An excerpt from The HPDE 1st-Timer’s Guide, written by Ryan Staub and Ross Bentley.
The first time you attend an HPDE track event, it can feel a bit like your first day of school. You may not be sure what to do or where to go, on top of already being excited, nervous and eager to make the most of the experience. But the more prepared you are, the better your HPDE motorsport experience is going to be.
Here’s what to know when it comes to a first-timer’s pre-event HPDE expectations.
Pre-Event HPDE Expectations: Heading to the Track
Fill up the gas tank. Even if the track sells gas, it will be cheaper at a gas station. Add an extra 5 psi more than normal to your tires. You can bleed them down later. Then make sure you’re rested, hydrated and ready to learn.
Pack personal care items, such as water, snacks, sunscreen, street and track clothing, including an extra jacket, gloves and shorts. Make sure to bring track clothes that meet the rules set by the track.
Bring tools and car care items, such as spare engine oil, a tire pressure gauge, a torque wrench with socket for wheel lug bolts/nuts and basic hand tools. Bring extra window cleaner, towels and hand sanitizer.
Pack your safety gear, including a current or prior certified Snell-rated helmet. Helmet styles are certified every 5 years, so the list was updated in 2020. Older helmets may also be eligible.
Checking In at the Track
Even though you likely registered for the event ahead of time, you’ll need to check in or sign in when you get to the track. Some tracks will let you check in the night before an event. Always check in early and you won’t need to worry about feeling rushed.
Planning Your Track Day
Plan your day after you check in. Take a look at the info you’re provided, such as the event schedule, car numbers, sign waivers, and so on. Figure out where and when you need to be for drivers’ meetings, classroom sessions and your specific turn(s) on the track. You don’t want to miss your track time because you thought it was lunchtime!
Parking at the Track
Make your way to the paddock and find a spot for your car. The paddock will be the parking lot next to the the pit lane (the roadway that leads onto the track). At most events, paddock parking is first come, first served, besides a few reserved spots for key personnel. Arrive early to get a spot, but be courteous if you’re asked to move out of a reserved spot that wasn’t marked.
Unloading Your Car
Unload your car once you find a spot. And by unload, that means everything. Loose items are a danger to you and your in-car instructor in a crash. Clear out the trunk, back seat, back window, dash, floorwells, areas under the seats, etc. The spare tire can stay if it’s bolted down. Also remove your personal items, tools and safety gear you’ve brought especially for your event.
Storing Your Stuff
Think ahead about where to store items you need to bring to the track but can’t have in the car on the track. If you know you don’t need it, it’s better to leave all this stuff at home rather than unload it at the track. For what you do need to bring with you, pack storage bins or a tarp to keep your belongings organized on the paddock.
Checking Your Car
Take the opportunity to check your car over again now that you’ve gotten situated. Recheck your tire pressure and adjust it as needed. Always keep the tires slightly overinflated. A good rule of thumb your first event is about 5 psi extra. Use a gauge to make sure all four tires have equal pressure.
Getting a Tech Inspection
Be prepared for a brief car check by event staff that may occur at certain events. This is called the tech inspection. This is to check your car is mechanically safe to be driven on the track.
Typically, the tech inspection is a quick formality, but the event’s volunteer tech inspector may find a problem you missed. Often these are minor and easily fixable problems, such as a loose battery connection, loose wheel nut or unequal tire pressure.
If you need help, just ask. People at the track are generally happy to help out a newcomer. However, don’t rely too much on the tech inspector to catch problems. Plan to service your car before you get to the track.
Attending the Drivers’ Meeting
Make sure to attend the drivers’ meeting. These are mandatory meetings and some organizations won’t let you drive on the track if you miss them. The drivers’ meeting is usually held very early in the day and will be run by the chief instructor or event organizer.
Things you’ll find out at the drivers’ meeting include:
- Important locations, including where to attend classroom instruction, meet your in-car instructor and where to line up (grid) prior to going on track.
- Etiquette for getting on and off the track, including speed limits, pit-out locations to get on the track and pit-in locations to get off the track.
- Passing rules and procedures for the event, including the “point-by” passing rules and designated passing zones such as straights.
- Brief overview and refresher of the flags used by corner/turn workers to communicate with you while you’re on the track.
Attending Classroom Instruction
After the drivers’ meeting you’ll most likely head to the first classroom instruction session. These sessions are a big help to new HPDE drivers and cover things like:
- How to sit for HPDE so that you can use the controls (steering wheel, pedals, transmission, mirrors) properly and where to look when driving on track.
- How to manage traction for all four tires and what to do if your car begins to slide.
- How to determine the right path or line to drive around the track and through corners.
- What the various flags mean that corner/turn workers use, and what you must do when you see them.
- What to do in an emergency (such as unintentionally driving off the track).
- How best to communicate with and get the most out of your in-car instructor.
- What the overall schedule for the day/event is and who you should go to for information and to ask questions.
- What the traffic flow is in the paddock area, and how to get on and off the track.
- What the rules are regarding passing (can you pass, and if so, where).
Classroom sessions are a great opportunity to learn about the theory and physics behind high-performance driving and to get answers to questions you have about the information covered.
Getting Ready to Drive
Finally, it will be time to drive. Your in-car instructor may tell you to head straight to the track or do some form of driving exercises (skid pad, emergency braking, slalom, etc.) to get warmed up, depending on the event. And then it will be time to drive.
Pre-Event HPDE Expectations: Conclusion
It can be a new and exciting experience to attend an HPDE event. Like the first day of school, you won’t always know what to do or where to go, but friendly people will be there to guide you along the way, and now you have a little better idea of what to expect.
Remember that as you get ready for your next track day, it’s important 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.