So, you think you like driving huh?
Whether you own a Porsche or a Prius, driving on track is a fantastic experience and is actually pretty accessible. No you don’t need to own a Caterham 7, donate your right arm to an insurance company or buy MSA approved flame-resistant underwear. You do need a full UK driving licence (although there are some Junior driving experiences) and be happy wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs. Oh, and a helmet, which you can buy, borrow or hire.
Track days are set up with a limited number of cars on track at any time. This is great as there’s plenty of track to go around so you don’t have worry about what or how everyone else is driving. I found that most of time there were no cars even near me on the track. I blamed the shear power of my daily drive Fiesta, leaving everyone else in the dust. Probably.
There are lots of companies who will hire you an exciting car for the day, at a cost of course, but it’s much more fun upsetting the boy-racers by perfecting your racing line and out-cornering them in your Fiesta. Especially on your first track day.
You don’t need to have specific track insurance to drive your car on track. Your normal road policy will not cover you so if you do end up damaging your car, you can’t claim from your normal insurance. You can buy track day insurance, again at a cost. Personally, we never have.
As a newbie to track days, I let @motoant999 organise it all. He booked us on to an open pit lane track day at Bedford Autodrome. Open pit lane means you do as many or as few laps as you like and stop when you want to. He also recommends Bedford for beginners as it’s a good track with lots of nice soft grass, you know, just in case you do spin.
There are a few bits of prep we would recommend prior to the day:
- You’ll need your driving licence and a “check code” from the DVLA – this replaces the old driving licence counterpart. Get it here: https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence.
- Arrive in plenty of time for safety brief. Not only do you have to attend the safety brief before you’ll be allowed on track, but it is usually interesting and informative – especially for newbies. They discuss the meanings of the coloured flags, track etiquette and of course, safety. But they want you to have fun just as much as you do.
- Prepare your car. If you are taking your own vehicle on track, be mindful of the effects this will have. We always end up changing the oil, checking brake pads and tyres.
- Fuel. The majority of tracks have fuel stations on site, however fuel there tends to be very expensive so perhaps research the nearest external fuel station to visit before the days starts, and maybe again at lunchtime if necessary.
- Noise limits. As with all things motorsport, there is a huge amount of pressure on tracks to keep noise to the minimum as to not upset the locals. Personally if i lived next door to a race track I would be extremely disappointed if I couldn’t hear turbos, V8s and such like… Anyways, we’ve never been over noise limits, even with modified exhausts.
I was pretty nervous before my first track day. I’m not sure why, it wasn’t the fear of damaging myself or the car, because that’s fairly unlikely and I wasn’t bothered by what everyone else was driving, because it’s largely irrelevant. But still, nervous.
As it turned out I really didn’t have anything to be nervous about. My fiesta performed as expected, and I surprised myself by being able to catch up with my brother. I did have the advantage of my passenger being wannabe track-day-hero and all round Mr “Race-Craft” @motoant999 telling me it’s “all about the lines”. After a few laps I realised what he was talking about. The cones, which someone had left lying around on the track, actually show you how to position the car to get through the bends faster. Instantly faster laps.
I did have to re-adjust my thought process a little as I found myself just cruising down the straights with @motoant999 utterly perplexed as to why I wasn’t going flat out. Obviously I knew there was no speed limit, but years of road driving has trained me that hammering flat out in a straight line is a slightly boring way to lose your driving licence. It took a few laps to brake this habit and learn to push the Fiesta toward it’s top speed.
Driving on track not only lets you prove to your mates just how much natural talent you have, as you really can drive as fast as you want to. The laws of physics permitting. The experience also gives you the opportunity to become a better, safer driver as you can push the limits and learn how to control the vehicle if things do get out of shape. Learning how to control a skidding car is much safer and stress-free on track, compared to on the road when someone has pulled out in-front of you.
All in all, if you enjoy driving you should give the track a try – it’s not that scary and it’s pretty straight forward to get out there. If you’re not sure about spending the money on a whole day, perhaps try a taster session offered in evenings or at car shows such as Japfest or Trax. If you’ve got more questions about track days, the company running the day will provide comprehensive information about their days. We tend to use Javelin, but there are lots of companies. Get booking.
Thanks to CMatthews Photographer