John Norrington’s guide on all you need to know to get on track at a trackday
Over the last decade we have seen meteoric growth in the circuit or track driving world with some 500+ such events in the UK annually, involving maybe 25,000 or more cars. Many drivers want to explore, enjoy and extend the full performance of their cars without just having to be subject to the clock – although using technology can also be a part of that development. Some of these cars are highly powerful, valuable and sophisticated and may need a degree of help from a coach able to help and explain the features in an understandable way. Gain the self control to focus and direct your thoughts to your objectives.
Getting on Track
ECMC News Summer 2015 by J.Norrington
For anyone enthusiastic about driving taking your car on to a race circuit promises freedom from speed limits and enjoyment of its performance to the full in a degree of safety.
Track days are not just for the experienced driver or track-prepared car and being untimed and non-competitive means a perfectly standard road car can offer just as much satisfaction. Experienced and caring professional organisers ensure you have all the support you need, they will have rules and they will ensure these rules are obeyed for the safety and enjoyment of everybody.
In-car instruction will be available from licensed instructors who at the very least will be ex-race drivers and you are advised to use them as a fast-track to getting it right and doing it safely in the shortest possible time. There are some serious safety issues to take note of and you will be made fully aware of them at the beginning of the day with a detailed safety briefing where you can ask questions and there are staff available to you all day long to help you with problems should there be any.
So track days can be enjoyed by anyone both young and old subject only to adhering to a few sensible rules and guidelines. There are no exceptions to the rules and to the behaviour required from everyone throughout the day.
For example dress for all weather conditions, but essentially you must wear long sleeves and long trousers with sensible footwear. Shorts and Doc Martin’s really don’t do it on a track day. Crash helmets are compulsory and if you don’t have one you can hire one on the day. Arrive early to give yourself time to get ready and have your car noise-tested when it will be labelled when it passes the test. When booking your day you will be advised of the noise limit and be clear – this is an absolute imposed by the circuit owners and there is no point attending with a noisy vehicle. Signing on can start from 7.30 am so report to the administration desk to show your driving licence which is an essential and you will get a wristband and number to display on your car.
NOTE: Showing a full National driving licence is compulsory – no exceptions. Immediately after the briefing which may follow around 8.30 am everybody will line up to do “sighting laps” several times slowly around the circuit. Again, this is compulsory.
The Safety Briefing is a hugely important part of the day and you will be advised on the rules and format of the day, which can vary slightly from one venue to the other. It is to help you, protect you and ensure everybody’s enjoyment and safety. It covers etiquette, flags/light signals and anything and everything which you will need to know including the time of the lunch break. This is the time to ask questions and on completion you will get another wristband to prove your attendance, without which you won’t be allowed on track.
After the sighting laps the track will be opened and playtime begins. Before you take your car on track empty it of loose objects which could do you serious damage when travelling at speed. As you go on to the track your car will be looked at and your various passes and wristbands checked. Seatbelts and helmets will be checked and the doors, windows and sunroof must be closed.
Typically 15-20 minutes is enough to enjoy yourself without losing concentration, overstressing your car and running out of brakes.
Don’t try to drive too fast too soon, and don’t follow other drivers whose cars and experience may be quite different to your own. Planning and discipline is at the heart of all good driving and using your mirrors is at least if not more important on track than on the road. At all times let faster drivers pass you at the earliest opportunity. At some circuits a blue flag or light is shown to warn you that someone faster is behind, or even in the process of overtaking. As will be explained at the briefing, obstructing other drivers or overtaking aggressively approaching or in corners will incur a black flag meaning that you are immediately required to leave the circuit and report to a member of staff. You may then be stood down for a time, or if your behaviour is deliberate and dangerous you could be sent home. The flags will be shown and explained in detail during the briefing, so we will not go into them at great length here, but the system is comprehensive and remember, it’s there for your protection and you will be expected to react as instructed.
Bear in mind that track driving increases fuel consumption and heats up brakes and tyres rapidly – so drive accordingly. The car must be in safe and sound condition and asking your garage to give it a simple MOT test will very cheaply identify any obvious weaknesses. We see very little accident damage on track days, but rather too many breakdowns due to poor or non preparation prior to what can be a very long day covering many miles at higher than usual speeds. At the very least look and think about your tyres, brakes and suspension. You are totally responsible for the condition of your car and you will have signed an indemnity form to this effect which also covers your own suitability. Most importantly this is about you enjoying your day without problems. Another simple and sensible precaution is an oil and filter change a day or two beforehand. Simple things like checking your oil and coolant levels often and that your battery is firmly fixed, checking wheel bolt tightness before and during the day, removing hub caps and wheel trims are easy to do.
The above points are based on long experience of some of the problems seen too often on track days, so heed the advice and have a relaxed and enjoyable day.
Finally any questions you have about procedures, do ask the staff or officials on the day as they have done many hundreds of track days and like you, they want safe, stress-free and happy track days so that you will return again and again to enjoy what is an enormously rewarding and addictive hobby.
John Norrington Experience
- 10+ years hands on teaching experience
- c.5,000 pupils to date
- Race licence holder over 40 years
- ARDS GRADE A Instructor
- MSA Level 2 Coach
- APDI member
- IAM member
- RoSPA member
- SDSA certified
- Pro Driver. Worked with many manufacturers/dealers, staff and customers on road and track driving, demonstrating and training.