The Mustang Forum for Track & Racing Enthusiasts

Taking your Mustang to an open track/HPDE event for the first time? Do you race competitively? This forum is for you! Log in to remove most ads.

  • Welcome to the Ford Mustang forum built for owners of the Mustang GT350, BOSS 302, GT500, and all other S550, S197, SN95, Fox Body and older Mustangs set up for open track days, road racing, and/or autocross. Join our forum, interact with others, share your build, and help us strengthen this community!

How to Prepare for your First Track Day

A how - to article from my Blog www.trackdayenthusiast.com. Hope you all enjoy reading.

Beginners Guide Part 1​

Written By Nick Stone

Browsing the internet, scrolling through social media, or talking with friends you first hear the words High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) or Track Day. You stop scrolling, click on the post, or ask your friend, “What’s that?”. In that moment you discover you can drive YOUR car on a professional race track! No pace car, no parade laps, no fun runs… you can drive on track, at speed. Your next questions will most likely be, “Where do I sign up?” and “How much does it cost?”.
This article is designed to walk a beginner through how to prepare and what to expect. There are lots of books, articles, videos, and dedicated instructors out there that can teach you how to drive the track. I’ll save that for the instructors & pro coaches. Let’s just relax for the next few minutes and focus on getting to the track for the first time…prepared.

Registration: Getting excited to hear you can drive your car on a real race track most likely means you know a thing or two about tracks. If you are like me you’ve already spent more time then you would like to admit day dreaming about being on track, and that dream most likely involved an actual track. So, visit hpdejunkie.com and search for your favorite (or local) track. This site provides a wealth of information on track events all over the country. You can customize searches and narrow down events that work for your location and schedule. Once you decide on an event, many track day organizations use clubregistration.net; however, visiting their site will easily guide you to register for the event of your choice. Tip: Popular events can sell out fast so plan ahead, find out when they are opening registration, save your money, and be ready with your credit/debit card. Not all events sell out but registering early will ensure you a spot in the Novice group. Speaking of Novice, you will have a choice of groups based on your experience, skill, and comfort level. Even if you are a natural talent and can drive anything… if it’s your first time, choose Novice! Good instructors will not just teach you driving techniques, proper lines, braking, apex… they’ll also teach you proper etiquette, passing rules, situational awareness, etc. Wait, I said I’d save the technical stuff for the instructors, but I think you get the point… register for Novice!

Insurance: Most, if not all, auto insurance policies do not cover HPDE/Track Days. However, a quick Google search will lead you to several options for on-track coverage. I use OnTrackInsurance.com, however spend some time finding the insurance company that is best for you; most offer agreed values with a 10-15% deductible. You can make the decision as to whether this is right for you based on your car and financial situation. However, I thought it was very important to mention insurance in this article as some may not be aware that your regular auto policy will not cover HPDE.

Car: Prepping your car could take up an entire book of advice, but I’m going to focus on a first-time participant using their daily driver or street car here. First, be comfortable and confident with the car you have and don’t worry about, “Will it measure up?”. Let me side track for a quick story: many years ago, I was at Road Atlanta for a track day. A full-size semi with an enclosed trailer, painted in Ferrari Livery, pulls into the paddock. After the semi parks we hear the sound of a helicopter! The helicopter lands at the far end of the paddock and out walks the owner of 2 factory prepped Ferrari 355 race cars (Ferrari 355… remember this was many years ago)! I was there with a group of friends with Datsun 240Zs. Don’t get me wrong, the 240Z is one of my all time favorite cars, but wow, this Ferrari guy made our Datsun’s, folding chairs, and Igloo coolers look… well, you get the point. The Ferrari owner couldn’t have been any nicer though. While we were checking out his setup, he was even more excited about the 240Zs. He socialized with our group for most of the day until it was time for his helicopter ride home. Moral of the story: car guys and ladies are some of the nicest and down-to-earth people you will ever meet. Actually, the people are what make this such an amazing hobby.
Back to prepping your car. I would like to offer a few simple steps for a first time participant; either Do-It-Yourself (DIY) or hire a mechanic/shop depending on your technical abilities.
  1. Do a complete inspection of your car following the tech form checklist of the event host. The form will be in the welcome packet (email) and will most likely be available on the site where you register.
  2. Make sure your tires are 50% or greater tread life and NO more than 5 years old. Preferably a performance or summer tire (320 tread wear or less), however this is not required. No need to spend a ton of money on wheels and tires for your first event. Just make sure they are safe and have enough life left for a track day.
  3. Flush and bleed your brakes/system with a high temp racing brake fluid (RBF 600). This will protect you against brake fade. In addition, your brake pads must have a minimum of 50% life remaining.
  4. Change the oil and filter with a synthetic oil that meets your car’s specifications (you may want to run a higher weight oil depending on temperatures).
  5. Change the transmission and differential fluid based on your car’s specifications.
That’s it for your first event. These steps will make sure your car is safe and the fresh fluids will help protect the major components.

