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Track Days, where Cars Play Universal Fit Blogging

Going to the track, HT-Style. Heeltoe lives up to its name.

Before I begin, let me get some formalities out of the way:
The event is being held at Willow Springs International Raceway, and is presented by eXtreme Speed Track Events.

Special thanks and support go to:
My friends from hybrids.jp
Phil at Tein USA
Brian at Fastbrakes
Oscar and Tony at Skunk2

I am not sure if this is good or what, but it seems like the news of my first track excursion is getting some real attention. Old friends (I mean, going back 10 years or more) who have been going to track events this whole time are all perking up and taking notice. I’ve always known that there is a big dividing line between those who track and those who don’t. I’ve always kinda sorta balanced that line socially without actually crossing over.

And now I am close. Actually very close. In 2 short days, I’ll be circulating Willow Springs International Raceway, with an instructor in my passenger seat and a GoPro Hero camera stuck somewhere on a fender or something. And then it hit me…damn, I gotta lot of preparation to do!

Since I sell a lot of parts to Acura drivers who very specifically and vehemently make the point that they don’t track their cars, I thought this might be a great opportunity to share my experience and provide somewhat of a roadmap for others who are a little hungry for track driving but need a little backup.

I first hooked up with an old group of friends on Facebook who I know would have all kinds of great info on going track driving. My first question has to do with a list of stuff to bring. Obviously, if you are going to have an adventure like this you need to be prepared. But then again, is it possible to be too prepared as well? I relied on some “experts” on trackHQ.com, NWP4Life.com, and hybrids.jp and was a little surprised at some of the items that were mentioned:

  • Brake Fluid (and bleeding implement of your choice, just in case)
  • Brake Pads (you’ll use up milder pads pretty quick, but you could also use a dual-duty street/track pad like a Hawk HP+ to avoid changing. I will be sampling a new Racingbrake compound for possible use in our Stage 3 brake kits.)
  • Torque Wrench* a tire iron will do, though.
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Jack and Jack stands
  • Tire Chock (you won’t be setting your e-brake after exiting the track)
  • Flashlight
  • Mechanics Gloves
  • A basic set of tools and extra fluids
  • Blue tape or some other means of affixing a number and marking tow points.
  • Lots of water (I got 2 jugs)
  • A pad or mat to put on the ground (pit asphalt is rough and nasty, and you may need to roll around on it. I am trying a yoga mat in the least girlie color possible out this time) * This is a luxury item, but is nice to have and simple to pack
  • Shelter (Easy Up) and folding chairs * Also luxury items.
  • Sunscreen
  • A hat
  • Razor blades (dunno why, but I always like having them)
  • Duct tape (what the hell, right?) * Redundant with the blue tape
  • Wet wipes * only if you think you need the jack and jack stands and are going to get dirty I guess. Most tracks have bathrooms.
  • Something to put trash in (I got a collapsible laundry bin) * Most tracks have trash cans.
  • Change of clothes * See wet wipes comment.
  • Food (best to bring stuff with electrolytes, natural sugars, and low fat stuff with moderate carbs. I am taking Lunchables, fruit, Gatorade, stuff like that. Easy to pack and eat with little or no prep or cleanup) * This is not a bad idea, but most tracks also have food.
  • A container to put it all in
  • A new set of brakes (the HT-Spec TSX is graduating from Stage 3 to a brand new Stage 4 at the track!) * Don’t do this. An extra set of pads is all you MIGHT need but really, most likely, won’t if you install proper ones before you go.
  • Tools to install the new brakes * Mentioned tools already.
  • An air tank with compressed air (I’ll be messing with tire pressures a bit, and want to air back up as needed) * You can drive home on lower tire pressure, you won’t be dropping more than 10-12 psi. No need to burden yourself with an air tank.
  • Camera/GoPro (I plan on carrying these soon, they are pretty cool) in order to share my experiences with you * Purely optional
  • My HTC Incredible with Trackmaster data-logging software (to measure lap times, split times, and to see if I can measure any increased G-loads with the brake upgrades) * Track lap apps are fun, not really a thing to “bring” though.
  • My laptop with mobile hotspot (what’s life without internet and a keyboard?) * Nobody needs this at the track. Unless you have a special need.
  • Laser temperature gauge (for checking tire temps and brake temps) * Something to test tire temps is a good idea, helps with the tire pressure guesswork. But first-timer need not apply unless you want to geek out.
  • DC to AC power inverter * For what? To run the blender for margaritas? It can be handy for charging phones and stuff, but not needed at all.

Update from December 2020, after going on many more track days, you don’t need nearly this much stuff! I’ve marked optional stuff with an *

Marcus

I have a fair bit of work cut out for me…and whenever you have logistics, supply chain, services intersecting like this, scheduling is critical! So here is my schedule as near as I can figure it:

A week before…Do a quick tech check on the car, make sure all is up to snuff.

2/1/11: Go wherever I need to collect anything I need to fulfill my list of stuff.

2/2/11: Scope out the parts I am planning to install, make sure A) everything is correct, and B) I bring all the right tools to assemble it. I did a little trial run on the brake parts tonight and it is a damn good thing I did because A) everything is NOT correct and I need to get a couple of small items shipped overnight, and B) I have some funky wrench sizes that I might not normally bring. I am also figuring out my schedule, right now.

2/3/11: Order whatever snafu fixes that are needed. Group everything together and get it ready to load into the car.

2/4/11: Track event-eve! Normally I’d load up the day before the event but life being what it is that didn’t work out this time and I need to pack 2 days before this time. Go figure. Nothing is happening today. No drink, and not up too late! Get the coffee ready to brew before going to bed!

2/5/11: Track day! Early start. Need to be at the track at 7:00 AM, and it is about 2 hours away. Leave at 5:00 AM. Wake up a 4:30, shower, brew coffee, and split. Get something to eat on the way, maybe a big nasty breakfast burrito…something with some staying power 
7:00-7:30 AM: Arrive @ track
7:45-8:15: Set up my spot
8:30: Driver’s meeting (where they tell you the rules about safety, passing, run-down flag meanings, etc)
—and now I don’t know the specifics on the times but we have a general order of things—
1) Beginners go out (that is me!)
2) I come in and while other people are going out I am going to take some tire temps and brake temps. I’ll record the data, and export my data log to my laptop. I am expecting to have enough time to install my big brake kit before I go out again, but depending on how things go I might hold off and install them after the next session instead.
>>Basically, I plan on repeating 1 and 2 all day long until it is time to go home 

So that is it…there is a lot of prep, and when it comes down to it the day itself should really be pretty simple. I feel like this posting is just…ending.

I’ll make sure to embellish my list of items and refine the schedule as I begin to wish-I-did-this and shoulda/coulda/woulda-done-that. I really want some of my Acura friends and fans to get out to the track as I get out and reacquaint with some old pals.

Feel free to post comments or questions!

Marcus