273 | How to Make the Most out of a Track Day
Its often that drivers will take their cars to a track day or test day, to learn new tracks or dial in their setups, but many of them will come back from the track feeling like they haven’t accomplished anything, or feel as if they spent too much time working on one aspect of the car, when really they should have been concentrating on something else. In this webinar, you will learn how to prep for a track day, and how to make the most out of your sessions.
- Hey guys it's Matt from RaceCraft here and today we're going to be going through another one of our webinars on how to make the most out of a track day. Now I should probably just elaborate what a track day is in case you are unaware. A track day is essentially a day when you're allowed to take your own road car or purpose built racecar to a racetrack and take it around for some laps. Now these days are usually pretty structured, there are a couple of different types of track days that you should probably be aware of and the way they structure track days can affect how much time you actually get on track and can affect the cost. So knowing that from the start is pretty important.
Those main types of track days can be a sessioned track day and that effectively is a sessioned race day where you get 15 minute sessions or 20 minute sessions or 30 minute sessions and it really depends on how many cars are at that track event and really the variance in power between those cars. Normally they wouldn't stick a LMP racecar next to a classic Mini going around the track at the same time, obviously very dangerous. Today's webinar, we will take about 45 minutes going through a couple of topics that you can use to help you better prepare for track days and really how to get the most away from them. As always, webinars are filmed live and you can get involved with our webinar through the chat and if you have any questions throughout today's webinar, feel free to ask them and we will be having a Q&A at the end of today's lesson. So yeah like I touched on, track days are incredibly useful tools if you are trying to better yourself as a driver, if you're trying to work on your car, get a bit more performance out of your car, it's probably the best way you're actually going to be able to see those results and feel those results.
There are lots of ways of getting involved in track days, some motorsport clubs will offer specific track days if you're part of a car owner's club. Again then those kind of clubs will be hosting track days. And they can be pretty expensive so really when it comes to making the most out of these days, that is going to be your prime objective. In the U.K., track days can vary in cost, from anywhere between maybe £150 to £250 pounds, in New Zealand dollars that works out about $400 -$500. And if you put that in comparison to other sports it really is quite expensive for what you get, a day playing golf for example is not going to cost you anywhere near as much as a track day would.
So therefore we need to have some sort of structure and we need to come away from that track day feeling like we've achieved something. So first off I'm going to show you a little clip from my own racing. If you watched our previous webinar on how to drive in the wet, this is from my own driving in the U.K. And if we just jump across to my laptop screen. Here we've got a clip from a test day session in my Mazda MX5.
This is a one make series, this is actually the last session of the test day. And it's at a track called Cadwell Park, you can see it up in this corner here. Now Cadwell Park is described as the British Nurburgring. Very twisty, lots of very blind corners, lots of crests and undulations. And it's a real driver's circuit.
Now what we're going to see here is I'm, if it'll play. So coming onto the back straight, I'm catching up a back marker, I know I'm going to pass this guy into this next corner, fast, straight, fast back straight, into a right hand bend and as I'm passing him, lose my brakes and go straight off the track and end up hitting the wall pretty hard. As you can see, pretty frustrated. So what happened here, if we just go back a few steps. So it's the end of the day, I'm feeling pretty confident in the car, I feel like I learned the track quite well.
I've also found out that my actual lap times for the day were the fastest so I was feeling pretty good. Last track session, I've maybe done one or two laps and now if we just pay attention to my foot positions up here. So coming into a heavy braking zone, I'm on the brake pedal, foot's in the middle, this is the throttle. On the brake hard and as I've passed this car on the left, I've had I guess a momentary lapse in concentration and my braking foot pedal has actually lifted up and my foot has slipped underneath the pedal. In a bit of a panic, I eventually managed to get my foot back onto the pedal.
By then it's just far too late, go straight on and hit the wall pretty hard. I actually hit the wall hard enough for the engine to snap its engine mounts and the engine was actually on its side in the engine bay. But amazingly I actually managed to drive it back to the pits where I was met by a rather upset Dad who we'd spent all day refining the car, getting the settings in for me to basically whack the front wheels and smash everything out of alignment. Which, you know, not ideal. So this really was an example of what not to do on your track days.
