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Track Day Prep Part 1 – Passing Tech
Going to a track day or HPDE (High-Performance Driving Event) for your first time can be scary, nerve racking, and exciting all at the same time. Most importantly you should have fun and be safe, this guide will help you with both of those and have you wanting to return to the track as soon as possible.
You do not need a dedicated track car to be successful at the track. Much to the contrary, you can have as much fun if you just “run what you brung”. That said, your car should be in good mechanical working order; you’ll have to pass a tech inspection of both your car and your safety gear and this is what you can expect.
All of your fluids should be at the proper levels with no leaks and proper overflow containers where applicable. All belts and hoses should be in good condition visually, and your battery should be secured either using the factory hold down or another solid approved hold down device (bungee cords are not allowed). Your throttle (gas pedal) may also be inspected to return quickly when you let off. Some tracks have a sound level restriction so make sure that your exhaust will fill that requirement.
You should have changed out your brake fluid for high-quality DOT4 fluid before even leaving your house, or had a shop do it in preparation for your track event. The tech inspector will be looking for a brake fluid reservoir that has clear fluid. Brake pads should not be more than 50% worn, ideally you will have put good quality track specific pad on before the event ensuring that you have pads with enough material to last and also pads that will not fade under track use (we will explain fade later). Your rotors should be in good condition visually without any cracks or discoloration. It should go without saying that your brake system should have no leaks in it as well, be sure to inspect your master cylinder, calipers, and brake hoses as those are the places that are prone to leaking.
Suspension & Steering
All ball joints, steering linkages, wheel bearings and shock/spring mounts should have little to no play. Shocks should also be inspected for fluid leaks and repaired/replaced if you do find a leak.
Wheels & Tires
Tires should have adequate tread and be properly speed rated for your vehicle and the track event, visually inspect your tires for debris or damage. Tires should be filled to correct pressure and checked throughout the day with a good quality tire pressure gauge (see our track day supply list for details). There should not be any missing lug nuts or wheels studs and lug nuts should be tightened to proper torque spec. Cracks or bends in wheels can end your track day in a very spectacular fashion; if your wheels are bent or cracked they must be fixed/replaced prior to the event.
Make sure that your brake lights, headlights, and windshield wipers function properly. Windshield and rear window should be free of cracks and cleaned before and between event sessions. Body panels should be secure on the car and not cause rubbing with tires under hard braking or in a turn.
Safety equipment will be one of your biggest investments on your track day journey although you don’t have to go out and buy tons of expensive equipment for your first day out.
Your helmet should be Snell certified K/M/SA2010 or newer and in good condition, the clear coat should not be cracked or faded and there should be no visible damage. If you have crashed in a helmet most manufacturers will inspect it for free to guarantee that it is still safe to use. Helmet fit is also very important, but we will get into that in part 2 of this guide, if you can’t wait for part 2 and know your helmet size the Bell Sport is a great option that won’t break the bank.
Shoes & Clothing
You’ll need closed toe shoes that are not falling apart, sandals of any sort are not acceptable. Driving/racing shoes are not required but can help with pedal feel and heel/toe technique if your car is manual, I have found that popular skate shoes with a flat sole are a great alternative to dedicated driving shoes. Pants are recommended but may not be required depending on who is running your track event, and a long sleeve shirt is recommended.
Your seats should be securely bolted to the floor, if you have aftermarket seats you should invest in the proper sliding brackets to adjust your driving position (we will go over driving position later). Aftermarket harnesses should also be properly and safely attached to your vehicle. Seat belts or harnesses should be in good condition and not have any rips or tears, and should have a properly operating latch mechanism.
Rollbars may be required if you have a convertible car, or if your doors have been modified to remove the crash protection beams. If you have a rollbar, it should be well built and meet the requirements of your track day sanctioning body. Rollbar padding is also required anywhere that your head may impact the rollbar in the event of a trip off of the track or a crash.
There should not be anything loose or unsecured in either the passenger compartment or the trunk of your car. Cleaning your car out before an event should be part of your pre-event checklist, anything you take to the track with you such as tools or food/water should be left in the pits before you go out on track.
If you follow this guide you should breeze through tech and spend more time on the track with your instructor. In part 2 we will cover what to bring to the track with you as well as a printable checklist for your first track day.
If you are looking to get a headstart on equipment and need a set of brakes for the track, check out our new platform specific Power Stop Track Day Brake Kits that were designed and tested on the track.