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Volkswagen and Audi track day,

Saturday 13th August 2016

at Castle Combe, Wiltshire SN14 7EY

 

General advice for beginners


Track days provide an opportunity to enjoy the full performance of your car on a race circuit, without the worry of speed limits. They are not timed or competitive events, but inevitably those taking part will have a wide range of driving abilities and the cars involved will range widely in performance, from average fast-road to race cars.

There is no reason, though, why the novice driver cannot come along in a perfectly standard road car and enjoy themselves immensely. We can almost guarantee that you’ll want to come back for more...

Although there are some serious issues to take note of, in the interests of safety, above all track days are an exciting and enjoyable experience for all who take part, whether you are driving at 10/10 ths, just enjoying driving at your own fast pace without having to worry about speed limits, or treating friends and family to an exciting passenger ride.

They are NOT competitive events, riven with rivalry and politics as motorsport all too often is, and you will find the camaraderie and contact with other participants to be a major part of a highly enjoyable and exciting day.

The following advice is aimed primarily at the beginner, to help them to enjoy their first track day in safety.

Clothing
Dress for the prevalent weather conditions, bearing in mind that race tracks are often exposed and, even on a sunny day, it can be cold and windy.
Flameproof overalls and racing suits are not required (although some like to wear them), but you must wear a long-sleeved top and full-length trousers and adequate footwear for driving with (you will not be allowed on track wearing shorts, T-shirt and sandals!)

CRASH HELMETS ARE COMPULSORY It is best to bring your own, to ensure a perfect fit, but a suitable helmet can be hired on the day for a small fee (£10), against your credit / debit card details as a deposit.

Procedures
Arrive early, to give yourself plenty of time to get ready. After parking up in the paddock area (open from 7.00 am), first report to the admin desk to sign on (from 8.00 am), show your driving licence, and get a wristband and your entry numbers.

DON’T FORGET YOUR DRIVING LICENCE: Circuit regulations now mean that everyone on track must hold a full current driving licence and we must see it on the day – not a photocopies. Disqualified drivers cannot, therefore, take part in a track day.

Next priority is to attend the Driver’s briefing, where you will be advised on track etiquette, flag signals and exact procedures during the day. If you have any questions, do not be afraid to ask – others will be glad that you did. You will get another wristband to prove that you have attended.

Either before or after the driver’s briefing, depending on the time available, clear your car of all extraneous content and then take it for a sound check. This is primarily to check exhaust noise levels, which must be below 100 dB(A) measured at 0.5 metre from the exhaust outlet, at 4500 rpm. This is seldom a problem for ordinary tuned road cars with a sensible system e.g. Jetex / Milltek etc, but may pose a problem for highly-tuned modified cars. If approved, you’ll be given a pass to stick in the windscreen.

There is no independent mechanical scrutineering – you are responsible for ensuring that your car is in a suitable condition for circuit driving.

Before lining up for the track sessions, make sure that your entry number is displayed, and that your car is clear of all extraneous objects (remove spare wheel, boot contents, empty door pockets etc. It is a good idea to bring along a large box or small tent to store all these in). Seat belts must be worn, doors securely shut (but not locked) and windows and sunroof closed.

Queue up in the assembly area, where the marshals will check your passes, take your tickets and control your progress out on to the track. Please drive slowly and carefully through the paddock and assembly area, as there are often spectators milling around.

Session systems
Track days are organised in one of three ways:

1. Some run a strict timetable of individual sessions, usually four per hour, into which you are entered in advance. Listen out for announcements, especially if any stoppages cause the timetable to be readjusted. Make sure you are ready and queued up in time for your next session, or you may miss out.

2. Others run an Open Pit Lane system. Here, the track is constantly open, cars assemble in the pit area and one car goes out as a car comes in. Realistically, few drivers will want to be out on circuit for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, and so in reality ¬the system works well.

3. AutoMetrix track days usually run a queueing system. You receive tickets valid for individual sessions, one collected each time you go out, so you can’t get more than the allotted number of sessions (3 per half day, 6 per day), although you may be able to buy extra tickets on the day, subject to availability.

The onus is on the driver to join the continuous queueing system in good time to get into the next available session, though. If you spend too much time socialising in the paddock, you could run the risk of missing out on one of your sessions (your fault – if so, no refunds can be given)

An AutoMetrix track day entry applies to a car and primary driver. Additional drivers can share the car, subject to a one-off nominal admin fee (£10) and completion of an indemnity form.

All drivers (primary and secondary) must have attended a briefing session – you will be issued with a wristband to prove attendance and this must be shown to the marshals in the pit lane, before you’ll be allowed on track. Listen out for announcements throughout the day.

Front seat passengers can also be taken out on track, subject to a one-off nominal admin. fee (usually £10) Passengers must also show a wristband, to prove that they have paid the admin fee and completed an indemnity form. This fee entitles the passenger to a full day’s activity – as many rides as they can cadge!

On Track
A typical session will give a clear 10-15 minutes of track time, usually enough for 6 or 7 clear fast laps. If you are new to track driving, or to the circuit itself, you should use your first session(s) to acclimatise to the track and learn the lines. Don’t try to drive too fast, too soon.

