Motorsport or track days is a very different than either driving fast on roads or Go Karting. The speeds are far higher, the forces are much higher and the car is under a lot more physical and thermal stress. For this reason the preparation is key
Many first time drivers, particularly in road cars are always surprised just how fast modern road cars can go, how much grip they have an especially how hard they brake. However many are therefore unaware how quickly things can go wrong
This guide is intended to provide all drivers both experienced and first timers with some basic steps and knowledge to allow you to safely get the most from your track day.
Most track days, including ours are run as SPEED events, sometimes known as TIMED SPRINTS. These consist of up to 6 groups of cars that go out on track for a series of timed runs over the day. Each run is between 10-15min usually with a out lap (first lap, essentially a warm up), and an in lap (cool down).
Generally groups will be up to 20 cars, although tracks like Broadford which are smaller required smaller group sizes.
Speed events, are timed. Its you verses the clock, not you verses other cars. Any form of racing or aggressive overtaking is not tolerated
Which group you are in, is determined by two factors. 1. If you are a first time\Come & Try driver you will be always in Group 1 (at events where we have Come & Try, eg Sandown) only with other similar drivers. 2. Predicted lap time. Low group number, means slower lap time. High group number, high lap time. This ensures cars are with other cars that are running similar pace. The purpose of this, is to reduce overtaking, reduce the amount of time you might get stuck behind slower cars and most of all improve safety.
All our days start with Group 1 first. Once they are on track, group 2 will line up ready to go out and so on. Once the last car of current group pulls into pit lane, the first car of the next group will be released from the other end of pit lane onto the track. An official will release cars with a gap between each one the idea is to space cars out as much as possible.
We strive to provide drivers with 5 runs per day. Factors that affect this always is weather and incidents. Weather we can't control, but incidents we can influence. So think about that when out on track, if you push to hard and go off, firstly you risk yourself, your car and others. But secondly recovering a car takes time. Therefore reducing the amount of track time you and others get.
Vehicle preparation is key to this well, a well looked after and well prepared car is a more reliable car. If you break down on track, especially if you drop fluid like oil and coolant this takes a lot of time to clean up. This will sometimes result in a cost to you for the clean up, but also deprives others of track time.
Currently the club offers at every Sandown event a Come & Try session. This is a great way to give track days a go without the need for getting club membership or a Motorsport Australia license.
The club will also provide an experience instructor who is a club member with extensive experience doing track days, and knows that venue well. They will give you tips on braking points, racing line and track features as well as provide some coaching tips on your driving. All of it is done in a very friendly and constructive way to provide you with some basic tools and knowledge to safely enjoy track days.
Our instructors are mandatory for the first session, then you can ask you instructor if you wish for them to come out again during the day. If they are unable to, as some may have a be in a overlapping group they are driving in, that's fine. Come speak to an official and we can arrange somebody to jump in with you.
If you have a friend or preferred instructor, please speak to the Motorsport Director or Clerk of Coarse, all instructors must be approved by them. We prefer that club appointed instructors are used as it promotes better behavior and safer driving. Rather than a mate encouraging you to push beyond your capabilities as these usually result in incidents, spins or being spoken to by the Clerk of Coarse.
Come & Try groups are always group 1, and will be the first group on track for the day. So be prepared to be in the pit lane at least 8:55am, as the session will start at 9am sharp.
The first lap will be behind a pace car, it will be done with helmets off, at highway speeds. This is a familiarization lap intended to allow you be get an understanding of the layout of the track, how to enter the track, where flag points are, and how to enter pit lane.
Once this familiarization session is complete, you'll renter pit lane and line up to go out again. Helmets will go on, and you'll head out for your first flying lap session.
All come & try sessions are untimed. The idea is not to be chasing lap time, instead your focus should be on driving line, car familiarization and braking points. If you go off or spin you will likely be off to see the Clerk of Coarse for a please explain. They usually offer a warning and advice to take it easy
Whilst we are the Impreza WRX Club, we above all are just car enthusiasts. For this reason not only do we welcome all makes and models to our track days, we also welcome them as members. Our current president joined with a Golf!
Many of our track days are made up of a mix of stock road cars, modified road cars and dedicated track cars. More recently road registered cars make up a bulk of the participants.
Daily drivers and cars you drive to the track. This is a common thing to see these days. Few things to consider most of which we cover in our vehicle preparation guide:
The big one for now is... How hard should you push?
