Track Day Prep Check List
by James Singer (track n00b)
Last year I decided to stop talking about going to the track and to actually go to the track. One of the things I wanted to do was to see the reality of this dream I had of tracking my car regularly. I learned a few things along the way and I wanted to post some of that leaving the rest open to discussion (mostly on SCE).
The first thing I wanted to know about taking my daily driver EVO VIII to the track was How Much Will IT Cost FOR REAL (entry fees, fuel, tires, parts…) and How Can I Keep MY Car From Breaking. What I learned is that you will spend some hard earned dough on tracking your car but the rewards go beyond fun in to that realm people speak of when discussing mountain climbs and oceans sailed. I am not joking about this either, driving at the track, for real driving at the track, is no joke!! You are literally conquering deeply seeded animalistic instincts of fight or flight on every lap if you are pushing it. The rewards are massive though and after running with NASA April, May and June—I can truly understand why people get deeply addicted to racing on the track.
[day 2 at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in HPDE1 CW13]
I learned a lot from just this first weekend. Since then, I have gotten a feel for what an EVO/DSM owner will need at the track if their car is in good shape prior to going. IF you do not prep your car by making sure it is mechanically solid BEFORE going to the track, there is a good chance that the DSM gods will frown upon you from Mt. MMNA. I have seen a few fellow EVO owners with VIIIs, IXs and Xs broken after 1 session. Some of these people ended up missing out on the whole weekend. However, with a little bit of work, your car is likely to stay on the track all weekend and you will find yourself driving home dazed and happy.
This is my original post on SCE:
I am going to my first track day, NASA HPDE1 event April 9-10.
I have been finding a lot of good info (thanks O-Town!! HMatt!! and PureEvoIX!!) but I thought it would be relevant to start a thread and to possibly sticky it that covers track day EVO SPECIFIC checklist stuff. I will edit the thread each time something is added. For me, I want to be fully prepared even if I am not really racing but just driving fast. For example, Buttonwillow is almost 2 hours from LA, so I don’t want to forget anything AND I DEFINITELY do not want ANYTHING to get in the way of me driving my EVO as fast as possible for the first time!!
BEFORE you go to the track, make sure your car is tuned up properly.
Check your fluid levels.
Check your Brakes
Check your tires
make sure all your hoses and etc… are fitted correctly
consider fuel. If you are running 91, roll up with a full tank. Consider breaking away after lunch and topping off again unless you do not mind getting fuel at the track (if available). Your car will necessarily get infinitely worse gas mileage than normal, so take this in to consideration.
So this is becoming a pretty extensive list. Some things may be a bit of overkill for an HPDE1 event but personally, for me, it is practice for when things get more serious, so because I am obsessive, I want to get all this stuff ready now. Then by the time I am actually racing people, getting ready will be a simple routine.
EVO Track Day Checklist
1. 1Qt of your favorite motor oil. You will want to check your oil levels after EVERY session. Similar to fuel, oil will be consumed and burned off much more than normal. If you run out, you will be towed home. Make sure you have extra oil and make sure to check your oil!!
2. 2 Bottles of Motul
3. 1 Bottle of Distilled water
4. 1 Spare set of brake pads for front
5. 1 Spare set of brake pads for rear
6. 1 Spare set of front rotors (hardcore people)
7. Make Sure you are registered properly.
8. Make sure you have a place to stay/sleep BEFORE going if you are staying in the area. Sleep is massively important in all threads about track days.
9. Make sure you have a proper helmet that meets the requirements of the track and/or governing body.
10. Bring a tire pressure gauge.
11. Bring a Torque Wrench for lug nuts [recommended on the NASA forum].
12. A proper jack + jack stands [recommended on the NASA forum].
13. Bring drinks! Recommended is 1gal. +. I have also read that if you bring a big box of bottled water, everyone will love you by the end of the weekend.
14. Bring a piece of wood or a brick so you do not have to use your e-brake when it is still hot.
15. Bring a change of clothes + warm clothes and etc…
16. Painter’s tape.
17. Paper tape.
18. Grip tape
19. Duct tape
20. A box to put ALL lose objects in (this is also a reason to have a hotel IMO)
21. Window cleaner + paper towels.
22. General automotive tools (i.e. wrenches for things like brake bleeder screws just in case).
23. Cardboard just in case you need to lay on the ground for an extended period of time dealing with hoses popping off or some sort.