It's actually quite a common thing that you'll find that on a track day or a test day, you'll get into a bit of a rhythm at the start of your day, maybe your second or third session of the day will be your fastest and then in your last sessions or your evening sessions, you're going to realise that you're over pushing or over driving the car to try and reach those times you got in the morning. And this is completely normal, this is just what happens on track days but there are ways we can go about out day to kind of help refine that a little bit and make us make less mistakes. So there are a few things we can do to prep for a track day and when you're prepping for the day, you want to make sure you're doing this the day before you're leaving to go to the circuit. The reason for this is all your prep you will do, you want that to be fresh in your mind as late as possible to the day you're actually going to be testing. This is just going to help you remember things, it's going to keep everything on edge and it's also going to keep you mentally ready for that day.
So there are a few things we can do to help that, the first thing is if you, let's say are going on your first ever track day, what really helps and I know they are quite expensive but what really does help is a good set of racing gloves and a good set of racing boots. Most circuits will offer these for you for track days that will most likely be free for you to use for the day but there is actually a big advantage to using your own equipment, mainly because wearing a helmet or wearing gloves that are soaked in somebody else's sweat, firstly isn't very comfortable and secondly is going to be more of a distraction for you out on track. And when we're on the circuit, we want to reduce the amount of distractions as much as possible. So yeah my first suggestion would be make sure you invest in your own gloves and boots. The reason we want gloves and boots over say something like a helmet or a race suit, firstly is the cost, boots and gloves are much cheaper than a race helmet or race suit.
And secondly they're the parts of your body that are going to be feeling the inputs. So obviously your hands are on the steering wheel, you want a nice soft glove that's going to help you grip the wheel better. And again with racing boots, racing shoes in case you didn't know are actually designed to be very thin in width and this helps you from avoiding your feet hitting each other when transitioning through the pedals. Also the sole of a racing boot is very thin and this is going to give you much better pedal feel and will help you realise how much pressure you're putting on the pedal at any given moment. So that's your clothing, the next thing you're going to want to do is maybe try and learn the track.
So there are a couple of ways of doing this. Again in my previous webinar on driving in the wet I touched up on this briefly. There are two real ways we can go about learning the track quickly and easily at home. The first one would be to try and find some onboard footage on either YouTube or a motorsport website and that's going to really help give you a clear idea of what corners to expect and what kind of braking zones we're going to be, how much speed we're going to be travelling. But there are some ways that we need to be careful when trying to pick what YouTube video to watch.
So obviously if you're watching an onboard clip of let's say an LMP1 car around the track and you're driving a Honda Civic. Obviously the lines, everything is going to be completely different. The braking zones will be different, the speed carried will be different and that kind of video is not going to be particularly helpful. So when picking a video to watch, if you can find one of somebody in a car that's relatively similar to yours, that's really going to help you work out your braking points and work out how much speed you're going to be able to carry around the track. The idea with watching a video like that is that you want to be able to imagine a lap in your head with your eyes closed before being able to get to the circuit and before ever having driven any laps.
Having this visualisation and this prep is just going to make you feel a lot more comfortable out on circuit, nothing's going to take you by surprose and having that visualisation is just going to make everything that much easier and that much quicker to get up to speed. Another thing we can do alongside watching YouTube videos is actually playing a Playstation game or a simulator. So again with these you need to be a little bit careful because even if you can match the track perfectly on the sim, you can match the car perfectly on the sim, on a simulator itself it's a lot easier to push those limits because as you know if you go off the track, you hit reset and everything starts over. Obviously very different in real life, we don't have that luxury. So getting up to speed on a simulator is a lot easier.
Therefore things like braking points, turn in speeds, all those kind of things in a simulator will probably be a lot faster than in real life and you need to just bear that in mind when you first take your steps out onto track. The last piece of prep that you need to be doing is making sure that your car is completely ready for that track day. Now if you are taking a, it doesn't matter if you are taking a road car or a racecar, there are a certain amount of checks you need to be doing before your track day to ensure that your track is firstly safe but secondly going to be fun to drive and you're not going to wear out any parts excessively. By that I mean things like tyres. So you need to check that your tyre pressures are going to be running at a good pressure.
