1 2
ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/14/22 2:41 p.m.

This Friday I will be going to the Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park to do my first track day. I have been to the FIRM many times and have filmed/ edited may videos about J.G. driving there (See our new car reviews here). However, I have never driven around the track at speed.

Like Colin, I don’t want to give away too much other than we will be doing a comparison of sorts. My only experience on a track is a few autocross events and go karts.

I have a helmet and safety gear and will be driving a track rental car, but what tips do you all have for me to make it a successful day and what should I expect as a first-time track day driver?

Also how do I get physically comfortable in a car I am not familiar with? I have never been comfortable in a car with a helmet on or in an optimal position when wearing a helmet with the limited amount of time I have spent in one.  

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
11/14/22 2:52 p.m.

I'm super excited for this test, and wish you (and Colin) the best of luck. Here's my advice on getting comfortable, though I'm weird because I've always driven a wide range of cars. Most people take a while to get comfortable with a new car, and that's totally normal/fine.

So, how do I get comfortable when I jump into a new car? Simple: I don't. I find it's pretty much impossible to get comfortable in the paddock, so I get close enough and focus primarily on seat position. If I can reach the wheel and pedals, the rest can be tweaked later. Then, once I'm out on track and actually using the car I'll start making mental notes for how to adjust everything else. By the second session I'll feel mostly at home.

As far as the helmet: Your main discomfort is probably the lack of peripheral vision. Don't worry about it--it'll help you focus, and as long as you can see the mirrors you can see just as much as you do when you're driving around without a helmet. Take your first few laps slow and practice tracking objects around the car, be they other cars, signs, etc., and you'll pretty quickly realize that you can see 360 degrees just with the mirrors in front of you. This will pay dividends when you're not wearing a helmet, too, and you'll have a way better sense of where every car is around you.

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/14/22 3:11 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Thanks, 

Ill shoot for comfortable enough on the first session with being able to reach everything needed then tweak from there. I know I wont be going all out as fast as possible my first session so I am sure that will give me time to take in the surroundings and feel a little more at home in the car. 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/14/22 3:34 p.m.

The biggest thing I'll be telling both you guys that day (well not so  much you THAT DAY) is eye discipline. You;re going to go where your eyes are looking, and putting yourself in a position to get your eyes looking effectively is going to partially define your seating position. So get used to not automatically looking where you are going but looking where you WANT TO GO. Sometimes where you are going and where you want to go will be the same. Sometimes they won't. But once you get your eyes in a good spot, build the rest of your driving position around that. I'll also say that the faster you go, the further it will feel like you;re sitting from the wheel. So maybe start out by cheating closer than you normally would feel comfortable, and as long as you don;t feel jammed after the first few laps carry on.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
11/14/22 4:08 p.m.

So as one of the many people here who instruct at events I will chime in:

Make sure you make everything as comfortable as possible for the car you will be driving; spend a good 15 minutes adjusting everything. As for the helmet, once you are on track you will likely not notice it after a few laps since you will be concentrating on the track.

Next take your time. I always preach the fundamentals; you need to do them at a reduced pace so that you are able to drive and also think about what you are doing at the same time. It takes brain capacity to think about what you are doing and it also takes brain capacity to drive at speed so something has to give. The easiest thing to do is to drive a little bit slower so you have some capacity left for self analyzing.

What to work on first; start but just making sure to hit you marks. If you've watched JG's videos enough you know where the line is and a rough idea of braking points.

On the subject of braking points; set those early. The toughest things for track newbies is learning to get an ultra smooth brake pedal release. If you rush the brake zone you will likely be abrupt with the pedal release. The abrupt release unloads the front end which causes the car to run wide on entrance, which then leads to winding on more steering lock, which then scrubs even more speed and also leads to being on the gas much later.................if you learn one thing all day make it a smooth brake pedal release.

Next steering wheel hand position; everything the car does comes back through the wheel. If the car is pushing the steering wheel will get light and drop in (more lock). If the car starts to oversteer the wheel will try to unwind. This is why a light grip is so important; you want to be able to feel the changes in the car instantaneously.  Oh and no shuffle steering (unless the car has 9 turns lock to lock), the constant grip, ungrip and regrip doesn't make for good feed back through the wheel.

Finally and most importantly have fun; don't get so caught up in trying to do more or do better that you stop having fun. Driving a car at speed is great fun, make sure to relax and enjoy the experience.