24. CASH for entry to the track and misc.
25. Sun Block
26. Sun Glasses
28. Notepad (track notes-tire pressure, dampening, alignment, etc…)
30. Camera (video and/or still)
31. Extra camera batteries/memory/tapes…
32. Lots of rags
33. Shop towels
34. Impact wrench
35. Breaker bar
36. Folding chair
39. Loose change for drinks and stuff
40. FUEL (especially if you run E85)
41. Track map.
42. Lip Balm
43. Tubing and a bottle for Brake Bleeding
44. Zip Ties
45. Nail (or punch) to knock out your brake keeper pin
46. Decent Work Gloves
47. Brake Cleaner
48. Spare hose clamps or T-Bolts of various sizes in case one or more pop off.
49. Bring spare caliper retaining clip and pins.
50. Bring some metal wire on a spool to McGyver something up if needed.
51. Needle Nose Pliers.
52. Wire Cutters
54. Nail (regular for front/small for rear) for brake caliper pins.
55. Driving Gloves
56. AAA Card!!
57. EZ-Up for tracks without cover + some heavy weights to hold down your EZ-UP in the wind!!
58. A Bin or box to carry your stuff in.
SO, what is missing here is EVO SPECIFIC stuff. I assume there are things on here left out and that are essential to having an EVO on the track. Please post up any ideas or comments positive or negative and I will edit this thread in relation to comments.
Thank you!! I might be a bit overly excited to go out to an HPDE1 but it has been my dream since college to 1. get a cool car and 2. get it on the track. I graduated college 4 years ago now and I am just getting around to getting on the track.
Cheat Codes, TIPS, TRICKS, and HINTS:
From O-TownFl (aka Matt Dennison)
- take your TP gauge with you in your car…. start out with your TP at 25~28psi cold during your first session.. do about 4 hot laps, come into hot pits and then adjust your TP to ~35psi…
- before each session, be sure to torque you lugs to 85ft.lbs.
- pre set your heater to MAX, just in case you encounter high temps on the track. Then all you have to do is turn it on blast
- after each session is completed, cruise the paddock area with your heater ON blast… It’ll cool down you car faster and it will give your brakes ample time to cool down
FROM MIKE W on SoCalDSM:
If you find your self stuck in a gaggle of cars and someone is not letting
cars pass, dont stay in the pack. Just pull into and up to the head of the
pit lane. Wait for the re-entry marshal to flag you back out onto the track
in a less crowded spot. If you stand in the pits you can watch one of the
other sessions, note 10 cars all bunched up and all the big open area around
the rest of the track.
[NOTE: Since reading this, I have done this in almost every session. If you are a halfway decent driver in a stock EVO, you will find yourself catching people ALL OVER the track. When you feel yourself getting caught up behind a pack, pulling off into the hot pits for 30 seconds or so gives you enough room to run a couple laps before catching the pack again.]
On the same note, even if you have 300 hp but find a Miata on your tail for
a whole lap, let him by in the passing area. Just because you can pull him
on the straight passing area does not mean you should ruin his session
getting stuck behind you in the tight stuff. Then hopefully the same goes
for the NSX that you catch. There is a big difference between drivers, car
preparation and hp levels. Be courteous, hopefully others will be too.
[NOTE: This is also important because people will call you out and embarrass you in driver's meetings if you hold up the pack. What you will find in HPDE1&2 a lot is people who brought a 100k high HP car and cannot drive it. EVOs do fall in to this category sometimes. In HPDE3, I watched an EVO driver get demoted back to HPDE2 for holding up a whole gang of lower HP cars for an ENTIRE session. You ARE NOT competing and this IS NOT traffic. Let people pass and you will make friends + have more fun...trust me on this one! Mike is totally right here!!]
[Sharing a garage with friends is a good way to beat the heat. I shared a garage with Ed Nazarian and 3 of his NASA ST2 competitors for April and June. The other 2 months that I did not use a garage were MUCH more taxing. Plus, when I was in the pits without a garage, a guy ended up driving a truck over my stuff, which exploded most of my drink supply. I also lost my tire iron that day... When you are in a garage, none of this is a concern. With enough friends in the mix, garages are very affordable at BRP and some of the other tracks around So. Cal.]
[Running in 100 degree+ weather is no joke. In June at BRP running HPDE2 CCW1, I saw more breaks than any other time I have been at the track as a driver and as a spectator. Preparation for heat such as this is crucial to keeping your car on the track!!]
