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Old 09-09-2007, 12:42 AM   #31
03IRM3
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Good thread - I'll try to add to it, especially since I am looking at doing another DE next month so I need to refresh myself too. Some of this will re-iterate what was already said, but some if it cannot be stressed enough so if I repeat what others have posted then make it a sticky note in your mind. It is in no particular order, and I'll try not to touch to much on driving techniques as everyone develops their own. And if anyone wants to correct, add, or otherwise, feel free... This will have to be done in two parts as I am very wordy at the moment, some of it may be geared more for beginners, but I remember when I first started so here goes.

For safety issues - make sure everything on your car is without a doubt fixed, maintained, or whatever in a proper way. If there is any doubt, do something to make it better. A track is not the place to have something go wrong due to negligent repair procedures. Think about this. If you are running high speeds on a track, do you want to worry about whether or not that bailing wire is going to hold? Was that nut torqued to the proper spec? Is that mickey mouse electrical fix going to cause a fire? The last thing you want is something to go wrong that you could have prevented. And not only do I not want something on my car to go wrong that cold have been prevented with more diligence, but no one else does either if you cause a preventable incident. Nor would I want someone else's negligent repair to put a damper in my day.

I typically run with the P-car club for driving events or schools. They have it set up with some of the local outfits that will many times offer a very discounted rate on an inspection of the car. If there is any doubt in your mind, take it there and get a second glance. Preventing a catastrophe is worth the price of having someone else look it over if you don't feel confident, and sometimes worth the second check anyway just in case you missed something.

I almost lost an opportunity for a track day because I got in a hurry. Someone called wondering when I was going to be home from the garage because said person was hungry and wanted dinner. Okay - just a couple more things left, bolts the wheels on, and I'm done. Well, I left the wheel lock key on one of the lug nuts after I torqued the wheels. Not good. Not only did I lose the lock key, I had to go to the dealer and was lucky enough they let me borrow the master set. I had to switch over my lug nuts so I could get the wheels off if I needed. Moral of the story - never get in a hurry when it comes to prepping a car for a track day. It could have been worse if I forgot to do something else.

Prepping a car does not just mean checking to see if it has oil, etc. Go over every critical nut and bolt on the car - suspension, wheel bolts/lugs, all the stuff listed by the others. Anything and everything critical. Some people may say this is overkill. I say it is better than being killed.

Give yourself plenty of time before the event to prep the car. I maintain my cars fairly religiously, and give myself a minimum of two weeks before the event to go over all the critical items. If you find a tie rod boot torn, you have time to order it and replace it. All the final things are once-overed again the weekend before, and then I have a few days o get all the things around that I need to take. Where is my helmet? Are all my tools in the pit box? Then you have a day or so to relax mentally and physically. You'll appreciate it when the event arrives.

Listen to your car. It will tell you amazing things. Are you getting a shudder in the front end under braking? If so, better go look. Many times I would have something tell me before it became worse, thereby allowing me to prevent a possible disaster or repairs that could have been a lot lighter on the wallet if caught early enough. So when something starts acting funny, it may be telling you that it needs attention.

Torque the lug bolts/studs. Torque them after each run, or before the next run. I have had many occasions that although the bolt/stud was torqued to proper specs, there always is one that can and will back off. Now one thing I could ask of others with more experience - if this does happen continually, should the torque be increased to a reasonable amount more to help prevent this?

Also - check the tires pressures after each run. Where I run, we can easily pick up seven pounds or more of air pressure because of the heat as the day advances. A good indication of a tire problem is one that suddenly drops in pressure. Not likely to happen, but you never know. Most tracks are clean from debris for the most part, but that doesn't mean always.

Brake pads - always carry an extra set. I went through a set of pads in two days - down to metal halfway through the second day. I had at least half pad when I started that day but as you get faster and begin using your brakes more effectively, you will find out how long they really don't last. Some cars will go through pads relatively quickly, some will not - And the heavier the car, the more pad you will use each time out. Did your brake light come on and you found you needed to add fluid? Good sign the pads are getting a little on the thin side.

