I prepared the following "HPDE Basics" information that I hope you all find helpful. I know we have many experienced members on the forum that may want to chime in. You will need to purchase a current SA2015 certified racing helmet (NO motorcycle helmets) along with wearing jeans, sneakers and a long sleeve shirt. Initial recommendations to prepare your Mustang for HPDE include: (1) Safety, (2) Braking and Cooling, (3) Suspension – you usually don't need more horsepower or need to spend large amounts of money as you get into this HPDE hobby. Seat time.. Seat time.. Seat time..
1. SAFETY: Ideally, you will eventually want to invest in a set of race seats, roll bar and set of 6-point harnesses. However, if you are just starting out OEM seat and belts are good enough. If you want to upgrade for a reasonable price - a harness bar with a set of 4-point Schroth Profi II ASM FE harness are a great option because they can be converted to a 5 or 6 point harness when you're ready to purchase race seats.
2. BRAKING and COOLING: Bleed the brake system with fresh DOT 4 fluid and use fresh synthetic motor oil. Front brake cooling ducts are highly recommended given the weight of our cars, and a set of stainless steel brake lines - these really work! If you're in HPDE 1 you can often stick with your OEM brake pads, and eventually as you gain experience and speed move up to Carbotech or Hawk race pads.
3. SUSPENSION: HPDE 1 and 2, really no need to touch your suspension till you get into HPDE 3+. It's preferred to learn valuable car control skills preferably on a good set of street tires. A wheel alignment and corner balancing makes a significant difference.
Here's a good TOP 25 "Basics" for HPDE/road racing - Enjoy!
1. In Slow / Out fast. If you start turning and the car keeps going straight (push/understeer) you are likely entering the turn too fast. In my experience, this slows down lap times more than anything.
2. Look ahead. The proper line is key for fast times. Looking ahead allows you to keep the car on the proper line. This may mean looking at the next turn before you are out of the current turn. Often requires looking out the side windows rather than just through the windshield.
3. Use the whole track. This goes with the proper line. In general, you want to make the turn as gradual as possible to allow for greater speed. However, stick to the clean line. Gravel and marbles will often accumulate the most off line and you will lose traction if you stray into it.
4. Whenever possible, ride with an experienced driver before your runs. Even better, co-drive your car with a good driver. This allows for great feedback on what your car can do for a particular course, and where you can pick up more time.
5. Try to get your hard braking done in a straight line and take a line that allows you to get the car straighter and on the gas earlier in the turn, particularly before a straight.
6. Unwind the wheel as you accelerate out of the turn. Getting on the throttle as you come out of the turn will generally cause the back end to step out (over-steer). Unwinding the wheel allows you to control the over-steer and generate more speed. Again, use the whole track.
7. Basic mechanicals. Full fuel, fresh brake fluid, at least 50% left on your brake pads, secure battery tie down. Make sure the engine oil is topped off (continuous running track courses, add 1/2 Qt. over full).
8. Tire pressures. Most newbie's start out with high pressures, mainly to save the sidewalls of the tires. After each run (each run because you'll be picking up speed on each run) check to see that you're not running onto the sidewalls. Wear on the corner of the tread is OK, but not past that.
9. Interior. Get everything out of the interior that can move. Floor mats, radar detectors, CDs, etc. You'll be braking and turning harder than you ever have before, and you won't believe the stuff that'll come out from under the seats.
10. Personal. WATER! And eat light. Especially if you get some runs with an instructor, it's easy to get a queasy stomach. Don't forget sunscreen.
11. Leave your EGO at the door, I can't stress that enough. I see way too many guys wrecking their cars just because they THOUGHT they are great drivers.
12. DO NOT FOLLOW THE GUY IN FRONT OF YOU BLINDLY!!! You will be surprised how many guys DO NOT take the correct line. A bad line will get you one of two, a bad lap time or an off-track experience.
13. BE SMOOTH!!!! Do not force the car or yourself, be smooth, speed will come with that.
14. If you come into a corner too hot you can ride it out and go off track a bit. Here's the kicker, if you accidentally get two wheels off track RIDE IT OUT! Don't panic and try to yank the car back onto the pavement. The car will spin and when you regain traction you'll probably be pointed at a wall!
