The 2014 season is sure to be a great year for racing and track driving in Ontario. There are a greater number of track days available each year, and with Canadian Tire Motorsport Park re-developing the new DDT (driver development track) circuit we will have a new track to look forward to for this season. If you haven’t yet taken your car on track, this article is written specifically for you. Taking your car on a race track and pushing its limits can be an uncomfortable first experience, so here are some Do’s and Don’ts on how to conduct yourself when you hit the track for the first time to help it all go smoothly:
Do: Memorize the track beforehand. You should be able to close your eyes and drive the entire track effortlessly without making a mistake. Watching videos online and following along with a track map is the easiest way. You’ll have so much to learn your first day at the track. Not knowing which way the corners go will be a huge hindrance on your ability to learn.
Don’t: Assume you know it all. If there are instructors at the track, invite them to ride along with you and give you all the input they can. Listen to what they have to say, and listen carefully. If there aren’t any instructors, talk to more experienced drivers with clean-looking cars. They usually love to give out free advice and, if the car isn’t damaged, chances are the advice they are giving you will be safe.
Do: Clean out your car of anything that can go flying around, floor mats included. It would be best to clear these items out at home rather than leaving a junk mound beside your car at the track. Make sure the car has a full tank of fuel and that it is mechanically sound.
Don’t: Worry about your lap times. The only thing you should be focusing on is driving the correct line and learning techniques that are the building blocks for smooth, fast driving.
Do: Drive within your comfort zone. Yes, there are guys out there that are able to slide around on the limits of their tires and make it look easy. But it takes a long time to get to that point, and driving out of control won’t teach you anything except perhaps that insurance doesn’t cover track related accidents.
Don’t: Turn off traction and stability control. It won’t hold you back and it might save you, especially if you are in a powerful and capable car. Put your ego aside and let the car keep you safe. If this is your first time on the track, I don’t care if you think you can “powerslide” your car around, you don’t have the car control to catch the thing when it loses composure at over 100 km/h.
Do: Take breaks throughout the day, eat properly and drink plenty of water. Driving a car on the race track can be physically demanding, but it requires all of the focus you can muster. Brain fade has been the culprit for more than a couple off-track excursions, especially late in the afternoon. End your day a little bit early if you’re feeling tired. There’s always another track event to attend.
Don’t: Try to magically go faster or brake incredibly later than you did on a previous lap. Baby steps are the key to improvement. “Wait until you see God, then brake,” sounds cool, but it doesn’t work very well. Certainly not on your first time at a race track!
Do: Respect the car and the tires. There are mechanical limits, and what you’re trying to learn is how to ride on the edge of those limits delicately without stepping over them. Manhandling and abusing the car in an attempt to gain more speed is a recipe for disaster, and it’s slow.
Don’t: Think this article is meant to scare you. If you respect the race track and your comfort zone, and you can put your ego aside, you’ll have a ton of fun at the track and I promise nothing bad will happen except, perhaps, to your wallet. When you get addicted to track driving, it’s all downhill for the wallet. Have fun!