So therefore it's smart to take a pressure gauge with you. Also along with that pressure gauge you want to take a tyre pump and you want to check that your tyres have enough tread on them because you will be surprised at how quickly you burn through a set of tyres on a hot track day. Alongside things like that you want to be checking that all your fluids under the bonnet are topped up, you're going to want to check that you have brake pads left, 'cause again that's one of those things you will be just surprised at how quickly you can burn through a set of brake pads. Again, you want to be making sure you arrive at the circuit with a full tank of fuel if you're using a road car. If you're using a racecar, taking spare fuel with you obviously is going to be essential if you're doing high lap runs.
So all of these things are things you need to consider with your car. As well checking things like alignment and just doing a general spanner and bolt check is probably advisable. So we've got our track day booked, the car's ready, you're ready as a driver, we turn up at our track day, where do we start? So normally on a track day, they will have what's called a driver's briefing. This will be first thing in the morning before you go out on track and essentially all the drivers who are signed up for the day will all get together for a meeting and normally an official at the racetrack will give you a run down of some of the circuit specific rules. Now there is a flag system in motorsport which I'm sure you're aware of.
This is the same at most tracks however on track days these can vary sometimes and that is track dependent also. An example of this would be on certain track days you can only overtake other cars on either the right hand or left hand side of the circuit. Likewise you're not allowed to do things like lunge people going into corners and normally you're not allowed to pass somebody until the car ahead has signalled to allow you by. Like I said, all of these rules are track specific so normally during that driver's briefing you will get a rundown of all the rules for that day. During that driver's briefing they'll probably also tell you about your sessions and how the day is going to run and those sessions are really crucial to how much time you're going to be spending on track.
Ideally you want to be doing to a track day that has what's called an open pit lane. And really an open pit lane is as the name suggests the pit lane is open, you can leave and join the track as many times as you want, you can stay out on circuit as much as you want and really a day like this is going to give you the most amount of track time possible. I've even heard of professional endurance racing teams going out on track on open pit lane test days and doing endurance style simulations where they'll actually be driving the car for maybe one or two hour stints flat out for the entire time. So knowing the structure of your test day is actually another part of that prep that I should have probably included. OK so we're at the track, we've had our driver's briefing, we're about to go on circuit, what are we going to do? I mean other than drive around the track and try not to crash, we need to try and have some sort of structure to it.
So my advice would be to try and set yourself three to five peformance based goals. Now these goals will come in two forms, either a driver based goal or a car based goal. So let's start with driver based goal. Now as the name suggests it's something that you want to try and set yourself as a driver, something you want to achieve throughout that day. Let's say you've been to the circuit before, you've been on the track day before at this track and you know you have problems with turn two.
So in your head you need to be setting a goal of right today I'm going to nail turn two, I'm going to work on my braking points, I'm going to work on my entry points, I'm going to work on mid corner speed, I'm going to try and dial in a little bit less understeer with my steering input, all of these things are points you need to consider. Then how that will work on track is you'll go out on track and you'll forget about the rest of the corners and focus purely on that one corner. The other type of goal we would like to be setting is a car based goal. Now what I mean by that is you want to work on maybe one point of car alignment or car settings and try and dial in that setting. So an example of this would be OK today on the track day I want to work out what my toe settings are doing.
So you'd go out for your warmup session, you'd set some lap times, you'd come back in and you'd say right I'm going to put the front toe out by two millimetres. You then go back out on track, set some lap times and review how you got on, was the car better, was the car worse, did we get understeer on entry to corner or mid corner? If the car got better, that doesn't mean that goal has been achieved. With a car goal we can constantly try to adjust it until we reach the optimum performance. So we've had our session, it's got better, we come into the pits, we go even more extreme toe out, we go out, the car still feels good, we bring it back in, we go even further out. Now the car's starting to feel worse off so what we do is we come back into the pits and we dial that back.
