is in a well maintained condition
b) Check ALL fluid levels and replace the brake fluid if not changed at service specified interval.
c) Check all hoses for signs of leaks, and replace if necessary.
d) Check the condition/pressure of all your tyres, Make a note of the pressures
e) Check your brake pads for condition/thickness, preferably fit new fast road/comp pads
f) Remove any non essential accessories or those not securely fitted.

Suggested Spares to bring with you

a) one set of brake pads at least, front and rear
b) one 5 litre can of oil

Pre-track checks

a) Recheck your tyre pressures, if one is down you may have a slow puncture which could blow when at high speed
b) Increase the tyre pressures by 4-6PSI higher than you run on the road.
c) Ensure you understood the driver briefing (especially the overtaking rules in particular!).
If you are not sure about any aspect, ask for clarification.

Helmets and Seat Belts

a) Seat Belts or harnesses must be worn at all times on the circuit.
b) Helmets must be worn at all times on the circuit by all occupants.

First lap on every run

a) Never thrash your car on the first lap, speed up gradually bringing the oil/water temperatures to normal working parameters.
b) Gently bring the brakes up to temperature
c) Use this lap to get familiar with your new, rather alien surroundings
d) Try and give yourself space front and rear, don't be tempted to follow the car in front too closely as you will be concentrating on them and not your own driving.
e) Get used to checking your mirror before and after each corner, you will be amazed how quickly some cars will catch you if you are a track novice.

Remaining laps

a) Bring up the speed gradually if you are a novice, you will learn more, and less likely to spin.
b) Remember you are there for fun !!
c) If you experience brake fade or a soft pedal, don't think it will go away before the next corner, slow down, it is very likely to be much worse by the next corner. Perform a cooling down lap (or two), and return to the pits.
d) If you feel a power loss coming out of a tight bend - back off and don't keep it planted. You are probably getting the first signs of fuel surge. If you keep it planted you are risking detonation due to a weak mixture. Return to the pits and refuel. This can happen with half a tank of fuel on board, so don't get fooled into thinking it can’t be happening already, it can!


Overtaking

When driving on the circuit you must overtake on the left hand side only. Use your mirrors regularly and if you see faster traffic behind you move over to the right (indicate that you are doing so if possible), and let the following vehicle(s) pass safely on the left.


Spins

If at any time you spin or crash your vehicle, it may be necessary to stop circuit activity. This causes unnecessary loss of track time to both yourself and your fellow participants, and it therefore suggested that you take every care to ensure that your car is driven to the conditions (track, driver and car’s capabilities), and not beyond.

Last lap in

a) Do a slow last lap in and try to avoid using the brakes at all to give the disks/pads some chance to cool down.
b) Monitor your mirrors very closely. There will still be other cars running at full speed!

Entry to pits/stopping

a) enter the pits slowly, look out for pedestrians, it is easy to not hear you coming
b) DO NOT SWITCH OFF YOUR ENGINE
c) allow the engine to idle for at least 2 minutes
d) DO NOT PUT THE HANDBRAKE ON OR SIT WITH YOUR FOOT ON THE BRAKE PEDAL. the above is to stop the pads from being destroyed by the heat sink effect from your red hot brake disks, stop on a level surface or arrange for someone to chock you wheel.
e) let everything cool before your check the following

Post run checks

a) Check the brake pads for wear, you will be amazed how quickly they are used up,
b) Check ALL fluid levels, You may never use oil on the road, you are almost guaranteed to do so on a track day run
c) Check your tyre pressures, if one has dropped you may be on the way to a blow out
d) Check the tyres for wear/cuts
e) Check you are still not wearing a silly cheesy grin

The above guidelines will help you enjoy the day and return home with a healthy car.
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