15. Someone who is in your mirrors did NOT start there, so they are faster than you are, let them by. Do not get frustrated by people that won't let you by. Pull into the pit, tell the course marshal you want some space, and they will let you back out into clean air.
16. Pay attention at the driver's meetings. Make sure you know and FULLY understand the passing zones, and passing method used by the people running the event. You may know what the flags mean, but make sure they are using them the way you think they should be using them.
17. Do NOT use the brakes on the cool down lap. Use it to cool down the car, but also drive the "perfect" race line in super slow motion. If you can't put the car where you want it at 40mph, how are you going to do it at 90mph? When you return to the pits, do NOT apply the handbrake. Chock the wheels and after about 60 seconds roll the car forward 8". This will allow the part of the rotor that is inside the caliper to breathe too. Pop the hood. While the hood is up, look for fluid leaks and double check your brake fluid level.
18. Know where the flag stands are, check them every time you go by them.
19. When there are unsafe conditions on the track, GET OFF THE TRACK. Pull into the pit, don't be afraid to end your day early. It's far better than having it ended early for you.
20. It makes sense to change to open lug nuts. The closed ended ones can get junk in the end preventing proper torque specs. This is referred to as "acorning." It would be a bad day losing a wheel at any kind of speed.
21. Screeching tires on a corner are fine, but "howling" tires are bad. After a few corners, you'll know what I mean. When the tire noise deepens and starts to "howl," you are right on the edge with street tires, so be very careful.
22. DO NOT LIFT if you're in a corner. The load of the car transfers forward with the deceleration, the rear tires get light, and the back end can snap around on you. If the rear then grabs, you'll be heading directly into the inside of the corner, possibly at a wall or other fixed obstacle.
23. Carry two extra bottles of brake fluid, a bleeder bottle, set of spare pads and rotors, and an extra quart or two of oil. The cornering can slosh fuel back and forth enough to create false readings on the gauge.
24. Your OEM rotors should be good for 3-5 events, again depending on the heat. Replacement rotors are cheap at Advanced Auto or Rock Auto. I carry a spare set with me so I can change out bad ones and keep on driving the rest of the weekend. Avoid drilled rotors - not good for HPDE because they will crack fast and ruin a good weekend.
25. Don't use your transmission/engine to slow your car as you enter a turn. USE your brakes! Brake pads are much less expensive to replace than repairing your transmission. It may sound "cool" to hear your car whine down as you enter a turn, but you're placing a lot of stress on your transmission and its "uncontrolled deceleration" that can spin your tail end around. Brake steady/hard and shift.
NOTE: Recommend purchasing a 2.5 lb Halon fire extinguisher that come with the 2-Strap Mounting bracket. The mounting bracket will fit Brey-Krause brand extinguisher mounts and provides holes in the bracket that permit easy mounting with bolts or screws in other mounts.
Here's some good reading for HPDE:
· Secrets of Solo Racing - Henry Watts
· Speed Secrets - Ross Bentley
· Driving in Competition - Alan Johnson
· Drive to Win - Carol Smith; and A Twist of the Wrist – Lawson & Rainey
Some common beginner's mistakes:
1. Turning in too early. This happens because you think you're going to get through the corner faster because if you turn in early you're not turning in as tight, but by doing this you wind up sliding through the apex to turn out. It needs to be "In slow in - Out fast."
2. Entering the slower corners too fast, then scrubbing off speed as you squeal all the way through the turn. This may sound like #1 above, but it's not. Most new drivers are too fast into the slow corners, but too slow through the faster ones.
3. Braking while turning in. It's best to brake too early then be back on a constant throttle well before turn in. Then on later laps you can slowly move up the braking zone closer to the turn in. This is especially good for the faster corners.
4. Not looking ahead to your next reference point (apex, turn out, etc.). Know where you're going next to prevent having to make any mid-turn corrections. Just before the turn in pick up the apex. When you get almost to the apex look for the turn out point. Hand-eye coordination is what's going on here. Look where you want to go.
