Northern VA Auto Repair


TRACK 101: Frequently Asked Questions

Are track days bad for my car?

Not necessarily.  For vehicles that are well maintained (regular oil changes, annual inspections, and performing all the manufacturer’s recommended scheduled services), they do beautifully.  Vehicles were made to be driven.  Testing the limits in a controlled environment will usually not do any harm to the engine or the major systems.  Be extra vigilant with inspecting your brakes and tires, as these will wear out the faster with regular track time.

What do I need to do to get ready? Properly inspect and prepare your car.  Remove all loose items and get a track inspection.  Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants made with natural fabrics – no synthetics.  Pack plenty of water and energy drinks as well as heathy, protein-rich snacks.  Your adrenaline will be surging, and dehydration is always a concern. 

How long is a day at the track? Usually a full 8-hour day.  Events start early; around 7-8 for vehicle inspections.  A mandatory drivers meeting will follow with segments on and off the track until 5pm when the track goes “cold”.  The track will also usually go cold for an hour lunch break and sometimes on Sunday during Church hours if there is one close by.

How safe are track days?  Safer than driving on the highway.  You’ll be in a controlled environment with tons of rules, trained instructors, lots of classroom education, flaggers, track personnel and event coordinators to look out for the safety of all the drivers, participants and spectators.  These events are focused on performance, driver education and handling.   Any reckless and out of control behavior or threats to safety will be immediately eliminated and removed!

Can I take my own car to the track?  Of course!  This is highly recommended so you can learn how to handle your own car better.  As long as it’s not an SUV (they’re top heavy and roll easily) or a convertible.  Check the event for their rules since they are sometimes more lenient with the lower speed events and will allow some SUV models and convertibles fitted with roll cages.

Do I need a roll cage?   This is entirely dependent on the type of event you’re participating in.  Most High-Performance Drivers Ed events do not require a cage.  If you are in a race series or club race, not only is it recommended, it will probably be required equipment as well as a HANS device for your helmet.

Will I need a helmet?  For low-speed drivers-ed events – no.  These events, as well as clinics and autocross, just require a seat belt.  Once you get past the beginner events, more safety equipment like helmets will be required.  Check your specific event and organization for requirements.  Most tracks will have a limited number of helmets on hand to borrow if it’s your first event.  Purchasing your own helmet that fits your head is highly recommended.  Get a Snell (SA) approved helmet at a performance store that is fitted just for you.  Additionally, HANS devices are available and should be purchased with your helmet (rated as SAH).  These provide additional support for your neck, back and spine and are required equipment if your vehicle has a roll cage installed.  A decent helmet will run about $200-300 and should be your first safety equipment purchase!