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED
My original check list above is obsessive, I admit. One thing I have found is that I have not used some of these things BUT, they are in a box in my garage and once you get everything set up, it is easy to load it up and replenish it as you go.
There are a few things on this list that are MASSIVELY important however.
They are :
1. WATER and GATORADE first and foremost. I have seen people go off the track, just straight off the track, as if they were not even trying to turn at a corner. Later, when asked why, it was because their brain had just failed due to dehydration. I have also seen people lose a half day at the track from dehydration related headaches. Both instances mentioned above were clearly results of a lack of HYDRATION. This is SO important that some instructors in NASA will not even let you come to class without a bottle of water, Gatorade or some other sports drink.
2. SNACKS. I know this is related to #1 BUT the food at every track I have been to is sub high school cafeteria status. It is also almost always unhealthy and the service is SUUUUUUPER slow. Now, I am a normal guy, so it is fun to have a lunch of crappy food just to indulge in some bad food but for 2 days straight? This could kill you. Bring some fruit, power bars and other healthy snacks like you’d bring to work out with or you will be stuck with the horrible food at the cafeteria all day waiting for the most disgusting food you have eaten since you graduated high school.
3. A Chair. There is A LOT of downtime. Also, if you are like me, during downtime, you do not necessarily want to be around other people who are just yapping away about their random cars that you could give a crap less about. I want to be alone to think, relax, to look over my car and to watch other people racing (specifically other AWD cars). Sometimes I want to talk to other people but having a cheapie fold out chair makes it so you aren’t stuck around the bleachers and cafeteria chairs all day.
4. A Hat. Hats become indispensable. This was the case for me in March when it was cold and drizzly BUT when it was July at Willow Springs for Redline Time Attack, when it was 112 at the track, my hat was the most important thing ever! The sun gets brutal. If you are in So. Cal, you will most likely drive at Buttonwillow, Willow Springs or at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontucky. The crazy thing is, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana is actually the most civilized area AND the best climate, which says A LOT!! The other places are straight up desert landscapes of fast foods and tumble weeds. A hat is your friend.
5. Sunglasses. As stated above, the sun gets BRUTAL from April on through September. Sunglasses are a MUST to keep your eyes happy when not driving. Some guys have tinted helmet visors. I am thinking I will spring for one of those soon.
6. Sunscreen. I know I am talking about the sun A LOT here but this is no joke!! It is easy to get dehydrated and sunburnt really bad really quick at these tracks. This will ruin your weekend and can ruin your life for days and even weeks after. Plus, when you get super old like me, they start cutting crap off your face, which is a bummer. Protect YA Neck!!
7. OIL. My car doesn’t burn much oil but blowby is an issue on turbo cars at the track if you are mashing it all day at the track. Figure it this way, when you are driving on the streets and some dude in a Scion TC rolls up next to you dragging an Ebay exhaust on the freeway revving on you, it takes 10 seconds or less to make him invisible with your mad boozt launcher skillz. The track sessions are 20 minutes—and even in HPDE1, I was in boost before we were even properly running at speed. My car was in boost for pretty much ALL of those 20 minutes. You need to have some extra oil for this. I bring 2 quarts and usually use about 1/2 of 1 quart BUT it is smart to have a bit of overkill. You should know your car. You know what it burns. Be ready!! Your car will be running harder than ever before!!
8. Brake Fluid. Get serious brake fluid. I use MOTUL 600. In HPDE1 that was my only non-stock brake upgrade. Racing at the track KILLS brakes!! I think this is the case from HPDE1 through real racing. My stock pads and rotors lasted a 2 day weekend. They were about 2 years in when I went to the track, so this wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was that after upgrading to stoptech pads, slotted rotors and SS lines, I still burned through most of my pads AND warped my new rotors in 3 more 2 day weekends (to be fair, one weekend was over 100 degrees each day). Regardless, prepare to wreck your brakes. Also prepare to need brake fluid at the track and even possibly pads. Hardcore people even bring extra rotors.
9. Window cleaner. You get all kinds of crap on your window from melted rubber splatters to rodent guts. Get ready to clean your windows after every session. Also, as a side note, do not cry when you get a chip or crack in your windshield. My first day I got a chip on my windshield in the upper passenger side and on my second day, I got a crack in the lower middle of my windshield. You will hear a lot of unsettling pinging while you are racing. If you cannot deal with this, maybe hit up that big import show and hang out with the import models instead. You can only tape off so much of your car with painter’s tape… the rest will get blasted from debris. This is just reality.