Clothes: Check with your event host as long sleeves and pants may or may not be required. Aside from this you will see everything from jeans and t-shirts to full race suits. For your first event, simply wear something that is appropriate for the weather and comfortable. Once you become addicted to the hobby, like the rest of us, you can explore many options for clothing/driving suits.

What to bring: Here’s the checklist I use for every track day. This will cover the basics and you can refine it based on your experience/needs.
  • Tech Inspection Form
  • USB Apple Cable
  • Paper Towels
  • Car Numbers (or blue tape)
  • Torque Wrench & Socket for Lug Nuts
  • Wet Wipes
  • Helmet
  • HANS Device
  • Hat
  • Oil (1 bottle)
  • Sunscreen
  • Harness
  • Brake Fluid (1 bottle)
  • Jacket (depending on weather)
  • Phone Mount (video/lap timer)
  • Tire Gauge
  • Driving Gloves
  • OBD II Scanner
  • Micro Fiber Towels
  • Drivers License/Wallet
  • Chair
  • Cooler
  • Food
  • Glasses/Sunglasses
  • Water
  • Windex
Day of event: Make sure you read every word of the welcome packet (this will arrive in your email around one week prior to the event). The night before, try and get good sleep; this may be hard because you will be excited but make every effort to get some sleep! Wake up early and give yourself plenty of time to get to the track. Stop for fuel on your way; you will be amazed how fast you burn gas while on track! When you finally arrive at the track you will sign track waivers somewhere near the track entrance; don’t worry, signs will point the way. Next, make your way to the paddock and find an open area to park. Paddocks are not like parking lots with nice and neat spaces, it is typically a big open pad. Just find a nice spot. Once parked, say hi to the folks next to you and unload ALL loose items from your car. If the event host requires a tech inspection, drive your car to the tech area (bring your tech form) and follow the instructions of the person inspecting your car; this is typically very informal and only takes a few minutes. Once you receive your tech sticker, drive back to your paddock spot and park. Take your completed tech form to registration and check in. Here you will receive a wrist band for your run group (Novice) and a schedule for the day. Note: this process will vary based on the host. There may be no tech inspection required and you may register prior to tech, but this gives you a good idea of the process. After registering, you will most likely have some time before the drivers’ meeting. This is a good opportunity to finish any car prep and set up your paddock space (chair, cooler, etc.). Remember to say hi to others, check out their cars, ask questions, and get to know folks.

Drivers’ meeting: Drivers meeting will be on your schedule and before any cars enter the track. Walk over to the meeting and be ready to listen (location will be announced or just follow the crowd). These meetings are typically about 30 minutes and provide really important information such as: passing rules, entering/exiting the track, corner workers, flags, safety, etc. Again informal, nothing to worry about, just listen and ask questions either during the meeting or to your instructor.

Instructor: After the drivers’ meeting the Novice group will be asked to stay in the meeting area. During this time, you will be introduced to your instructor (again this process may vary based on host). From this point forward just follow your instructor’s lead, listen, ask questions, be respectful (remember they are getting into a stranger’s car on a race track), and don’t worry about lap times or “going fast”.

Get ready to have one amazing experience!! You are going to love this sport.

Happy Tracking,

Nick Stone
(nick20gtpp)
 
Last edited:

Dave_W

Cones - not just for ice cream
355
343
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
20+ Years
Connecticut
Great info, Nick. Do people still recommend cotton clothing for HPDE, or with the advent of "technical" synthetics has driver cooling/comfort balanced the downside of melting in fire?

Also, the 21mm socket may be appropriate for most Mustangs, but a generic "socket for your lug nuts" is probably a better phrasing for your blog. You could even add, "especially if you have spline-drive / tuner lug nuts." Actually, combining the torque wrench and socket for lug nuts as one item may make the intended use more clear.
 
115
76
Exp. Type
HPDE
Exp. Level
5-10 Years
Atlanta, GA
Great info, Nick. Do people still recommend cotton clothing for HPDE, or with the advent of "technical" synthetics has driver cooling/comfort balanced the downside of melting in fire?

Also, the 21mm socket may be appropriate for most Mustangs, but a generic "socket for your lug nuts" is probably a better phrasing for your blog. You could even add, "especially if you have spline-drive / tuner lug nuts." Actually, combining the torque wrench and socket for lug nuts as one item may make the intended use more clear.
Hi Dave -
Thanks for reading and the feedback! I changed the post to read “Torque Wrench & Socket for Lug Nuts” definitley makes more sense to specify the purpose of the socket.

I thought about the same with the clothing, however I decided to leave the article generic after doing research on different athletic style materials. Advancements in technology seem to eliminate some of the melting hazards while providing breathable and cooling benefits.

Thanks again for the feedback, very much appreciated!
 

TMO Supporting Vendors

Top