GP Academy #2: How to prepare for a Track Day [Part I]
Welcome to #2 of our GP Days Track Day Academy.
This time, it's all about making sure you're 100% prepared for your Track Day adventure - or at least as close as we can get to 100%!
Seeing that we're diving into some technical bits from time to time here, a little disclaimer is necessary: At GP Days, we're definitely not experts when it comes to vehicle mechanics, nevertheless, we can draw on many active years of participating in Track Days as well as organising them!
If you're completely new to Track Day driving, please don't forget to check out #1 of our GP Days Academy: "An introduction to Track Days".
In order to make this article as easily digestible as possible, we divided it into two parts:
- Everything you need to know about how to prepare your car for a day on the race track [Part I]
- Everything you need to know to prepare yourself for a day on the race track, including the equipment you need and some pointers to what you should definitely bring to your Track Day [Part II]
We're Petrolheads, so it shouldn't be a surprise that we'll start with everything about how to prepare your car first!
Starting on an honest note here: Regardless of what other people may tell you, there is no denying that a Track Day will put a significant amount of stress on several components of your car, so good preparation is key to avoid disappointment and potential damages.
Yes, you just want to get out and drive, we understand that! However, we're convinced that the majority of break downs we're witnessing during our Track Days can be avoided with paying attention to just a few important things.
Especially your brakes, engines and tyres will go through some pretty intense torture while out on track, so that's where will put our focus for the time being.
Brake failure is probably one of the scariest and most dangerous things that could possible happen while out on track - on public roads as well on this matter.
The following video portrays the potential effects and repercussions of brake-failure on track pretty well:
That's why when it comes to your braking system, there are several components to pay extra attention to. Let's dive into it:
Depending on the type of brake discs you are using, make sure that they provide enough thickness to handle the stress of a day on track. Usually, the minimum thickness is either stamped on the outer edges of your brake discs or the brake chamber (MIN TH in mm).
Otherwise, it is always worth looking online in some specialised forums or on the manufacturers homepage if you are using after-market parts. Besides, always check for visible damages such as cracks.
If you use your car on track often, surface cracks are usually not a cause for alarm (especially if you use drilled discs) and quite common as your discs reach high temperatures and are going through several heat cycles. However, once your brake discs show cracks reaching the outside edges or join to form a large rift, it is time for a change!
GP Days Recommendation: Always make sure that you check both (inside and outside) of each disc. You do not want possible damages hiding on the more difficult to reach sides causing unpleasant surprises!
The illustration below may be quite helpful when going through your (pre) Track Day checks. Just have a look how your brake discs compare:
Brake pads are subject to heated discussion across almost every Track Day Community. However, no matter what kind of pad you are using, make sure it still has enough strength i.e. material so it'll last the entire Track Day.
Overall, it's hard to tell before a Track Day “how much” of the pad you will use, but it is something that should not be the reason for you having to end the day early!
GP Days Recommendation: If possible, have a second set at hand (especially front pads as they usually wear much faster than on the rear) just in case. It is not going to cause any harm and is easy to change in most cases. Regularly check how they look in between your stints. If you're to change brake pads yourself, there're for sure some helping hands around and changing your own brake pads isn't a bad skill to acquire anyways!
As your entire brake system is inadvertently going to get extremely hot while on the circuit, your fluid's boiling point is key. You may have heard about DOT 4 and DOT 5.1 brake fluids (no biggy if not!) and the discussions about what's best. In our opinion, it is not so much about the number but the fact that you're getting the best quality braking fluid possible.
Once you become a more seasoned Track Day driver, it might be worth looking into the different characteristics of brake fluids but we wouldn't recommend fiddling to much with it in the beginning.
Apart from getting a high quality product, make sure you're changing the fluid regularly - at least once a year if you do the occasional Track Day. Reason being that the fluid absorbs water overtime thereby lowering its efficiency and becoming more susceptible to boiling ultimately causing brake fade.
In addition, if you take your car on track fairly often, it may be worth thinking about changing the standard brake lines of your car to stainless steel (ss) ones. They provide more stability under huge load and are an easy way to get rid of one point of potential failure in your brake system without having to commit obscene amounts of money!
Always remember that your tyres are the only thing keeping you connected to the black stuff i.e., the race track. That's why you should visually inspect each tyre for obvious damages (cuts, broken off parts, etc.) as well as making sure you have enough tread before each Track Day.
You don't want to arrive at the circuit with your tyres already at the wear indicator. Especially if you're intending to drive your car home after the day without a trailer!
GP Days Recommendation: Always check the inside of the tyre as well. Depending on your geometry and driving style, your tyre might be fine on the outside, but completely gone on the inside.
The heart of your car which will have to go through some hard work during a Track Day - nothing to be alarmed about though if everything is in good shape!
Keep your engine lubricated - it is not that expensive and easy to check! Make sure, your engine is not lacking any oil (preferably it is at the max. level) before your Track Day.
In addition, you should regularly check oil levels throughout the day and refill if necessary. It is not uncommon for an engine to consume a bit more oil than usual when being put through its paces during a Track Day.
It shouldn't be a surprise to find out that your engine will run at pretty high temperatures throughout your Track Day. Have a visual inspection of all hoses before hitting the race track. Are all of them in good shape, flexible and without any damages or cracks? Are all connectors tightly fastened and in good shape?
While a failing cooling system can mean potential death for your engine on track, it is also incredibly dangerous for anyone driving behind you. Coolant is like ice and not really visible once spilled across the circuit.
So to avoid any kind of nasty accident, always keep an eye on your car being safe and sound before you hit the circuit! In our mind, those are the most important things to consider when taking your car out for some Track Day action!
Did we miss something? Then let us know! We're always happy to improve our GP Days Track Day Academy. As we covered all things "car", let's have a look at "How to Prepare Yourself for a Track Day"!