So that you can learn the track at a sensible pace, you can ask an instructor to accompany you or drive you around to show you the correct techniques – this is free of charge, but needs to be arranged carefully as there may only be one instructor available.

At all times, drive at your own pace – don’t follow anyone else, try to keep up with faster drivers or get drawn into ‘racing’ with other drivers. Watch your mirrors closely and allow faster drivers to pass at the earliest available opportunity. If you see a blue flag being waved at you, it is because someone faster is trying to pass. Obstruct another driver, or overtake in the wrong place and you could be black-flagged off the circuit.

When the chequered flag is waved to indicate the end of a session you should slow down and drive steadily around for another lap before peeling off into the pit lane. This will allow your engine and brakes to cool off, before driving slowly and carefully back to your parking place in the paddock.

Leave the engine idling for a while, with the bonnet open, before switching off. Leave the car in gear, or chock the wheels to prevent it rolling, rather than applying the handbrake, as this can cause the rear discs to warp.

Bear in mind that track driving increases fuel consumption dramatically – as much as twice the normal rate. Even if you don’t suffer the ignominy of running out and having to be recovered from the circuit, if the level is too low, fuel surge on hard cornering can cause the engine to misfire.

Make sure you have more than enough fuel to complete a full session before starting, and give yourself time to leave the circuit to refuel if necessary (find out where the nearest petrol station is, in advance).

It is advisable to use a high-quality / high-octane fuel like Shell V-Power or BP Ultimate or use fuel additives / octane booster when driving on track.

Mechanical condition
We must stress that you and you alone are responsible for ensuring that your car is in a suitable condition for circuit driving. There is no independent mechanical scrutineering.

Driving fast on track imposes stresses and strains well beyond those experienced in normal fast road driving. The car must be in sound condition – if you are in any doubt whatsoever, put the car through an MoT test during the previous weekend, to identify any obvious weaknesses, or arrange an inspection by a professional mechanic.

Road tyres should be fully road-legal, but it is best not to take to the track on brand-new tyres. In fact, many participants prefer to use well-worn tyres (assuming conditions are dry) as these provide better grip and handling.

Opinions differ on the subject but, for the beginner, on a dry track day, we suggest that you increase tyre pressures by 2-3 psi above standard, measured when cold. This provides greater stability at high speed. Carefully monitor the wear rate throughout the day, though, so that you don’t drive home on bald illegal tyres (some bring a spare set of wheels and full-treaded tyres, for the drive home, or in case conditions are wet on the day)

Circuit regulations now state that SLICK RACING TYRES ARE ALLOWED provided that conditions are suitable. Road-legal trackday tyres (e.g. Toyo R888, Pirelli Corsa) are of course permitted.

Standard brakes, even on high-performance models, may well prove inadequate for sustained use at typical track speeds. Make sure that you have fresh brake fluid in the system, and you might want to fit high-performance pads (e.g. EBC Red or Yellow, or Pagid Fast Road pads).

If you have adjustable suspension, you might want to increase the damping rate by one or two notches, but don’t go too stiff too soon until you are used to the car’s reactions.

Standard suspension, even on a sporting model, will often prove inadequate for high-speed track driving. If you are contemplating an upgrade, then – as a first stage – firmer dampers and / or uprated anti-roll bars will give better results than lowered and stiffened springs.

Make sure, in advance, that your steering geometry (tracking) is correctly adjusted – incorrect geometry will not only wear out tyres at an alarming rate, but will also upset the handling at high speed. A simple tracking check, but preferably a full four-wheel alignment check, will be reassuring before taking part in a track day.

If the car has not been serviced recently, then an oil and filter change the week before will be a good precaution. Before going out on track, ensure that the oil and coolant levels are correct (but do not overfill), make sure the battery and other ancillaries are firmly fixed, and make sure there are no fluid leaks!

Double-check wheel bolt tightness, both before and during the day (but do not overtighten) and remove wheel centre caps and wheel trims, to prevent them from flying off at high speed.

Fit the towing eye on the front of the car before going out on track, in case you need to be towed out of the gravel trap. It is also a good idea to tape up your headlights, in case the glass is shattered by a stone.

Insurance / warranty
Your normal insurance policy will almost certainly not cover your car while it is out on track. While not mandatory, we strongly advise that you take out special trackday cover, to cover yourself in case of an accident.

Suitable policies are offered by companies like HIC or Adrian Flux, but contact them well ahead of the event for the paperwork to clear.
https://www.hertsinsurance.com/track-day-insurance/ or https://www.adrianflux.co.uk/trackday/

Also be aware that manufacturers’ warranties may well be invalidated if the car is used for track days during its warranty period. Magazine reports will often publish the complete entry list and photos will show number plates. If you don’t wish to be identified in this way, then contact the organiser in advance, and / or tape up your registration plates on the day.

An expert motorsport photographer is usually present to photograph the cars as they drive around the track, in case you want to buy photos of your car on the circuit – an ideal memento of an enjoyable day out, especially for the first-time track-day entrant.

Our own photo-reports usually appear in the next available issue of Volkswagen Driver or Audi Driver magazines, as applicable. Contact us to reserve your copy.

If you have any questions about procedures or preparation, please feel free to contact us in advance of the event, or ask our admin staff or track officials on the day.

We look forward to seeing you all there…