10. Tape. I bring gorilla tape (which I have used for my blown off battery terminal and other such weird things), painter’s tape (I use this for numbers and if you want to keep your car looking pretty, you can tape it off in certain areas) AND I bring masking tape (but I haven’t used that yet).
11. Pen and paper. It is important to take notes and to be able to write stuff down. You cannot bump from HPDE1 to 2 to 3… without getting your instructors to sign your passport booklet. Get one, have a pen, take notes in it and keep track of your progress. You won’t want to be stuck in HPDE2 another day once you are ready for 3. You will know when you WANT to bump up. Your instructors will KNOW when you are ready to bump up. Help them help you by keeping track. Also, get a head up on other people by taking notes and knowing what is going on. Once the head instructors realize you are reliable, they start sending you out to lead the pack. This means you are in front, which means you are not starting way back, which makes things way more fun especially when you are running with the top instructors.
12. TQ Wrench. You will need to torque your wheels after most sessions. You can get these at Harbor Freight for cheap. There is really no excuse NOT to have one. They are important to staying alive.
13. Tire pressure gauge. Below, I talk about checking tire pressure. It is very important to monitor your tire pressure. You should check your pressure HOT every session. If you cannot do this, you should check your pressure every session regardless to maintain consistency. You can get really dope bleed off style gauges for cheap. THIS is the one I got and it kicks ass. You can get WAY more fancy but if you go cheaper, make sure it has a bleeder. This makes things WAY easier.
These are the things I use ALL day EVERY time I go to the track. The other stuff is important too. For example, I saw a dude get turned away at registration after driving to Buttonwillow from SF!! MAKE SURE YOU ARE REGISTERED!! Make sure you have a proper helmet!! I watched a guy try to use some weird 70s looking deal with stars painted on it. The helmet was cool and sparkly and all that BUT the NASA techs were not having it. The dude failed inspection for having an improper helment. I have also seen people fail tech for weird seat to rollbar or harness combos and other “unsafe” mods. If you are a madJDM tuner ballaballa and you have your 10 vintage ebay takatas with a fixed back bride knockoff and a cusco “style” cage, make sure this weird internets of parts works for the body you are racing with. I am not dissing building show cars BUT if you take your showoff car to the track, understand that certain combos that look good in pics. or that score show points might not pass tech on a real race track.
Something that is connected to this is HAVE A PLACE TO SLEEP!! If you are doing a whole weekend (recommended), get a hotel IN ADVANCE!! Do not wait. Places like Buttonwillow do get booked. Even Willow Springs gets heavy. You don’t want to drive a half hour or more to the track each morning, so book a close hotel early and prescreen it to make sure it is not on a bomb range/club near a slaughter house under the 10 freeway at the airport/train depot.
Also, CHECK YOUR FLUIDS AND TIRE PRESSURE AFTER EVERY SESSION!! These things change. Even when running in the cold misty mornings of March at BRP, my fluids and pressures and stuff like that fluctuated. In June, when it was over 100, I had to mess with my tires after every session. I also had to hot pit to check my tire pressure because the hotter things got, the more my tires would need to be bled during sessions. Pay attention to your pressures and fluids and you will stay on the track longer and stronger.
I have been really lucky and I have not had to change my pads trackside but I have always brought pads. Similarly, I always have a little bag of hoses and clamps that commonly blow off my EVO. Even though I actually turn my boost down at the track from 24psi to 20psi (open wastegate for me is 19 with the Forge WGA), I am running my car infinitely harder than I do ANY other time in its life. As a result, I always have stuff in case an IC hose pops off or something. RRE has the clamps and hoses I am talking about for sale at cheap prices. I recommend going in there and getting yourself a little baggie in case stuff goes wrong. This includes zip ties, a punch for brake pads and stuff like that. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best!
That is about it. I have a cool box for all this stuff. One thing I do to be safe is that I run at least a 1/2 tank of 100 at the track on my 91 map. Since I am a n00b at the track, I turn my boost down and run on 91 BUT to completely eliminate knock, I have found that running at least 1/2 a tank of 100 mixed with 91 makes it so I never see my knock light come on with my Scot Gray///RRE tune. (Sometimes it also helps you throw out some cool fire from your exhaust as well, which always entertains the guy behind you ;)
HAVE FUN!! BE SAFE!!