Now being that I go out with the P-car club, there are generally a bunch of instructors that drive P-cars. To be truthful - often the instructors will damn near drive anything with wheels and they are all competent, otherwise they wouldn't be an instructor. A couple things I have found though. RWD cars have their line, AWD cars have their line, FWD cars have their line, and P-cars have their own line. If you can, try and find an instructor who drives a car as similar to your car as you can. It doesn't have to be identical down to the exact suspension setup, but usually same make helps because "in general" many cars of the same make will have the same characteristics.

Remember Captain Morgan! This means, when you are going to be passed by a car, point them by 'AND' LIFT YOUR RIGHT FOOT! That person that is passing you may not be able to out power you down the straight, but be realistic - if that person is going to pass you, they are faster, so do everyone a favor and let them go by which many times will mean lifting off the throttle if you have a high HP/torque car so they can.

Last edited by 03IRM3; 09-09-2007 at 12:48 AM. Reason: speeling...
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Old 09-09-2007, 12:43 AM   #32
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Okay - now for the second half of my madness...

Generally there are dedicated passing zones on a track. Don't drive your mirrors, do watch them occasionally (especially leading to passing zones), make a mental note if someone is behind you and you are holding them up. Then, when you get to the passing zone, be courteous and let them around.

If you find yourself in a gang rape with many other cars either behind you doing the raping to you, or in a group of cars raping the slow person out front, you can go into the pit lanes and tell the pit control person to give you a gap, you want to wait a few seconds, or whatever. We do this, and it is appreciated by many. Maybe some events don't but we like to. Sometimes if you are working on a particular corner and you are being overrun by cars or catching a few cars and just want to concentrate on getting that line, this is very helpful.

Acknowledge your corner workers on the beginning lap of the day and cool down lap at the end of each session. The corner workers are your friends, even if they call you into the pits with a black flag. Let them know you know they are there the first time you go out, and when they wave the end of session flag, let them know by waving at them, a thumbs up, something. That way they know you know.

Cool down lap or end of session - do exactly that. Slow down to a moderate pace - no need to try and get one more corner in at speed, you'll have plenty more track time. Let the car cool down - brakes, engine, exhaust system - you. Clear your head and get out of high speed drive mode. Driving slowly around the corners during this time is a great way to think about how you were approaching and exiting that corner. Just cruise, and you car will thank you when you get to the pits by not having smoking hot brakes or otherwise.

Don't use the e-brake when parking in the pits. The best solution is to stop the car and puts wheel blocks around one of the wheels. If you pull that e-brake, you will sooner than later regret it. Usually this is covered in the classroom sessions, but just make it stick.

If it is your first time, don't think about being fast - that will come with time. You need to learn the track, and the right or wrong things to do on the track. The schools I have attended do an excellent job with the students. By the end of the second day at the last DE I attended, many of the first timers were running about as fast as the slower cars in my group. So pay attention - they will teach you things that you need to know and you will eventually get faster. Its not about going out and immediately driving as fast as you can - it's about learning how to drive the car and improve your driving. And you should never be driving 10/10ths out there.

Leave all of your "yo, I can drift" and all the other ass-clownery at home - this will generally get you kicked off the track. Avoid the temptation to trailbrake - this tends to make instructors really nervous and is not a good idea on the track unless you are at least moderately experienced. If you don't know what it is, don't worry about it - you don't need it.

Listen to your instructors. Ask questions. Reflect after each session. Ask others about techniques or how they handle a particular corner (or series of corners). There is a wealth of knowledge there, and most anyone is generally willing to help. Find people with the same type of car and ask them questions. If they are more advanced, they may have figured out the answer to your question already, or at least what worked for them. Eventually you will develop you own, but until then, you can try different things to see if it works better. If you're not in the A group and not asking questions, you need to. You may not have any right at first, but they will come.

