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Track Day Prep

Car Preparation


Car Preparation

First off, check all fluids: brake fluid, engine and gearbox lubrication oils, power steering fluid, coolants, fuel.

  • Brake fluid is the most important. In performance driving, brake fluid has a tendency, considered utterly rare on road cars, to boil and even evaporate, leading to a partial, but substantial brake failure. Make sure exposure of the fluid to air is minimal and fluid is not old.
  • Oil must be clear and not smell burnt.
  • A preferable fuel is a high-octane one, with minimal amounts of additives. Note that you should only fill your tank with the amount of fuel that will get you through the event. Excessive fuel storage will result in extra weight and weight transfer.
  • Check for coolant in both coolant storage tank and the different radiators. A 60-40 ratio of water to artificial coolant is advised, but follow your applications directions. It is possible to fill it just slightly above the maximum line if the car heats up too quickly. Make sure the coolant is cold when about to race or when measuring it. If needed to check a hot engine, keep it running with the heater working full-time and with open windows. If you have A/C, you will need to shut it off.

The discs and pads of the brakes are perhaps most important to check. Racing disc brakes, especially on tarmac racing (due to speed, friction and driving style face great loads), are made of ceramic materials. However, they should be frequently replaced, whenever any obvious signs of wear appears on them or on the pads. Regardless of expense, don’t “try” to get through an event on pads/rotors that “might” make it through one more event.

This by itself, though, will not be enough. A good brake without the tire, damper and suspension to back it up is the equal of a faulty brake. You need to check the tread and wear on your tire, fill it with air pressure and use a professional clock-shaped gauge to measure the pressure. Make sure the gauge is not old and hasn’t suffered blows or shocks that can reduce it’s accuracy. Keep a pencil gauge in your toolbox for emergencies, as it is more resistant to blows. Tire pressures vary greatly by car, driver, and track. You must experiment and test data to find your optimal pressures.

Now, check the radiators. A car typically has more than one, and you will need to make sure all radiators have a clear path for air to flow through the fins. Cleaning the radiators is recommended a day or two before the event. Note that some license plate mounts can obstruct the radiator, so remove them at the event. A clear radiator will provide better performance and mileage, and more aerodynamic downforce with less air drag.

Make sure the seat is adjusted to your satisfaction. A racing seat is placed carefully by engineers, according to driver feedback. You should experiment different postures around a track, until you find the ideal position. It should be slightly closer to the wheel and more upright than on the road, but not substantially different from your road driving position. This process, though, may take a few hours.

A car should never be raced cold. However, modern automobiles don’t require a deliberate warm-up in most cases. All you need to do is to drive the car around, relaxed and smoothly, at low RPM’s (a rule of thumb, nothing more than around 3500RPMs). After the car has reached and maintained working temperature (depends on vehicle), which could take 20 minutes, unless it’s very cold), drive it around for a short while on higher revs (4000-5800). This will help engine and gearbox lubrication, and will minimize soot inside the cylinders. Note that, in freezing conditions, cars should be connected to warming devices overnight.

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