If you have to drive it home, or to work tomorrow. We recommend you just back off a little, maybe don't rev it out to red line every shift and perhaps do a couple of hot laps, then back off and let it cool down, then do a couple more hot laps. You'll be amazed how much of a difference this will make to the longevity of your car
2. Tires. Track days are super tough on tires. Most road tires are not designed for track work, so they very quickly overheat and loose a lot of grip which can be scary. But can also literally melt the tread blocks. So coming to the track with the wrong tires may cost you that set of tires. Modern tire technology has come a long way though, so some premium brands offer tires that work really well on road but also work really well on track so while it might seem like spending the extra on a more high performance road tire is not worth it, in the long run it likely will be. Then's theres the other option. Watch thinks like Facebook marketplace and ebay for a spare set of rim and get some semi-slicks that you just bolt on for track days. These are legal to drive on the road with, but wear very quickly on road however are excellent on track.
Theres a few vehicles that you should contact us about though before registering. Open Wheelers, we do sometimes offer a Formula Ford group at Phillip Island but generally we can't support Open Wheelers. Second, is Open class cars. Things like world time attack cars are sometimes challenging due to noise and their speed differential with other competitors so best to reach out as some events we do we can support them, and others is harder.
Electric and Hybrid's. There is a lot of new regulations around these that makes it more challenging. So if you are thinking of registering one of these vehicles please contact us first. They require specialisted equipment such as extinguishers and training for our safety crews so we need to ensure we have this available before accepting one of these vehicles.
We cover of more details in our vehicle preparation guide but here are the key items you must have
As soon as you're group is called over the PA, start getting ready. Get your helmet on check all the doors and windows are properly closed then start to head into pitlane.
At the end of pit lane you'll line up in the lane closest to the track usually and wait to go out. Once your lined up, switch the car off. The car doesn't need to sit there idling generating heat, its going to get plenty hot enough. If you're near the front, watch the pit lane controller, they will signal when you're nearly ready to go out, or if your further back watch for cars starting to enter the track. Then start your car and get ready to go
This is not a drag race, so don't tear out of pit lane like you're trying to beat your best 1/4 time. They key to a first lap is slow and steady. Everything is cold, engines, oil, gearboxes, diffs, brakes and tires. All of them nead to be slowly brought up to temp. Many failures occur when people go 100% out of pit lane and compoenents with cold oil give up. Lap 1 is also about getting a feel for track conditions. The same track will never feel the same, or have the same grip as the last time, even to a session an hour before. Rain, dust, rubber, oil, grass and temperature all play a huge part in grip so treat every first lap like you've never driven on the track before.
Get some temperature in brakes and tires. Don't weave. This does absolutely nothing and is extremely dangerous. Supercars and F1 do this to feel how much grip they have. The best thing for tire temp is accellarating, cornering and especially braking.
Start your first flying lap by building up to pace. It usualy takes a lap or 2 for tires to get up to temp. Keep building up you're pace lap by lap, gradually building confidence and measuring grip levels. Most of our incidents occur in the first 2 laps of a session due to people pushing to hard and being over confident.
Use the straights to relax your hands, check your temperatures and pressures and oddly enough take a few deep breaths, this will help your focus.
Be mindful of other drivers. Youa re racing the clock, not others. So there's no need to try and out brake somebody into a corner or be within a meter of their bumper its not the Supercars, it doesn't matter. And its just dangerous. If you can't get around on a straight easily, back off and let the car in front build a gap.
If you are the car in front, its not your problem... focus on the track ahead, not behind. Stick to the racing line and let the faster cars behind go round on straights.
Watch flag points, if you ignore a flag its a great way to get sent home early. Some flags will be shown only for very particular cars, so the flaggies usually will point at you if its you, or you'll see the flag come out just as you approach them, and go back in just after you pass. If you get shown one of these, pull into pit lane and slowly drive up the pit lane controller. It may be simple simple like something loose, or open like a bonnet, in many cases they will send you back out once its sorted.
Keep focus on brakes by thinking about how your brake pedal feels, am i having to push it further or harder to stop the same. Does it feel spongy. These can be signs of brake fade, it usually starts slow and then all of a sudden you'll have no brakes. If you feel them fading, back off. Brake into corners much earlier, roll off the throttle and let the air take the first chuck of speed out the car, then with less force on the brake pedal brake into the corner. Do this for a lap, and see how they feel, if they come good. Then keep going, if they don't get much better, time to pit.
