The other day I was playing one of my favorite racing games on the XBox and as I was searching for cars to use in my upcoming race, I saw that one of the options was an SUV that was very similar to the one I drive on a daily basis. It got me thinking.
You see, like millions of people around the world, I’m a fan of the Jeremy Clarkson Trio – otherwise known as the former presenters of the BBC’s “Top Gear,” and current hosts of Amazon’s “The Grand Tour” – and on many of the trio’s episodes, they’ve reviewed cars to take out to “track days.”
And I, probably also like millions of people, think to myself – I drive a weak little SUV, I can’t afford to race… boy it’d be nice though. You see, I love to race cars on video games, and watch them on TV, and I’ve got a little experience turning a wrench here and there, but I have never had the money I thought I needed to do anything like hit a track-day event. But was I right?
Well, after some research, I learned that having a blast at a track-day event may not be as out-of-reach as I once thought. Here’s a basic rundown of how to use your own car and have a blast on the track.
- Be Prepared – Do Your Homework!
– First, go out and attend a track-day event as a spectator. Get a feel for the type of atmosphere and feel of the course by watching how the others drive. Talk to the instructors, talk to other participants.
– When you do get to the track as a participant, make sure you check your car’s safety features – especially brakes and seatbelts – thoroughly. The most important part of the track day is that everyone has fun, and you can’t have much fun if you or someone else is injured or dead. Buy a quality helmet, and make sure everything is mechanically sound before you hit the track.
– Pay attention to the instructors and the driver’s briefings. You can’t have enough information at your disposal – not only for safety’s sake, but for the sake of getting the most out of your car and your experience.
- Track Days Aren’t Races, and They Aren’t the Street.
– The point of a track-day event is to push your car and your driving to the limit. That said, you get a bunch of people out on the track doing that and a rivalry or two is bound to come up. This is where it could be a problem using your own car. Until you’ve got some experience under your belt, it’s best to make sure you know where everyone else is on the track, but not to get miffed if someone laps you. Letting your ego get the best of you will almost certainly leads to rookie mistakes that could wind up costing your car or worse.
- Your Insurance Probably Won’t Cover You On The Track.
– Let’s face it, your day at the track is going to be hard on your car. It’s a day to push it, and one of the possible consequences of that is a collision or some other type of damage to your car. If you wreck it, most personal insurance policies won’t cover it. There are special policies available for track days, but they can add a lot of extra cost to the equation. Still, if you plan to use your own wheels, the cost of one of these policies may be a lot less than the cost of a totaled vehicle.
– Similarly, if your car is newer, don’t expect the manufacturer’s warranty to cover a blown engine or other mechanical issues occurring on the track. This is not going to be considered “normal wear and tear.”
I drive a 5 year old small SUV with 50,000 miles on it. I probably won’t be taking it to the track any time soon. I will, however, get my rear-end out to some track day events soon and get a taste of the excitement. And then… who knows? I just found a couple of older Mustang GTs on Craigslist for under two grand, and a couple of RX7s for under a grand. Lord knows I’ve spent more than that on guitars in the past.