At that point it's fair to say you've reached the point where you've achieved that goal and we can start thinking about something else. So with these goals, you want to set them before the day starts and that will help you remember what your aims are for that day, writing them down definitely helps and you want to be tackling one goal at a time. The reason for this is, let's say we've got two car based goals, we want to adjust our camber and we want to adjust our toe. We go out for the first session, do our first warmup run, we come back in, we adjust out toe out and we put more camber on the front. We then go back out on track and all of a sudden the car has horrendous understeer.
We come back into the pits and now how do we know whether it was the camber settings or the toe settings? Well we don't really. And the idea here therefore would be we want to change just one thing at a time. And this is going to help you dial in your setup on your car. It will take a little bit longer but you're going to be much more thorough throughout the day. So we have our goals, we've prepped for the day and now how do we actually monitor our performance? So the best way to monitor performance and the easiest way to do it is to have a lap timer.
Now lap timing is the fundamental part of motorsport, it's how we measure how fast we're going and it's really the most important aspect you can monitor in regards to performance. There are lots of products out there at the moment. What we're going to do now is have a look at three of the top mobile apps. Now I should probably mention that some track days, especially in the U.K. can get a bit funny about lap timing.
The reason for this is that the idea was that lap timing would actually promote dangerous driving and it brings an element of competition to a track day that probably isn't favoured. That doesn't mean however that you're not allowed to record your lap times. However it's probably advised that you don't review your lap times whilst out on circuit because like I said this can promote dangerous driving or driving in a way that would promote you to be overtaking somebody unnecessarily or anything like that. But yes like I said, track day timing is allowed, you just need to make sure you review it in the pit lane, rather than out on circuit. So if we just jump over to my laptop screen, I'll run you through the top three apps that you can get on your phone that will allow you to record your lap times.
So the first one we have here is called Harry's LapTimer. Probably the most common app that I see out on the track, especially with track day users. Really I was quite amazed by actually how much data you can get on an app like this. So the app itself alone will have the ability to record your lap times, it will use the GPS off your phone to give you your speed readouts, it will even tell you a rough idea of G force. The app itself actually has the ability to pair with a number of external devices as well.
So you can link this to a camera so you could link this to a Go Pro or a SmartyCam. That will give you your camera or onboard video footage. You can also link this to an OBD2 reader so you can plug that into your car, it works through Bluetooth and it will give you all the CAN signals from your car and this willl give you things like throttle position, what gear you're in, your revs and even on some cars it can give things like brake position as well. And yeah really really good piece of kit. Now if you're going to be running your phone as a lap timer like this, you need to make sure that it's mounted securely in the car.
A lot of track days again will have rules on what you can mount to the car and how it can be mounted. So you need to check on those things. Normally a suction cup, almost like a Sat Nav style mounting would be OK. But obviously we don't want a loose fitting phone, we don't want a phone falling around the car, not ideal when we're out on track. Here is just a better image of what exactly Harry's LapTimer can do.
So we've got a track map, we've got our speed, G force, also gives you your throttle position, your gears and revs, even your fuel level. So really good piece of kit. Now the price of Harry's LapTimer, there are three different versions you can get, a novice, an advanced and a pro. And the novice version is $14 NZD, the intermediate version is $30 and the pro version is $42. So as apps go they're pretty expensive but in comparison to a data logger or a dedicated lap timer, the cost actually isn't that bad.
The next one we're going to look at is an app that was much more popular in the U.K. It was called the RaceChrono. Almost identical to Harry's LapTimer, does exactly the same things, has the ability to connect to your car via an OBD. Will also give you your GPS layout, will give you lap times, all of the usual stuff. In my opinion Harry's LapTimer is slightly more friendly to use.
But the RaceChrono is slightly cheaper than the pro version of Harry's LapTimer, it's $36. And then finally the last one we're going to look at is an app by HPTuners which actually has no relation to our sister company HP Academy despite the name being very very similar. This app's called Track Addict and again lots of good features, will give you the ability to have a video overlay and this app is actually free. So if you're not really interested in investing your money into a lap timing app, then this is going to give you almost what they can give you but for free and it's going to give you a taster as to what kind of things you are able to read from the car. And like I said, lap timing is crucial to monitoring your performance on track.