 

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand UberDork
11/14/22 4:20 p.m.

Attend the drivers' meeting and ask questions.  (Other people probably also have them and just aren't chiming in.)  

On your warmup lap, wave at the corner workers.  This will help you with awareness of where they actually are.

Many tracks will have turn-in and track-out cones set out for HPDEs, which will be really helpful as you find the line and are where you should be looking.

Keep an eye on your mirrors, especially the 'blend line' as you enter the track with live traffic.  If you find yourself getting pressured or need to readjust, you can exit the track, drive back through the hot pits and then pull back up to the starter to be released back into a gap in traffic.  (Most tracks are configured this way - I haven't been to the FIRM though.)

Basically, just take all of the pressure off yourself that you can.  You're going to have a great experience. It's not really scary until you're an intermediate driver and forget everything you learned as a newb. ;)

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/14/22 4:31 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

Thanks, that was going to be one of my next questions. I also always wondered why everyone seems to sit way close to the wheel on track so that is good to know. 

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/14/22 4:34 p.m.

In reply to Tom1200 :

After editing so many of J.G.s videos I have a decent idea of what the line and breaking points should be but I am going to watch our track tutorial a few more times to make sure I have it in my head. 

I will have to keep in mind to be smooth on the brake pedal. That is not something I would have thought to ask but it makes sense. 

I am excited to get out on track and see what I learn. 

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/14/22 4:37 p.m.

In reply to Tyler H :

Thanks, 

Good point about the corner workers. All the times I have been around the FIRM I never really noticed exactly where they all are. 

 

 

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
11/14/22 5:05 p.m.

Water, snacks, and something to read for when you get bored waiting for your session ;)

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/15/22 9:18 a.m.

In reply to BlueInGreen - Jon :

Good point. Maybe Ill bring pop up canopy too to get out of the sun a for a bit. 

 

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/15/22 9:22 a.m.

My next question is how do I make sure I stay out of other peoples way on track? 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
11/15/22 9:38 a.m.

In reply to ChrisTropea :

You don't. Getting around you is their problem, and the absolute best thing you can do is run a predictable line. The other cars will change their line to go around you, never ever move out of the way for them. 

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand UberDork
11/15/22 10:43 a.m.
ChrisTropea said:

My next question is how do I make sure I stay out of other peoples way on track? 

I assume they will have run groups split up and you'll be in Novice?  If so, they will probably have designated passing zones and only with a point-by.  

Sometimes people get frustrated if they don't get a point-by, to which I say - the driver ahead doesn't have situational awareness and it isn't safe.  This is what the slow pass through the hot pit is for, for both types of drivers.  It will give you an opportunity to safely re-enter the track at a place with less traffic if you're being pushed or held up.

Looking forward to the follow up. First HPDEs are where obsessions are born.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
11/15/22 11:05 a.m.
ChrisTropea said:

My next question is how do I make sure I stay out of other peoples way on track? 

By hitting your marks you will be less slow and therefore not hold people up as much.  If there are designated passing zones just keep focused on your driving until you get to said zone where you can then point people by.

As others have mentioned; it's the passing drivers job to get by cleanly. Your job is to be predictable; hence the reason for staying on line.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
11/15/22 11:11 a.m.
Tom Suddard said:

In reply to ChrisTropea :

You don't. Getting around you is their problem, and the absolute best thing you can do is run a predictable line. The other cars will change their line to go around you, never ever move out of the way for them. 

To reinforce this, one of the things that is most frustrating is coming up on an inexperienced driver who tries to "help" a pass.  As the passing driver I've got my pass planned out ahead of time, but it's based on the assumption that you will follow the normal line and I will go off that line to get by.  If you suddenly jump off line then my plan goes out the window, and in the worst case I need to take action to prevent a collision.  Be predictable. :)

One thing that *is* helpful is lifting off the throttle a little (or in some cases a lot) while a pass is actually happening on the straight.  Do your normal corner exit throttle application (so he doesn't wind up overrunning you on the exit), but once he's pulled off line to pass a bit of a lift will get everything done faster.

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/15/22 12:30 p.m.

All good to know. Sounds like if I drive on line and consistently that will keep me out of trouble. 

