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Saturday morning, it’s 12 a.m. and you can’t sleep. Your first track day in 7 hours. Your mind is racing trying to make sure everything is prepared for the weekend. Suddenly it hits you, are you prepared for the best outcome on and off the track?
You’ll want to be safe, legal with regs of the group putting on the track day and also prepared to optimize the #1 goal: to go fast, learn, have fun and bring the car home in one piece.
To help you, here’s a little rundown of track day gear basics and items that one should consider bringing to have a successful track weekend.
One of many things, most new drivers must consider is a helmet. Without a helmet no driver can enter the track at any raceway. In general, in the United States you need a helmet that's at least SA2010 or the current SA2015 standard, which any new helmet being sold should be. Definitely don't forget to bring this important safety equipment as some racetracks do not have rentals available. A perfectly sized helmet for your head will go a long way in elevating the experience and reducing fatigue or worse yet, giving you a big headache because it doesn't fit.
Buying a helmet should be done in an in-store fitting if possible to make sure it’s properly sized without any issues or via an online retailer with an appropriate return policy to let you try a model on without any risk (which of course includes Torqued.) Please see our helmet fitment guide to see how to do this at home or shoot us an email if you need help.
While most our cars are reliable on the street, you’ll never know the outcome once pushed at the limit. It’s great to bring basic necessities to prolong your track session if any breakdown arise. A floor jack, jack stands, cordless impact wrench (remove wheels ), basic socket set, wrenches and screwdrivers can all help when things might not go your way. Be prepared and make yourself a basic tool kit for track day events. Many people bring all their gear in a plastic box so that it's all in one place in the paddock.
If there's one and only one tool that you bring, we highly recommend bringing a tire pressure gauge. Track driving really heats up tires and increases the pressure to well outside the standard operating range of a tire. To keep the tire within the operating pressure, you'll want a tire pressure gauge which lets you accurately drop a few PSI before you head out on track and check what the pressure is when you come out of a session. Don't rely on your TPMS - use a real pressure gauge on the valve.
While you will want to research this for your car and tires specifically, usually a drop of 4-5 PSI off the suggested pressure (look in your driver side door jam) is a good start. The goal is to come out of a session and be in the pressure operating range suggested by the manufacturer. This may trip your TPMS unless your car has a "track mode" where the low pressure threshold is lowered when set. When you're done with your day, you'll need a way to get air back into the tires too. For the pressure gauges, we're a big fan of Longacre.
There are a couple of basic things we usually recommend to bring: blue tape, a quart of oil for your car, Windex and paper towels. The blue tape can be used to put a number on your car. You may have chosen one when signing up for an event and some people have magnetic decals with their favorite number, but you see lots of people just putting a number on their car with blue tape.
The quart of oil is to avoid that dreaded oil warning and then having to scramble to top off your engine. Many modern high performance engines either have an extremely tight tolerance for oil level or even burn a slight amount of oil over time, so it's good to have some in reserve to use at a moment's notice.
Windex and towels are just good to have to clean your windshield.
For your first track day, wear comfortable pants, have a long sleeve shirt and wear some shoes that are not too bulky. Sometimes, there's a requirement for full arm sleeves, so it's good to have both full-length pants and a shirt with you. For in between sessions, make sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, a puffy or whatever the climate might dictate. Chances are you'll be outside for most of the day checking out cars and talking to people.
If you want to step it up a notch, you can get some racing gloves or even driving shoes, but these are not necessary for a first day at the track. If you feel like you need them after the first day, these are things you can buy step by step.
Additionally, you may also want to purchase an accurate tire pressure gauge. Tires heat up quick at track days and if you leave your tires at stock pressures, they'll quickly get too hot or high pressure from track driving. Instead, look up what starting pressure most folks recommend for your car and/or tire, reduce the pressure to near that for the first session and then see what the pressure is right after you come off the track. Be careful not to exceed the recommended pressure of the tire - it's not good for the tire and it will also make your car feel like it has no grip.
Though most racetracks have an amazing food court cough Thunderhill Raceway Cafe cough , always be prepared to hydrate yourself during off sessions. Plenty of times the adrenaline as a new (or seasoned) driver gets the best of us, curving our appetite and in the long run creating body and mind fatigue due to lack of food and water. Bring a cooler, store water and food of your choice. A banana or two will go a long way during your track day. Remember a happy driver does happy driving.
Remember the situation in the opening statement, 12am can’t sleep, you're not alone. It is important to get plenty of sleep before the event. If it means staying at the local hotel/motel or sleeping at 6pm the night before, do as you must to get proper rest. Track days are long but go by quick, making sure you’re well rested will be important in being successful.
Little tip given to me when I first started tracking my cars was a AAA membership. To be a AAA member is an annual fee of either $51-$110. The price may sound steep at first but this will be more beneficial at crucial times. The premier membership of $110 will provide you with 1x 200 mile tow and 3x 100mile tows. It literally pays itself in the first 5 miles. If things don’t go well at the track at least you can find yourself in great company with a tow truck driver while getting a free ride home.
Now that you’re prepared yourself as best as possible, go out there and drive. There’s no greater feeling being the 1% of drivers who track their vehicles at least once. Never know, you might become a track addict after that first turn.