You don't have to learn how to take every corner "perfect" in the same session. Break the track down into smaller sections. Work on one section a session until you get it hammered into you. Once you have that section, work on the next. This way you don't run into information and sensory overload each time you go out - you have plenty more time on the track. Pretty soon you'll be faster through the first 1/4 of the track. Then the first half, and so on. Some sections of tracks need a lot of attention to get a good line though it depending on how technical the track is. Eventually when you have a good grasp on the whole track, you can work on refining and improving everything, including how you are driving the car. Driver input has a lot to do with it. Are you smooth? How are your throtle inputs? How is your heel-toe downshift? Do you know what your tires, your vision, and your ass are all telling you? Sometimes it takes three or four DE's to get a good grip on the same track. You don't have to master the track all in one weekend.

And remember - when an instructor gets into a car with you, they don't know your driving abilities. Neither does anyone else out there until they know you by becoming a "regular". Take it easy and build up. Let them get comfortable with you as you get comfortable with the car and the track. They will be your guiding hands - to an extent. And when you goof - they will know and a good instructor will let you now. They are not do this to be condescending - they are doing this so that you know what you did and will more than often be very helpful in explaining to you why something was or wasn't a good idea, and if it was not good, what to do to correct it or what a better approach may be.

It is just like doing anything for the first time - it can seem like a surmounting amount of things are thrown at you at once. But in the end you will forget how daunting it was and be glad you did it - and you will have had a lot of fun. And it is a good way to meet new friends with the same interests.
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Old 10-02-2007, 07:15 PM   #33
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Gread thread. I'll add two links that I've been told are quite useful for the track n00b:

Getting Ready for Your First High-Performance Driving School by Emre Kayaalp

What you need to know about High-Performance Driving Schools by Lee Vuong

These were written by two guys who are not only long-time instructors, but also event organizers. These are the questions we've both answered 50,000 times in e-mails and over the phone.

Hope they help

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Old 11-15-2007, 07:42 PM   #34
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Great thread. Now I know what to look for when I go to the track in December. This will be my first. Thanks everyone. Ill be taking the stock M20.
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Old 01-08-2008, 01:02 PM   #35
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For people thinking about doing DE's, after reading the excellent advice in this thread, you can also go out and read my blog on the subject. It covers my first 6 track days in my E46. It's not about E30's, but the concept is the same. Hopefully you will enjoy it and learn a bit about what you will be doing at a DE.

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Old 02-21-2008, 12:29 PM   #36
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3) Zip ties - the man/woman with the surplus of zip ties is GOD! I have held radiator hoses on when clips broke, my entire cat-back exhaust when my mounting rings broke... these are invaluable. I recommend putting them on your radiator hoses even if you do have clips on them already. You will be nobody's friend if they have to close the track for an hour for cleaning because your radiator fluid is covering a good part of the track.

people may scoff at this, but you really have no idea, go to autozone and grab a bag or 2 of black/clear nylon zip ties, I prefer black, and while you are there, go ahead and grab one of the plastic tennis ball canisters that have the 8 "s" hooks and 4 thick band bungee's in them, it's like 4 bucks. My friend took a nasty, NASTY wicked death spill into a wall, and I had to tow it back, which would have been impossible but, witht he bungee's we were able to mount his intercooler back into place with ground clearance to spare, and witht he zip ties, this one was an epic experience... Some how, I really have no idea, never seen it happen before...but somehow the nut, not the bolt stripped on his motor mount, dropping his engine down about 3/16th of an inch off of the pavement hanging by the stainless steel oil line to his turbo. No one believed it would work but we were able to jack the engine into place and using 27 zip ties, remount his engine more than securely. He was able to drive it into the shop 5miles away after I towed it home like this. Zip ties are your savior!!!
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Old 03-20-2008, 08:01 PM   #37
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Muholland, that's a great story man. I had a problem a couple months ago with how my battery was held down at my "annual". My race starting in minutes. I'd seen a guy in the paddock with some big thick 3' zip ties. I borrowed two of them and hoped for the best. And a couple minutes later my battery was held down like it was clamped in a vise. Awesome.
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Old 04-01-2008, 09:42 AM   #38
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Good informative thread, but a couple things I was wondering about (maybe it's covered some place else) is what about costs?

Is there an average cost for these events. I realize many are different, but I'd image there could be a rough estimate for the different types of events of what you could expect to spend on a weekend or day.

Acronyms?

