What REALLY Happens at a Track Day? . . . . . . (11 min. read)
What Really Happens at a Tack Day?
Straight to the point, this article is dedicated to those who have always been curious about getting on track, but might not know where or how to get started. It’s easy to get intimidated, but just remember that everybody you see out there has had their first track event at some point.
There are many reasons why people want to get involved in track day driving, and truthfully, each reason is justifiable. On a more-popular level of reasons, there are enthusiasts who have always been into cars (or racing), and have reached a point in their life where it’s finally time to get on track. Others may have mastered the art of autocross, and are ready to step up into something faster. And lastly, there might be someone who just built or bought a sports car, and are eager to see how fast it goes. These are just three common examples, but honestly, there are so many more. Regardless of your reason, this article is going to give you a general walkthrough of what a typical track day looks like.
A quick Google search will unveil many articles that discuss what to bring to a track day event. However, not many go into the details of what it’s actually like to experience a day at the track. And for that reason, I have written a detailed step by step guide, on what it’s like to experience a track day.
Step 1 – Sign Up!
You have to start somewhere, right? Get up, get the motion going, and sign up for an event. A great place to start is www.motorsportreg.com. In fact, this is a really great place to start. This site will inform you of every event going on in your area. Simply enter your zip code, choose how far you want to travel, and a complete list will populate, showing anything from autocross, to wheel to wheel events. Narrow down your search by deselecting all event types except for “track day” events.
To learn more about the track day organizer (the people putting on the event), click the link to the organizer’s personal website, or start a new tab in your browser and Google the name of the track day organizer. This will allow you to get a better idea of the events they offer. Now, sign up! Truth be told, you’ll have to rip the band-aid at some point, and just sign up. Do a little research, check out their Facebook or Instagram profiles, and just go for it. The main thing is that you stop being a sideliner and become a participant.
Steps 2 and 3
These steps are reserved for getting your car prepped and bringing everything you need. I’m going to leave these steps out, because a little Google homework will offer you all the help you need. This article is intended to focus on the experience, rather than “what to bring”. On a side note: many track organizers will offer prep checklists for both you AND your car.
Step 4 (A) – Show Up
In order to complete your fist track day, you need to actually GO to your fist track day. Without getting too side tracked, stop worrying if your car is fast enough or ready enough. Your suspension can be tweaked later on, and that front splitter you purchased can be installed at a later date. Just go! Too many people I talk to think too much into their readiness, rather than just getting out there.
Step 4 (B) - Arrive
Once you arrive at the track, you may or may not need to pay a “gate fee”. It all depends on the event and the track. These fees are usually $10 or $15. Bring cash. Once in, you’ll need to find a spot, aka your pit. Since this is your first event, find some cars that are similar to yours. This will make it easier to make friends, as well as offer an opportunity to soak up some valuable education.
Step 5 – Sign In
Before you do anything to your car or before you unload, head straight to the sign-in desk after you found your “spot”. Bring your driver’s license, and they’ll issue you an arm band and a schedule for the day. Remember which run group you’re in and keep that schedule folded in your pocket for quick reference. Not all tracks have a good PA system, so it’s important for you to keep track (no pun) on what time your run group is going out, so you don’t miss anything.
Sep 6 - Driver’s Meeting
I admit, the driver’s meeting is probably the least-fun portion of the day. You already woke up early, maybe you even slept in a fancy Motel 6, and that cup of coffee from AMPM hasn’t kicked in yet. At the same time, you’re excited, and all you want to do is get on the track..I get it. However, this meeting is very important to new drivers.
Here’s a brief overview on some of the topics that are typically discussed:
- A quick summary of the day, including a brief rundown on schedule and run groups.
- A brief discussion on the track lay out, including run-off areas in case you break down, as well as where to enter and exit the track.
- Towing procedures, break downs, spin-outs.
- Areas of concern, such as potential hazards on the track, and known areas where drivers tend to go off track.
- Allowable areas on the track where it’s okay to pass, including allowable passing scenarios and procedures.
- Overview of flags, and what each one means.
Step – 7 Your First Session
“Attention Purple Group drivers, this is your 10 minute call to grid…Purple Group drivers to grid”. If the PA system is loud enough, you’ll hear an announcement much like this. As mentioned before, it’s important to have that schedule on you at all times, just in case an announcement isn’t made or you can’t hear it. It’s happened to me before, and it’s the worst feeling to miss one of your run groups simply because you weren’t paying attention. Once your group is called, it time to get seated, helmet on, geared up, and ready to make your way to grid. Please remember to drive slowly in the paddock. There are a lot of people walking around, and sometimes kids and dogs also. If you’re not used to wearing a helmet inside a car, your peripheral vision is a bit less, making it hard to see everything around you. As you get closer to grid, a marshal will do a quick check of your wrist band, and then you’re off! All your preparation, excitement, and loss of sleep have come down to this very moment. Have fun! Remember, that’s why you’re here.
Step – 8 Driver’s Download Meeting
How was that?! Good times, right? Did you remember to pay attention to the flags? Did you signal to other drivers properly? Did you have any concerns or other follow up questions? This is the place where all of this will be covered. The driver’s download meeting happens after your first and sometimes second session. Your group will meet in a designated area (about 10 minutes after your session) with an official to recap how the run went. Here, drivers will have the opportunity to voice any questions or address areas of safety and other concerns. Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions, as this is the place to do it.
Step – 9 Now What?
After you’re released from the meeting, the day is yours! Have fun, walk the paddock, eat a greasy burrito, and wait until your next run group is called. After your last run session, make sure you remember to hand back your transponder if you rented one, and do a thorough check of your “stall” to make sure you didn’t forget anything. Back out of your space, and recheck. It’s not uncommon for a screwdriver or other tool to get left under your car, only to drive away and forget it. Don’t forget to upload all of your GoPro footage so you can share with your friends over some beers over the following weekend.
If you have any questions on a topic that wasn't covered, or need guidance on safety gear, please let us know. We’re here to help..Thanks for reading!