My thought would have been to move off the line but it makes sense that if I do the same thing over and over again then other drivers know what to expect from me in the passing zones. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
11/15/22 3:51 p.m.

So Chris, are you going to be able to have a mentor you can talk to while you're at your first track day?wink

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/15/22 4:22 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

In reply to ChrisTropea :

You don't. Getting around you is their problem, and the absolute best thing you can do is run a predictable line. The other cars will change their line to go around you, never ever move out of the way for them. 

I'll take issue with this a little bit, because the FIRM—as well as many other novice-friendly track days—are point-by only passing. This means paying attention to your mirrors, glancing across the track to see where other traffic is, knowing the habits of other cars in your group, al of that stuff is really important to being a good neighbor on track. Mirror checks need to be second nature, and one of the great things about the FIRM's layout is there's plenty of places to see how other traffic is approaching you. So you should never be in a position where you're surprised by a car appearing behind you.

Once it's time to let someone by, that's when it becomes extremely important to be predictable, and the best way to be predictable is to stay on the proper line and let the overtaking driver move off line. Lifting is also a great courtesy, particularly on a short track like the FIRM, but lifts need to be timed to impact the overtaking driver as little as possible. For example, most drivers are going to want to make a quick and safe overtake on a straight, so getting a good exit from a corner helps make that pass easier. So if you're backing off toward the end of a corner in preparation for a following driver to pass you, you may be holding them up and making it more difficult for them to execute that pass. 

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/15/22 4:27 p.m.

Funny you should ask that Tom. 

I will not have a mentor that I can talk to on Friday at the track, but I will have a Garmin Catalyst driving performance optimizer in the car with me. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
11/15/22 4:28 p.m.

I hear you JG and don't disagree, but I'd call that communication rather than staying out of the way. It's really important to remember that as the driver being overtaken,  you should do exactly what you do every lap, not change your driving in order to facilitate the overtake. Even a lift is disruptive--when I'm closing with a 30 mph speed differential, the last thing I want is for the car I'm about to jump out and overtake to suddenly slow way down in the middle of a straight. Especially for a brand new driver, I'd focus on doing nothing way before I focused on some of the more advanced techniques that TT folks use to help each other get faster times.

We should probably tell him that a point-by isn't a guarantee, either. It just means "I see you and I am open to you attempting a pass on this side of my car." But it's still the overtaking car's job to figure out how to make that pass happen. 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/15/22 4:44 p.m.
ChrisTropea said:

Funny you should ask that Tom. 

I will not have a mentor that I can talk to on Friday at the track, but I will have a Garmin Catalyst driving performance optimizer in the car with me. 

Thanks for reminding me. I need to set that Garmin to "taunt" before we install it.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
11/15/22 4:47 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

Even a lift is disruptive--when I'm closing with a 30 mph speed differential, the last thing I want is for the car I'm about to jump out and overtake to suddenly slow way down in the middle of a straight

A lift is often required, especially if you're trying to let a Miata by. :)  But yes, timing is important, wait til the other guy has moved over to actually start the pass before lifting.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
11/15/22 4:51 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

I'm super excited for this test, and wish you (and Colin) the best of luck. Here's my advice on getting comfortable, though I'm weird because I've always driven a wide range of cars. Most people take a while to get comfortable with a new car, and that's totally normal/fine.

So, how do I get comfortable when I jump into a new car? Simple: I don't. I find it's pretty much impossible to get comfortable in the paddock, so I get close enough and focus primarily on seat position. If I can reach the wheel and pedals, the rest can be tweaked later. Then, once I'm out on track and actually using the car I'll start making mental notes for how to adjust everything else. By the second session I'll feel mostly at home.

As far as the helmet: Your main discomfort is probably the lack of peripheral vision. Don't worry about it--it'll help you focus, and as long as you can see the mirrors you can see just as much as you do when you're driving around without a helmet. Take your first few laps slow and practice tracking objects around the car, be they other cars, signs, etc., and you'll pretty quickly realize that you can see 360 degrees just with the mirrors in front of you. This will pay dividends when you're not wearing a helmet, too, and you'll have a way better sense of where every car is around you.

Well said!   

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
11/15/22 5:07 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

That would make my day much more confusing. 

1 2

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners
Xr9WziYEcJGOeku4afOLuNz5Xbv1Pchid7nqm5XJsUvXd5h3DH2sEknLfLmfnCWB