So yeah those are three lap timer apps that you can buy. There are other ways of lap timing, I mentioned very briefly that you can get a datalogger for your car or a dedicated lap timer. There are plenty out on the market, they do tend to be quite expensive. We actually will be releasing a course on RaceCraft very soon on data analysis and dataloggers and exactly how to use them and which ones you could be looking at. So if you would be interested in that then stay tuned to RaceCraft.
Another way we can improve our day, our structure to our day would be the use through a driver coach, being with you at the race circuit. Now driver coaches can be very expensive but in my opinion, they are pretty good, they are worthwhile. But like I said you need that upfront cash. Now what a driver coach will be able to do is they will spend the entire day with you at your track day, at your test day, they will be able to sit in the passenger seat and normally driver coaches are pretty well experienced in the world of motorsport, I've done a fair bit of driver coaching myself back in the U.K. And what they'll be able to do is they'll be able to sit in the passenger seat, they'll go out on track with you and they'll be able to give you a live instruction on exactly where you're going wrong, where you need to be turning in, where you should be braking and also they'll be able to read the car much better.
So if it's your first track day or your first test day, a seasoned professional, a driver coach is going to be able to know exactly how your car's feeling, he'll be able to spot if there's something significantly wrong and that's something that you're going to be able to get feedback for much quicker than you would if you were just driving out on your own. Some driver coaches, not all of them, will also be able to take your car out for a drive themselves and this can be useful because it allows them to set a benchmark lap time. I know from personal experience that it is incredibly annoying when you've been driving around a track all day, you're feeling extremely confident, you're feeling great, the car feels great, you've set some really quick lap times and then a driver coach jumps into the car and goes a second of a lap quicker. It's incredibly frustrating but it is an incredibly useful tool to be able to get that feedback from that driver and realise that there is more potential from your car and there is more potential from your own driving. Really you would never get that kind of feedback without somebody else jumping into the car and doing that for you.
Once we've done our track sessions, we've gone out, we've come back into the pits, that time back in the pits is our time to reflect and our time to make changes on that session. So we need to be utilising our time off track just as much as we are utilising our time on track. So in that time back in the pits, we need to be working out what the car was doing, whether the car was handling well and then make the appropriate changes. It's really that downtime, well firstly it's going to give you a rest from driving and it's going to give you a good time to reflect. If you've got onboard video, watching that back can be incredibly useful.
Making use of all your time throughout the track day is what's going to be the most important thing for you. That's about it for today's webinar on track days. Like always if there's anything I've said that maybe I didn't explain particularly well or you want me to explain something a little bit further, then drop those questions in the chat at the team will fire those through to me. So from today's webinar, if there is one thing you need to take away, it would be this. I have always used a five step prep for track days and how that breaks down is like this.
The first thing is that you need to know the format for your track day. So knowing this before you are actually at the circuit will be extremely helpful, whether it's a sessioned track day or a open pit lane track day, knowing that beforehand is going to help you stretch your day much better. The second thing is is the car ready and are you ready? So back to what I started with, prepping the car, making sure you're taking things like pressure gauges, tyre pumps, extra fuel, all those kind of things, they need to be ready the day before your test day so that when it comes to the actual day, you're not rushing around trying to find spare parts or trying to find bits that you will need throughout your day. Number three would be that have you set your goals and targets for that day? And like I said, three to five targets is something that you should aim for. Any more than that you'll find that it's just too much to think about on track, you'll be worrying about too many different things and you won't be focusing on any of your goals and you'll probably find you won't actually achieve any of them.