Feel your tires. Road tyres especially will easily overheat on track. So you may think they are great on the first flying lap, ok on the second. By lap 3 you might be getting a little scared. Most tires don't just go "off", its progressive. So you might have the same grip, but it will feel different, like you having to try harder to go just as fast, or the car feels like its moving around under you move than before. These are signs of tires under too much stress. Similar to brakes, just back off for a lap, let them cool down and then build back up to pace. If they don't come good, pit.
Listen and feel. Most mechnical failures give some warning before letting go. This can be by something feeling odd, a vibration or a noise. If it feels or sounds odd, might be worth pitting and checking it out.
Heat soak.... what is heat soak i hear you say. In simple terms, engines under full throttle generate enormous amounts of heat. And even with the huge airflow of a car at speed its not enough to combat this heat. Most cars cooling systems for coolant, oil and intercoolers aren't designed for sustained full throttle adn can't cope with it for long. Engine's ECU's are also often tuned to have protections for this. So if your intercooler and coolant gets hot, the engine will start to remove timing, boost and add fuel to protect the engine, this means less power often a lot less. Maybe 20% or more.
So unless you've specifically upgraded these compoents with aftermarket ones designed for motorsport then its a good idea to have a cool down lap, otherwise at some point you will be replacing these components as heat is the biggest single killer of mechincial components at track days. Plus it often leaves something on the track we have to clean up
This is the most overlooked but important lap for car longevity. Either a cooldown lap inbetween a couple of fast laps or when the chequred flag is flow. Doing a good cooldown verses a bad one had a huge difference. Why? Temperature.
Everything is extrmely hot. If you got flat out into pit lane, you cool nothing. If you crawl in, you cool only brakes and tires. But everything else will be even hotter. The trick is in the middle.
Maintain high speed but not full throttle. Shift a few grand below red line and get up to around 75% of your normal top speed in top gear. So if you normally do 200km/h do 150km/h. Why... airflow.
That higher speed with lower rpms and throttle opening will flow huge amounts of air over everything without generating much more heat.
By the time you come into the pits, in many cases your oil and coolant temps will be only slightly higher than normal road cruising temps. Perfect
Be carefull pulling into pit lane, there will be cars coming out to go on track, while others are trying to get back into garages. So go slow, and look around.
When you park up, leave the car running, open the bonnet and let the heat get out. After a couple of minutes shut the car down. After the first 2 minutes the fans won't cool it any further so better to shut it off.
At some stage all of us will spin on track. Usually the best advice is, once you feel it going, don't fight it. Come of the pedals, and turn into the spin and let it happen. Reason is, if you continue to fight it you'll likely end up somewhere off track, possibly in a fence. Turning into the spin and coming off the brakes, it will get it over with quickly and the car will straighten up at which point you can apply the brakes and come to a stop. Many times, you many still be on the track by doing this.
If you happen to go into the gravel, grass or even the fence. Take a second to have a breath, if you can continue then renter the track slowly, ideally not on the racing line and watch for cars coming. Its also a good idea to look at the nearest flag point, the flaggies often will assist in telling you when its safe to go.
If you can't continue, either becasue your stuck, broken down or have crashed try and signal to the nearest flag point by just giving a thumps up to let them know you're ok. Then look for the nearest wall, and exit the car and climb over the fence. DO NOT CROSS THE TRACK
If you are or think you might be injured. Stay put, just sit there. Our medical and recovery crew will be heading your way to assist you in getting out the car.
|Yellow flag: The yellow flag signals a situation of danger ahead. Drivers must slow down and show extreme caution. Drivers may not overtake other vehicles until they have passed the green flag.
|Green Flag: All clear signal. It is used at the end of the danger area controlled by yellow flags. Drivers may continue on at race speed.
It can also be used to signal the start of a warm-up lap or practice session.
|Blue flag: Overtaking signal. The blue flag informs the driver that he is about to overtaken by one or more faster cars. When the flag is waved, it draws the driver’s attention either to the closeness of the car about to overtake him, or to the high speed at which it is approaching. The blue flag can be shown motionless when the faster car is still some distance away but approaching quickly.
|Red Flag: Stopping the race. The red flag will be shown at all posts on the circuit when the Clerk of the Course has decided to stop the race or practice session due to a hazard effecting the course. All drivers must stop racing immediately and proceed to the pit area. Drivers must exercise extreme caution and being prepared to stop if necessary.
|Black Flag: Return to the pit area. The black flag is usually shown at the Start / Finish line by the Clerk of Course or his marshal. The flag will be shown whilst your vehicle is being pointed at. This informs the driver they must return to the pit area immediately and report to the Clerk of Course.
|Checkered Flag: Denotes end of session. Use the remaining lap to cool the car and return to the pit area.