We can help you make your track experience safe and comfortable
Various organizations call their events either lapping days, track events or High Performance Driving Education (HPDE) events. Each has a slightly different take on a similar concept: Drive your car in a safe and controlled environment to improve your driving while enjoying your high performance vehicle. For the purposes of this article, we'll use the terms interchangeably.
The events are held on dedicated race tracks designed to teach drivers proper high speed driving techniques. Track events are held by various automobile enthusiasts' clubs at some of the most renowned road-course tracks around the world. Participants include both students and instructors. Students are grouped according to their ability and experience, with "Novice Group" students being the least experienced,"Intermediate Group" being more experienced and "Advanced Group" drivers being the most experienced and capable of driving the racetrack without a ride-along instructor. Mandatory classroom instruction contributes to the overall learning experience and allows peer-group discussions of on-track performance and analysis of track characteristics.
HPDE events are not racing. Cars on-track operate under strict "rules of engagement" which minimize the likelihood of dangerous encounters with other cars. Occasional off-track excursions into the grass are normally controlled stops, with track personnel and on-board instructors supervising a safe re-entry onto the track. Passing among participants is facilitated only within defined "passing zones", and then only with clear hand signals and instructor confirmation.
Lapping events encourage participants to drive within their ability and improve their car-control skills with each event. Instructors and staff evaluate each student's progress throughout the weekend, and make recommendations on the student's advancement through successively higher driver groups.
Although the majority of participants utilize a performance vehicle, students are allowed to drive virtually any vehicle that has been deemed safe by a qualified mechanic and is known to have adequate handling characteristics for track use. Most schools require convertibles to have an approved rollbar. Some factory installed rollbars are not approved for track use. Factory-installed 3-point seatbelts and approved helmets are the minimum safety restraint system allowed. Safety Helmets with a Snell rating of "M" (motorcycle - not fire retardant) are required for some schools but most will require "SA" (speciality application - fire retardant) ratings, with the helmet specification being no older than 10 years (example: Rating SA-2000 helmets would normally be valid for HPDE events through the year 2010). The Snell Foundation normally releases upgraded helmet standards every five years.
Some HPDE events also include a "Time Trial" segment, usually conducted at the end of the day, where advanced students who have been "signed off" to drive without an instructor compete for fastest lap times. Time Trials are also conducted under strict rules which maximize track safety.
The gear you can use for lapping days builds on our recommendations for Autocross. First and foremost needs to be a focus on safety, especially because of the higher speeds involved at track events. Helmets are not always required, but we highly recommend using one even if it's not mandatory. Building on the safety theme, a good pair of gloves and shoes should also be a must-have on your preparation list. If your track car is a thinly disguised racecar, a driving suit may be something to consider as well.
Every car, whether it be a street car or a full blown racecar, can benefit from a well fitting driver's seat; the seat will give you a much better feel of what the car is doing. Because of the racing seat's higher side bolsters, it would be prudent to get a set of harnesses to ensure that you're well restrained in the event of an accident. Even without an accident, a racing harness provides a much better connection to the car and stops you from having to brace using your knees or elbows. It's often one of the best upgrades a driver can make.
Now that you're protected,it's time to turn some attention to the car itself. You'll want to ensure you have brake pads and lubricants suited for the track. We carry the three best brake fluids on the market, Castrol SRF, Motul RBF600 and the new Endless RF650. Any of those three will give you fantastic performance and the safety of a firm pedal. Now that your car can stop, it's time to make it turn. You can either build up your suspension system incrementally or go for a full-blown track setup from day one. We can work with you to ensure you have the very best setup for your needs.
With the higher speeds involved at lapping events, it becomes even more important to ensure your car setup is ideal. Alignments can change from event to event, so a good set of tuning & setup tools can bring you confidence in knowing that the car is working with you and not against you. We carry a full suite of tuning & setup tools.
Track events are the highest growth area of motorsport today. We're avid supporters of this format and would be pleased to provide you with insight on what it takes to have a safe, fun and reliable time at the track. We would also be pleased to provide insight on what it takes to take the next step in the motorsport ladder to regional racing. Contact or visit us and we'll be happy to let you try on different safety gear in the large variety of sizes and styles we carry in-stock.
Please contact us for more information.