So keep that number down to three to five and aim for those goals. The next thing would be, number four, would be to make sure that you've learned the track, whether that's through a simulation game or whether that's through watching videos and a good way to know if you've learned that track is if you can close your eyes, picture it in your head and visualise that entire lap. If you can do that then you've already got off to a good start. And the final thing for track day preparation is understanding that your time throughout your day is key. You want to make sure you're managing your time well, you're out on track for not too long, not too little, you're working towards those goals and you're coming away from that day feeling like you've achieved something and feeling like you have had a worthwhile time and that all that money you've spent has been put to good use.
So that is it for today's webinar. Now we will jump over to the questions and answers. So got a question from Adam who has said, are racing gloves OK on normal road car steering wheels that aren't suede? They've always felt slippery to me. I would still go with racing gloves nonetheless. Normally racing gloves, a good pair will have a rubbered line across your fingers and across the palm of your hand.
Older gloves in particular never used to have that soft rubber and when you're picking gloves, that's what you want to be having and that should be OK against a hard steering wheel or a leather steering wheel compared to a suede fabric one. A question from Garrett who has asked, if we're concentrating on one section of the track, have you got some tips on how to try and push a little further without going too far? So really if we look at this like pushing a car too hard would mean you're leaving the track or you're spinning off the track or crashing the car. Getting to that point is quite difficult and we need to be progressive when we're out on track so by that I mean every lap we need to be braking a little bit later, a little bit later, a little bit later or carrying a little bit more speed and it needs to be progressive throughout the day. Going back to what I said earlier, your lap times are going to be your true tell of whether what you're going on track is actually getting better or whether you're going backwards. So monitoring those lap times is going to be your key way.
Another good sign that maybe you're pushing too hard would be that you're locking the brakes, maybe the back end of the car is stepping out or you're going into slides too often, basically any time that you're on circuit and you feel like you're out of control, that's usually a good sign that maybe you're pushing a bit too hard. A question from Mr 32i, how do you go about like the pro race teams regarding simulations? So the world of simulation has come on massively in the last 10 years. The pro teams, the high end motorsport teams and the high end drivers, will be investing all their off season time into professional simulators. Now these simulator facilities, and there are some dotted about, are extremely expensive, extremely expensive. So to put this into perspective, at Silverstone in the U.K., they have a dedicated simulator area there and I looked at going for my own interest to do a day of driver training and I believe the starting cost for that day was £1500.
Which works out about $3000 NZD. Really for that kind of money, if you're doing one or two or three sessions at this simulator place, you could actually probably just buy your own car and drive around the track for cheaper. So these professional simulators, whilst they are incredibly accurate and incredibly detailed, probably for the average enthusiast, not going to be something that you want to be spending your money on. You would probably be better off buying something like a home setup and playing a game such as Assetto Corsa's very good, R Factor on the PC is very good, iRacing as well. Those kind of things are going to be a better investment for you I think.
A question from Steven who has said, what race boots do you recommend for a relatively experienced driver? So it really depends on how much money you want to spend. There are lots of different style of boots and they kind of, the more expensive they get the lighter they get. Now if you're racing in something where weight is an absolute factor, you want to be shedding as much weight as possible, then going for the more expensive versions of boot will have, they won't have laces for example, they'll either have a cable to, like an adjustable cable that tightens or releases them, or a velcro. Really, personally I don't see much difference between a boot that costs maybe $150 to a boot that costs $300. Anything above that is where you're going to start maybe seeing very small amounts of difference but really they're all going to be comfortable.
I'd say try and avoid a show with a lace only because shoelaces, I know this sounds a bit silly but shoelaces are just another thing to go wrong. And it's another thing you have to think about when getting ready to get in the car. Also, I have heard it happen in karting before, actually a shoelace getting caught on the pedal, on the throttle pedal and when the driver tried to get out of the car, their foot got stuck and the car accelerated forwards and ran everyone over in the pit lane, I have heard that happening before. But yeah like I said, there's not a massive difference between the sort of mid range boots, they're all about the same and really it's just picking that you like the look of. I think that brings us to the end of today's questions.
Thank you very much for watching, this has been today's webinar. If there have been any questions or if you have any questions that maybe you weren't able to ask in our chat, then feel free to enter them into our forum in the webinars section and I will be happy to answer those at a later date. Cheers, thanks.