HPDE, Drivers Ed, and Track Day Guide

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At some point, any serious sports car enthusiast needs to attend an HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) or track day event. These events will give you a chance to improve your driving skills, and truly test your cars limits, in a controlled and safe environment.


EQUIPMENT GUIDE FOR HPDE's AND TRACK DAYS
High speed driving events can be dangerous, plain and simple. This is serious stuff, and a big change if you normally spend your Sundays running through a maze of orange cones at an autocross. Safety should be at the top of your list when preparing yourself and your car for a driving school or track event. Here are a few safety items you might want to consider...
 
Race Helmet   Helmet: A Snell SA Rated Helmet is probably the most important piece of safety equipment you can have. For driving schools and track events, we recommend that you get a quality full-face SA Rated helmet like one of the following:
Pyrotect Pro Airflow
HJC AR-10 II
RCi SA Full Face
G Force Pro Eliminator
 
HPDE Package Deal   HPDE and Track Day Package: If you are getting ready to start attending HPDE's, driving schools, or track events, we have the perfect package deal to start out with. It includes your choice of a quality full face helmet, a pair of gloves, and a tire gauge.
 
CG-Lock - Performance Seat Belt Add-On: If you aren't quite ready to spend $150 on a racing harness belt, then a CG-Lock might just be what you're looking for. It clamps to the tongue of your daily driver's existing 3-point, factory installed seat belt, and once installed, pulling up on the shoulder belt tightens the lap belt portion "racing harness tight" - keeping it as tight as you want until you release it. The CG-Lock lets you keep your feet and hands light on the pedals and wheel resulting in better control, faster reactions, and less fatigue.
 
GoPro HD Motorsports Camera: If you want to improve your driving, try using a GoPro Motorsports Camera to record a few of your laps, and then review it later to see what you were doing right and wrong. If you have your laptop at the track, you can even transfer the video between on-track sessions, and review it then.
 
Contoured Neck Collar: A contoured neck collar like this one from Pyrotect is a good idea for high speed events. We find that a padded neck collar will force you to keep your head up straight, which provides for better vision out of the car.
 
Other things consider:
  • Driving gloves and driving shoes
  • Driving suit
  • Race seat
  • Harness belts
  • On-board fire extinguisher
  • 4 point rollbar or full 6 point cage
  •  

    WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOUR FIRST DRIVING SCHOOL/TRACK EVENT

    Research
    You can never know too much. Study this track guide as much as possible and also review the websites listed at the bottom of this page. See our recommended reading list at the bottom of this page as well, there are many good books out their that will help make you a better driver.

    Pre-Register
    Most driving school or track events will require that you pre-register. Even if they don't, its probably a good idea to do so anyways. Most events put on by popular clubs or schools will fill up fast.

    Have your car inspected
    While autocross is relatively easy on your car, high speed driving on a road course for an extended period of time (some events are 2 days) can take its toll. You will probably need to prepare for this type of event a little more than you would an autocross, and it is probably a good idea to have your car inspected prior to the event. Most events require that you bring a completed tech inspection form to the event with you. If you are mechanically inclined, you can perform this inspection yourself, but it might not hurt to have a trained eye do it. Pay special attention to your brakes, wheels, tires, and suspension.

    Get your brakes ready for some abuse
    Brakes take quite a bit of abuse at a driving school or track event. Most drivers discover that the factory brake fluid will boil relatively easily. We recommend that you have your brake fluid replaced prior to venturing out on track for the first time. We like ATE Super Blue and Castrol LMA for street and track use. Motul 600 and Ford High Performance are even more track worthy. Its also not a bad idea to replace your factory brake pads with something a little more suited to track use. A good street/track pad is the Hawk HP Plus, Carbotech Bobcat, or Porterfield R4S. If these two pads aren't worthy, many racers will swap out their street pads at the track for something like Porterfield R4's or Hawk Blues. Keep in mind though, these two pads aren't suited for the street, and will wear your rotors faster.

    Get yourself some safety gear
    A helmet designed for auto racing (Snell SA rated) is your most important piece of safety equipment. We recommend a quality full face helmet - open face helmets are OK, but its a no-brainer that full-face helmets offer more coverage and protection. An often overlooked piece of equipment is the helmet support or neck collar. You might also want to consider some quality race gloves and race shoes which can make your on-track experience more pleasant. One other thing to consider is a racing harness belt. It is often debated on whether to use a harness belt in a car that does not have rollover protection like a rollbar/cage. We leave it up to the driver to decide, but a harness will hold you in the seat better than factory seat belts, and provide better car control since you will not be bracing yourself against the steering wheel, center console, and door during hard cornering. Check the rules for the organization you run with to make sure harnesses without rollover protection are legal. If you don't go with a harness belt, your factory seat belts will do a sufficient job of holding you in the seat.

