GP Academy #2: How to prepare for a Track Day?

I want you to feel 100% prepared for your Track Day, whether it is with us at GP Days, or any other organiser! Even though I am not always your guy when it comes to deep understanding of each of the technical aspects of a car, I am sure I can give you some practical tips to make your day on track more relaxed and that tiny bit safer.

Especially if you are new to track driving, I recommend you read through the first part of our GP Academy: An introduction to Track Days!

To make things a bit easier to digest, I have divided this post into two main parts:

  • Your Car: How do you prepare your car for a Track Day? What are the most important things to check before you get on track? All of this is going to be answered in this section.
  • Your Equipment: I can tell you from experience that it is really annoying to arrive at the track, just to notice you forgot something that would make your day much easier! We also included a "Track Day Checklist"

Your Car

I know that you just want to get on track and enjoy the ride. Trust me though, after countless foolish breakdowns, it is worth sticking to a simple protocol to check your car to avoid a premature end to your Track Day.

Ever noticed after a couple of laps that your brake pads are gone, and you do not have any spares with you? Well I have, and I can tell you, it is VERY annoying – but easily avoidable!

You always need to remember, that your car will go through a tremendous amount of stress during a Track Day. Especially your brakes, engine and tyres will take a good beating!

Tyres 

Always remember that your tyres are the only thing keeping you connected to the black stuff i.e., the track. Visually inspect each tyre for obvious damages (cuts, broken off parts, etc.) as well as making sure you have enough tread. You do not want to arrive at the circuit with your tyres already at the wear indicator. Especially if you drive your car home after the day without a trailer!

Recommendation: Always check the inside of the tyre as well. Depending on your geometry and usage profile, your tyre might be fine on the outside but completely gone on the inside.

Brakes

I always told myself that I never want to experience one thing – brake failure. I found this video quite illustrative and already providing you with some analysis of what you can do should you experience brake failure on track. Skip to 3:30min, if you are just here for the action: 

When it comes to your brake-system, there are several components you should check if you use and abuse your car on track regularly.

The Discs 

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 (MIN TH in mm)  is either stamped on the outer edges of your brake discs or the brake chamber.

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!

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! I always found this illustration quite helpful when going through my pre-track day checks: 

The Pads

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 – it should last the Track Day.

Overall, it is 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!

Recommendation: If possible, have a second set at hand just in case. It is not going to cause any harm and is easy to change. Regularly check how they look in between your stints. 

The Fluid

As your entire brake system is 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. While DOT 4 is usually associated with racing application, they have a lower boiling point on paper than DOT 5.1 - so in my opinion, it really comes down to going simply for a quality product, regardless of the DOT rating. If you do not run a full racing set up, you should be fine using any "branded" fluid.

Most important of all though is that the brake fluid is “fresh”. If you are not sure when you last changed your brake fluid, it is probably time for you to get it done – whether you track your car regularly or not, it should not be older than 12 months.

In addition, if you track your car 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.

Engine

After all, it is the heart of your car and it will work hard during a track day - very hard! If your engine is in good shape before you hit the track, there is not much to worry about so keep the following points in mind:

Oil 

The most important thing your engine needs (apart from fuel to run of course) on track. So, before your Track Day, make sure your engine is not lacking any oil (preferably it is at the max. before you hit the track). In addition, you should regularly check oil levels throughout the day.

Cooling System

You should also check the cooling system for any obvious issues. Are the hoses in good shape, flexible and without any cracks? Are all the connectors tight? And of course, are there no leakages?

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 dropped on 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!

Other Things to Consider 

With every car, there are certain (often inexpensive) parts, that can spoil the fun on a Track Day. Looking at my Mini GP, there are some sensors as well as the pulley belt which tend to cause problems. That is why you should always carry some spares of those kinds of parts to be sure that a small part is not causing the premature end of your Track Day.

Your Equipment

Arriving organised and with everything you need at the track will make you more relaxed and give you the peace of mind to stay focussed throughout the day.

Tools

A Track Day is not a competition, and in the end, your equipment does not really matter. Nevertheless, it is advisable that you take some basic parts to each Track Day:

  • Basic Tool Kit
  • Tyre Pressure Gauge
  • Torque Wrench
  • Cable Ties
  • Gaffer Tape

Rest assured that we as the organiser always take some basic tools as well as a car jack with us which we happily hand out. Also, you will find that most people will always lend a helping hand should you experience some issues during your Track Day – just do not hesitate to ask!

If permitted by the track management, we provide drinks and snacks throughout the day, so you do not have to bring that yourself. Check whether our Track Day descriptions says: "Open Bar".

Clothing

In most cases, you do not need fireproof clothing or wear a HANS-device; we still recommend long clothes for your drive and suitable shoes and a HANS-device is definitely a worthwhile investment if you plan to hit the track more often!

Please always read the Track Day description as some tracks have certain rules which clothes you must wear.

Important side note: While we currently do not offer Track Days at Anneau du Rhin (France), it is a track that requires anyone with a track prepared car (full roll cage and racing harnesses), to wear a homologated suit, shoes, gloves, and helmet as well as a HANS-device to get on track! At the moment this seems to be the only circuit with such guidelines.

The physical element of track driving is almost always underestimated. I found that bringing a spare set of clothes – at least a T-Shirt and Jumper might just make you feel that tiny bit more comfortable. Especially on your journey home, you will appreciate a nice crisp shirt! Download our “GP Days Track Day Check List” for a comprehensive packing list for your next circuit adventure!

I expect our Checklist to be evolving over time and I would be very happy if you let us know if we are missing any important items that you cannot live without on track. Let us know in the comments or write us an e-mail via support@gpdays.com!

In the next series of our GP Academy, we will talk about Track Etiquette!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published