5. Not using the whole track. Most of the first-timers quickly forget about hitting the turn in, apex and turn out cones. You shouldn't have more than a couple of feet between your wheels and the berms on the higher speed corners. Many inexperienced drivers will be eight feet away. On the slower ones actually being slightly on the edge of the berm may be good. When you pass by one of these points take a quick glance over to see how close you are. Have an instructor critique this.
6. Coasting. Always be either on the brake or the accelerator. Coasting means indecision because you haven't planned well enough.
7. Trying to be fast right away. Start off by worrying about technique & smoothness. Speed will come later. If you start off wanting to be the fastest car out there then after a couple of times at the track you'll get frustrated by a lack of progress in your times. Inexperienced, fast drivers are usually very unbalanced, choppy and very rushed in the driver's seat.
8. Frustration because even though you are doing everything you've been told you feel like you're getting slower. If you practice doing it right then after a few open-track or autocross events you'll come to a point where you think you've gotten slower, but you're actually faster. That's because if you're really smooth and anticipate your next moves then this lack of hurriedness on your part will seem like you're slow, but you're actually just better!
Milestones for novice/beginner, intermediate, and advanced students as typically as follows:
Level 1 Novice Group Students
· Rules/procedures/format of school.
· Aware of vehicle condition.
· Proper seat & driving position - Mirror position - seat belts or harnesses snug - correct head and hand position.
· Traffic Safety Management: Observes pit line starter and watches traffic when leaving pit – checks mirrors often-signals and assists passing cars - observes corner workers & flag status - observes pit entrance procedures.
· Up-shifts and Downshifts properly and selects appropriate gear.
· Smooth clutch release and observes engine redline.
· Knows track layout and the proper driving line.
· Does not early apex.
· Vision - looks into turn, past apex and toward exit.
· Smooth turn in and smooth turn out – knows largest possible radius.
· Throttle on before turn exit.
· Correct hand technique, will introduce shuffle steering.
· No abrupt sawing steering wheel inputs.
· No driver body lean-keeps head up and vision far down stream.
· Clips apex’s consistently.
· Understands understeer & oversteer.
· Knows the location of run-off areas.
· Knows how to drive off track.
· Understands threshold and/or ABS braking.
· Performs hard barking without lockup.
· Corner entry speed correct.
· Follows directions and responds to instruction.
· Maintains appropriate car spacing (2 seconds).
Level 2 Immediate Group Students
· Scans and attends entire visual field-Has high situational awareness.
· Brakes hard and late on straights.
· Knows and achieves brake traction limits.
· Has consistent brake point selection.
· Left foot braking as appropriate.
· Consistence cornering force.
· Can correct a skid – knows spin limiting techniques.
· Knows acceleration limits exiting turns and uses correct RPM range.
· Performs turn analysis.
· Can drive in both wet and dry.
· Uses very small steering corrections.
· Understands the significance and can evaluate corner exit speed.
· Can execute a early apex (capable of driving off line and stay on track).
· Can execute a late apex (capable of driving off line and stay on track).
· Knows "S" turn line and performs driving line analysis.
· Is aware of errors and can self-evaluate/self-teach.
· Steers accurately and consistently.
· Can recognize and is sensitive to vehicle feedback.
· Can evaluate vehicle feedback.
· Reads traffic-Looks through cars ahead.
· Exhibits calmness and self-control.
· Knows driving terms.
· Has an action plan for each corner.
· Changes vehicle position by altering trajectory.
Level 3 Advanced Group Students
· Demonstrates spatial memory of course.
· Performs error analysis.
· Reacts well to the unexpected.
· Anticipates changing conditions.
· Reads road surface.
· Performs heal & toe down-shifts.
· Hard braking into turn/trail brakes.
· Can Throttle steer vehicle.
· Knows principles of vehicle dynamics.
· Knows weight transfer and is aware of brake bias.
· Is sensitive to vehicle dynamics.
· Understands tire dynamics.
· Understands slip angles - effect on grip - and cornering speed.
· Knows rain techniques.