DE (Driving Event?)
HPDE (High Permormance? Driving Event)
BMWCCA (BMW Car Club of America - easy one )

Any others you should know? Stupid questions, I know, but I figured as someone else pointed out above, if you don't know or don't understand, ask.

Thanks
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Old 04-01-2008, 09:50 AM   #39
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HPDE is High performance Driver Education, and I imagine DE is Driver Education. I'm looking into HPDE's now, and have been told its about 250 per event...
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Old 04-01-2008, 10:12 AM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F|2eeSTy|e View Post
Good informative thread, but a couple things I was wondering about (maybe it's covered some place else) is what about costs?

Is there an average cost for these events. I realize many are different, but I'd image there could be a rough estimate for the different types of events of what you could expect to spend on a weekend or day.

Acronyms?

DE (Driving Event?)
HPDE (High Permormance? Driving Event)
BMWCCA (BMW Car Club of America - easy one )

Any others you should know? Stupid questions, I know, but I figured as someone else pointed out above, if you don't know or don't understand, ask.

Thanks
I think HPDE and DE are pretty much synonymous and the definitions you have are correct.

At PIR, the prices range from about $135-$165 depending on the club.

You can go to www.Motorsportreg.com to look at a lot, but not all, of the available events. You can also check on the PIR website and then look up the organization hosting the event on the Internet.

The cost above is just the entry fee. There is no additional fee for the instructor if you need one (and you will if this is your first time out).

This cost also does not cover the cost of tires, fuel, brakes, brake fluid, etc that you will burn up during the say. My estimate is about $300-$350 per day in total cost depending on the type of tires you use.
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Old 04-01-2008, 05:11 PM   #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F|2eeSTy|e View Post
Is there an average cost for these events. I realize many are different, but I'd image there could be a rough estimate for the different types of events of what you could expect to spend on a weekend or day.
It all depends on the venue (parking lot, local track, premium track, etc.), the type of event (formal driving school, lapping day, autocross, solosprint, car control clinic/skid school, etc.), and the host organization (non-profit car club, commercial school, etc.).

Since we're BMW guys, most of us will probably start with the BMW CCA High-Performance Drivin School program. With the CCA, figure around $20-30 per day for autocross in a parking lot, ~$50 per day for a beginner's "ground school" (a.k.a., "skid school" or "car control clinic"), $125-150 per day for events at smaller venues (the local tracks), and up to $200-250 per day for events at premium venues. Premium venues would be the "brand-name" racetracks, like Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, Sebring, Mid Ohio, VIR, etc.

Prior to each event you need to have the car inspected by a qualified tech. That usually runs $30-50 at a good shop. But it can be free if you shop around a bit since lots of places offer free track inspections. You'll want to flush your brakes, so budget another $20-30 for a couple of liters of brake fluid. If you don't already have an approved helmet, then you'll have to add the cost of renting (if offered) or buying one. You can buy a G-Force or Pyrotech helmet for under $200, so it's not a major expense. Of course, you can always just borrow one from a buddy who rides bikes or races karts.

Other costs will include hotels (for multi-day events far from home), food, and gas. On top of that, there is accelerated wear-and-tear on your tires and brake pads. It's hard to know how much to budget because so much will depend on your car, how smooth you drive, how worn your tires and pads were to begin with, etc. Most novices will not experience significant tire wear for their first few track weekends as they won't be going fast enough to really chew them up. However, your front brake pads can take a beating, especially since most track n00bs drag their brakes, which introduces tons of heat into the system.

All in all, I think if you budget around $500 for a 2-day weekend for an event not too far from home it would be pretty realistic.
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Old 04-01-2008, 08:55 PM   #42
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Great write up guys!!!
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Old 01-10-2009, 12:13 PM   #43
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Excellent thread. Thank you.

I'd like to try and attend some sort of car control or other "beginner" type event this summer to learn the ropes. Always nicer when you've got an idea of what's expected of you!
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Old 03-10-2009, 06:53 PM   #44
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After a long winter I look forward to my 1st track event with the BMWCCA NY chapter at the Poconos again.. zoom zoom
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:43 PM   #45
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That was a wonderful read.
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