The technical inspection for a track day is a common sense review to assure us, the other drivers and yourself that your car is in proper working condition. In the event that you are unsure of your car’s condition, any good repair facility can help you determine if any work is necessary before a track event.
Car and Driver Magazine has recently published an excellent guide to preparing for a track day and it is highly recommended reading: How To: Go to a Track Day – Feature
Wheels and Tires:
There are only four small patches of rubber in actual contact with the track surface. Doesn’t it make good sense to have the best possible rubber on the road? Your tires should be in good condition with no cords or belts showing. The treads should not be down to the wear indicators.
Wheel covers, beauty rings and center caps should be removed so we have no flying guillotines flying about the track should they decide to part company with a wheel.
Suspension & Steering:
The steering should turn easily with no binding as you turn from lock to lock. There should be no excessive play in the shock or strut mounts, trailing arms, roll bars or other suspension pieces. Grab each wheel with the car elevated to make sure the wheels don’t move from to side indicating a loose wheel bearing. If you have loose suspension pick up points, worn suspension bushings or bad bearings, you car will not handle and drive properly.
There should be no leaks from the engine (or any other part of the car for that matter) allowing liquids to fall onto the track surface, endangering yourself and fellow drivers. Please make sure you car is not leaking. Make sure your battery is properly secured with a strap or harness and make sure the battery posts are covered. Not only will this prevent a battery from arching should it roll over and touch a metal surface, but a flying battery can be deadly. Keep in mind how much a battery weighs.
Brakes and Fluid:
Most non-car people ask “How fast does your (FILL IN CAR NAME) go?” My concern is how fast can it stop. Your brake system should be in good working order with no leaks. Brake lines are often made of rubber and rubber degrades over time. Make sure your brake lines have no cracks. A good set of DOT approved braided steel brake lines go a long way to pedal feel. Fluid should be new throughout the brake system. I’ve seen clean brake fluid in the reservoir only to help owners bleed the old fluid from the lines. A brake fluid flush is inexpensive and can save your life. Brake pads need to have at least 50% of life left. Like the tires, these are the only things truly stopping your car. Track specification pads and high temp brake fluid are not necessary but recommended. Talk to others with similar cars and track experience to determine what may work for your car. Brake lights need to be properly functioning as well.
Note: Loaner Helmets may be available – contact event organizers to confirm
How much is your head worth? A good helmet is an absolute must whether you intend to do just one track day or many. The current SCCA minimum helmet requirements are Snell M-95 or newer. You will not be allowed on track with a helmet not meeting these minimums.
While not absolutely required, an SA rated helmet is Nomex lined to keep you head from catching on fire if the car should go up in flames. Yes, an SA helmet is more expensive then an “M” helmet but it offers the added fire protection.
A fire resistant racing suit is not necessary but recommended. You must have long pants and long sleeve cotton clothing on while on track. This offers a modicum of protection in the event of a car fire. Like an SA2000 or newer helmet, the investment in a racing suit is initially a little high, but amortized over several years and track events becomes trivial. Closed toe shoes are necessary as well. Those with a rubber sole are a good choice to keep one’s feet from slipping off pedals. Of course good racing shoes are acceptable as well.
Ideally your car would be equipped with racing harnesses but they are not required. We do require your factory seat belts function properly. A seatbelt lock, like CG-Lock, to hold your seat belt snug is an inexpensive way to secure your driving position.
The Devil Is In The Details:
When it comes to safety at a track event, the more the merrier. Make sure all loose objects like floor mats, jacks, garage door openers, CDs, cassette tapes, etc. are removed from your car. A gym bag makes a nice addition to hold all this while you are on track.
Thoroughly clean your windows as the sun can be blinding and I’d prefer you not run into any other drivers including your’s truly. Clean windows allow you to see your turn in points better as well.
Check tire pressures before, during and after a track day. Most cars will need higher tire pressures then when driving on the street. Check you owners manual for any references to pressures and speak with other owners of similar cars with track experience. You can tweak there tire pressures throughout the event. The max inflation psi located on your tire is NOT the correct tire inflation psi.
After you come off the track from a session, let your car idle for a few minutes, possibly with the hood up, allowing the car to cool. Do not use your parking brake as the heat from the pads/rotors may warp your brake rotors. You may want to roll your car forward after a few minutes of cool down to let the rotor behind the pads cool down as well. This will limit the chances for a warped rotor.
What to bring to a PDX?
Many entrants find a check list of items is a good idea, so based on that here is a suggested list for you.
- Long Sleeved Shirt
- Long pants
- Full Shoes
- Helmet (Must be SCCA Solo Legal) in good condition (Loaner Helmets may be available)
- Drivers license
- SCCA card (or you will have to buy a temp membership)
- Sunglasses, Sunscreen, all weather needs
- Tire gauge
- Other car tools
- Food and water, the track you are visiting my not have provisions for this during your track day
- Appropriate clothing for possible weather changes (rain or cold)
- Waterproof storage bin or bag (To store the items that were in your car in the event of rain)