    High Performance Street Tires
    While street tires generally grip less and less as they get hot, we still recommend that beginners and novices do track events on them, instead of R rated race rubber. The reason for this is that race tires tend to brake loose without warning, which can be dangerous for novices. The added grip can also mask bad driving habits. A street tire will be more forgiving and squeal a lot when you push it past its limits (whereas a race tire will just break lose). Do your first few driving schools on a good set of high performance street tires. Some of our favorites include:
  • Bridgestone RE-11
  • Dunlop Direzza Star Spec
  • Hankook Ventus R-S3
  • Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08

    Racing Tires
    If you think you are ready for R rated racing tires, we've had good luck with the Yokohama A048. They grip well and don't wear out as fast as some of the other R rated tires. Kumho and Hoosier R Rated race tires will also work well, and provide more grip, but they are slightly more expensive.

    Wheels
    While not absolutely necessary, you may want to consider an extra set of wheels and tires for track events. Your street tires will take a beating on the track, and you will see more wear than what you get from normal street driving. Just be sure you have a way to carry the wheels/tires back and forth to the track, unless you can drive there on them.

    Autocross!
    High speed driving events require excellent car control skills. In our opinion, the best way to acquire these skills is to autocross. By doing so, you will discover things about your car (and your driving skills) that you would never have a chance to on the street. Many top road racers honed their skills by autocrossing, you should too. Check out the SoloRacer.com Autocross Guide for more info.

    Find an event
    Check the links at the bottom of this page for a list of tracks and driving schools. You should also check your area for Porsche, BMW, Miata, etc clubs. They organize track events and driving schools that anyone can attend. Ask around at local autocrosses and you're sure to find other track enthusiasts who will be eager to help.


    WHAT HAPPENS AT A DRIVING SCHOOL/TRACK EVENT

    Car Prep
    When you get to the event site, get your car prepped for the upcoming tech inspection. Remove all the loose items from the interior and trunk. If you have hubcaps or lug nut covers on your wheels, remove them as well. This might be a good time to make sure your tire pressures are where you want them. If you are fortunate enough to be running race tires, get changed over to them ASAP.

    Registration
    You probably had to pre-register for a the event, but you still need to check in. You usually need to show a valid driver's license. You will also be asked to sign an insurance waiver.

    Tech Inspection
    Your car must pass a tech inspection before you can participate. They will check to make sure your car is safe by checking over various items on your car (tires, wheels, battery, brakes, etc). They will also require that any loose items in your car be removed (jack, floor mats, spare change, etc). Once completed, the tech inspector will sign your car off if you pass, or recommend changes to make the car pass.

    Drivers Meeting
    The drivers' meeting is mandatory for all drivers. The event chair will hold the meeting approximately one half hour before the event starts. Be sure to attend.

    Classroom Sessions
    Many track events and driving schools will hold classroom sessions in the morning. Usually these are mandatory for beginners and optional for more advanced drivers. Instructors will cover safety issues, go over driving techniques, and discuss the proper line around the race track.

    Running
    This is what you've been waiting for! Usually drivers will be grouped by skill level or car type. Most events will run 20-25 minute on-track sessions for each group. You will probably be out on track for about 4-6 of these sessions each day.



    A FEW OTHER TIPS

    Before the event:
  • Cover your headlights with racer tape (or duct tape) to prevent chipping from debris coming off other cars. Don't forget to take it off after the event!!
  • Wrap a narrow strip of tape around the top center of the steering wheel. In case of an oversteer situation, the tape will help you find the center of the wheel if you correct out of the spin.
  • Make sure your lugnuts are tightened to spec (but don't overtighten them)!
  • A bra or nosemask can protect the front of your car from debris on the track.
  • If your engine is cold, start your car and let it run for a few minutes before going out on track.

    During the event:
  • Talk to your instructor and try to get feedback on what you are doing right and wrong.
  • Don't use your parking brake when your brakes are still hot!
  • Keep an eye on your tire pressures. Check them after a session and add air or bleed them down as necessary.
  • If you're paranoid like me, you'll check your lugnuts again every so often to see if they are still tight!
  • In between sessions, pop your hood and let the engine cool.
  • Keep your windshield clean, we always clean ours during breaks.

    After the event:
  • Wash your car being careful to remove any debris you picked up on the track
  • Clean your wheels real well, the brake dust from your pads is corrosive and hard on wheels
  • After every track event, especially 2-3 day events, we change our oil. It can't hurt.


    Helpful Links

    Clubs and Organizations:
    Sports Car Club Of America (SCCA)
    National Auto Sport Association (NASA)
    Porsche Club Of America (PCA)
    BMW Car Club Of America (BMWCCA)

    HPDE's, Track Days, Driving Schools:
    Chin Motorsports
    Hooked On Driving
    Evolution Performance Driving Schools
    The Mid Ohio School
    Skip Barber
    Bob Bondurant
    Exotics Racing
    World Class Driving
    Car Guys
    Driving Dynamics
    Russel Racing
    BSR at Summit Point
    Track Time



    What to bring to an event
    Check out the SoloRacer.com Track Checklist (printable)








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