So you’ve got the attention of the boys in blue; so much so, they’ve opened up a customer loyalty program just for you! It seems as if the only place you’re gonna be safe is somewhere where speed and good driving ARE rewarded – the race track!
But you’ve never been at the sharp end; I mean watching Daytona from the stands on Turn 3 is a far cry from actually being on the blacktop. So how do you go about getting the car prepped? What about your gear? What do you need to know before you venture out into the wild…
I’m going to assume you’re gonna run your pride and joy, your street car: So we’re not going to get into things like roll cages, Sparco seats, coil-overs and all that techy stuff. We’re going to look at a few tweaks you can carry out on your road car to make the day safe and enjoyable.
The brake system really takes a hammering out on the track, so I’d advise to rip the wheels off and check the following:
- The disc rotors are not worn beyond the manufacturers spec. They’re gonna get darn hot and if too thin the system will overheat.
- Check that the brake pads are not excessively worn; If possible fit a set of competition pads (There are various compounds, so don’t go for the full racing compound) They’ll squeak a bit in road use, but on the track will reward you with less fade when the system heats up.
- If the brake fluid hasn’t been replaced in a while, I suggest you replace it now – use synthetic. For the ultimate adrenalin rush, there’s nothing that beats the pedal going to the floor – although usually short lived.
While you’ve got the wheels off check the tires for any damage and tread depth. A few laps of a race track can be pretty hard on rubber, especially if there are fast turns. So make sure you’ve got enough tread to see you through the day… and safely home, if you’re driving the car home.
- Tire pressures are a whole science unto themselves, but a good starting point is to take them to the upper limit of what the manufacturer recommends. This will give the car a little more stability in the turns, as there’s less chance of the tire “walking” in the rim. It’ll also run slightly cooler and reduce tire wear.
- Duct tape any wheel weights in place, you really don’t want to deal with the vibration if one of these gets thrown off.
If you do have any adjustment for camber on your suspension it would be good to take a drive to your friendly dealer and have them dial in a bit of negative camber if either of your axles exhibits wayward behavior.
- If you’re running a front wheel drive, such as one of the hot hatches, it’ll tend to push the front end (Understeer) and a bit of negative on the front wheels will improve this.
- If on the other hand, you have something like one of the older Bimmers, that tend to be a bit tail happy, some negative on the rear wheels will keep you pointed in the right direction. Please note; not all cars have camber adjustment – if yours doesn’t, you’ll just have to work with what you’ve got.
Bodywork should be in good order; It’s really no fun tripping over that bumper dragging on the road. Also, if you have wheel covers on… take them off. A high speed Frisbee hurts like hell.
Take out all the loose stuff in your car: Manuals, cups, pens, bottles of Jack – anything that’s not bolted down must come out. This goes for the trunk as well.
I suggest that when you get to the track take out the spare wheel and toolkit, it’s not only weight, but it’s in the wrong place!
Don’t forget to take along some electrical tape to tape up the lights before going on circuit.
Make sure you have enough fuel. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how fast this stuff disappears when you push the car hard. Remember; if you run out of fuel you WILL be pushed to the safest spot in the vicinity and left there ’til the end of the session.
Finally don’t forget your safety equipment: A good helmet (Remember a 22-22.75″ helmet only protects a 22-22.75″ head); if possible, racing overalls, driving gloves and driving shoes. If you don’t have.. don’t sweat it! At least make sure you wear your narrowest shoes – it’s amazing how cramped that pedal box gets when you toe-and-heel with full opposite lock dialed in.
Now all that’s left is to get out there and have fun!