Track days are a fast growing answer to the frustration felt by tens of thousands of car enthusiasts who want to drive and enjoy speed from their pride and joy but can’t.
With today’s crowded roads, worn out roads and speed cameras it is all but impossible to drive a performance car at the speed it was built for. Or at least it is unless you want to risk your licence, health and safety of everyone around you.
What are track days?
They are events run at venues around the country, from some of the most famous and challenging race circuits in the country such as Brands Hatch, Donington, Silverstone or Oulton Park, to airfields developed for this use and kart circuits.
Here you can bring your road car, or a race car (but not a single seater) and enjoy as many hours as you can take on the day.
Oh, you can also take a passenger too. Just the thing to reward (or scare!) a friend…
What do I need to bring?
A full DVLA road licence is mandatory and must be produced as you sign on and before you are let onto the track. A crash helmet is a must for any open-topped car but no one in their right mind would ever venture on track without wearing one anyway. Most venues and organisers will have these to hire on the day.
You will find that road car rubber fries pretty quickly when subjected to the braking and cornering speeds on a track and if you intend driving it home at the end of the day you may want to think about bringing a spare set.
What aren’t they?
Race days! These events cater for drivers of all levels of experience and ability and anyone judged to be driving as if in a competition will be asked to leave. There are no prizes for putting yourself or anyone else into the barriers.
Can I get tuition?
Yes, most events will offer the guiding hand of a qualified race instructor who will help you improve your driving, get more for your time on the track and to enjoy your car more.
Most drivers will discover how being smooth and keeping the car balanced will make them a lot faster and a significant benefit is that those lessons can be translated onto the road, making you safer there too.
What other restrictions are there?
All race tracks or similar venues only have a licence to operate subject to them keeping vehicles within strict noise limits so as to not upset nearby residents. So, your car will be noise checked before being declared fit for the track. You will be asked to rev the engine to a certain level while a monitor measures the decibel level. Check before you book your day.
Who does track days?
Many owners’ clubs hold them for their customers but there are several national organisers too. MSV, the company run by ex-Grand Prix driver Jonathan Palmer and which owns the majority of the main UK circuits holds them and there are many more specialist such as Bookatrack Ltd.
These are experienced companies who focus on safety and customer care more than anything and will give you a good day out.
It’s big business too. Underlining the sector’s growing popularity a spokesman for MSV said:
“There were around 9,000 MSVT track day spaces sold across our circuits in 2016 which is an increase of around 12 per cent from 2015.”
It depends on the venue but for a race track such as Oulton Park or Donington you can expect to pay a couple of hundred pounds but that gets you all day with what is called an open-pit format where you can go out whenever you want or for as long as you like.
Some venues and organisers charge less and you can find days which are run in sessions with perhaps three, 20 minute slots per hour for cars of different speeds and drivers of different levels of experience.
Any other advice?
You will find that road car rubber fries pretty quickly when subjected to the braking and cornering speeds on a track and if you intend driving it home at the end of the day you may want to think about bringing a spare set. Ditto the brakes.
A big warning – do not do as some have done in the past and present themselves at the wheel of their company car or one on a finance deal. Motor racing tracks are most definitely not on the list of what is allowed under those terms!
Most of all, remember to drive safety at all times!