An excerpt from The HPDE 1st-Timer’s Guide, written by Ryan Staub and Ross Bentley.
Preparing your car for track days is important—you don’t want to be the one to show up unprepared. Remember that the “E” in HPDE stands for education and that track days are a learning experience. You don’t do as well on the test if you skip the homework and you won’t have as much fun at the track if you don’t prepare.
There are endless preparations you could take before showing up to your first track day, but not all of them are necessary or cost-effective. Here are a few of the most important steps to take when preparing a vehicle for a day at the track.
The Essentials of HPDE Prep
Your car needs a few things before it will be ready to drive on the track. Luckily, there are only a few that are really essential. These are the preparations that will make sure your car is safe to drive on a track.
1. Tech Inspection
A tech inspection of your vehicle before you take it to the track is a must. Have a qualified mechanic check your vehicle to make sure the essential systems and components are in proper working order, especially brakes, tires and suspension. Some HPDE events do their own checks before letting drivers on the track. If you’ve done your homework, you won’t have to worry about them finding something that could’ve been fixed before the event.
Brakes are probably the most important system for a vehicle on a track. A problem with the brakes can be dangerous and cut your event participation short. Sufficient brake pads and rotors and a brake fluid flush and change to high-performance fluid are a must. Pads should have between 50% to 80% or more of their original thickness left, since it’s possible to use up a new set in just a day at the track. New, flushed performance fluid is a must, since old fluid can reduce performance and even boil under the heavy demands of HPDE track driving.
If brakes are the most important thing on the track, tires are a close second. Tires in good condition with sufficient tread depth are a must for a day of fun and safe driving at the track. Less than a third of original tread depth can be dangerous, especially if it rains. The reason you need newer tires is due to the stress, friction and heat they’ll undergo on the track.
Both your brakes and tires will be used harder than ever before, and you may wear them out before you know it. It can help to realize that premature wear is to be expected. Remember, just one day of experience on the track can be worth hundreds of thousands of miles out on the road.
Other Helpful HPDE Preparation
Once you’ve covered the basics of preparing your car for HPDE, it’s time to think about other steps you could take. After all, the better prepared you are, the smoother things will go and the more fun you’ll have. Here are a few more helpful HPDE car prep tips that can really pay off.
- Engine fluids—While you’ve got a mechanic doing your technical inspection, it’s a good time to check your engine fluids—oil, coolant and transmission fluid. An oil change is a good idea if it’s been a while.
- Suspension—Suspension is another item to check. The wear and tear a suspension takes at the track is significant and you don’t want a failure. Check there are no worn ball joints or tie-rod ends and that everything is tight.
- Tire pressure—Plan to come to the track with about an extra 5 psi in your tires. Higher pressure is needed to deal with the intensity of track driving. You can bleed excess air at the track, and will find the best setting over time.
- Gas—There are supplies you’ll need to pick up and gas is probably the most important. Fill up the tank before you go. Some tracks have gas available on site, but it may cost more than a regular station down the road.
- Safety equipment—Driving at many HPDE events requires safety equipment. Check with the event to find out what’s required. A helmet is pretty standard, but you may also need things for your track car such as a fire extinguisher.
- Tools and supplies—You don’t have to bring your whole garage, but a few tools are helpful: tire pressure gauge, torque wrench with a socket for lug bolts and nuts, hand tools, spare engine oil, window cleaner, and towels.
- Storage—Cars on the track must be empty, so you’ll need somewhere to store any supplies and gear you’ve brought with you while participating in the event. A storage bin or tarp you can keep at the paddock is helpful.
A little preparation before you arrive at the track will save you from many first-timer HPDE difficulties. Preparing your car also sets you up to have a more fun and educational experience while staying safe.
As you get ready for your next track day, don’t forget to make sure your car will be covered on the track. Most auto insurance policies limit coverage for HPDE and track day events.
If your policy has exclusions for your car on the track, don’t worry. We offer HPDE Insurance to protect your car from damage when you’re participating in HPDE, track day, or time trial events.