Trackday events and how to participate
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"I want to drive my street car on a real racetrack;
what do I need to do?"
The organizations below run driving events called an "HPDE" (High Performance Driving Event/Experience,") "trackday", or just "timetrial." This is where you can take your stock or modified street car on a real road-racing track, and drive as fast as you want in a safe environment. You'll see all kinds of cars, from Minis, dune-buggies on slicks, Cobras, to Hondas, Toyotas, and Ferraris. It's great fun to go out with your buddies and see "what's what." You can show up with just about anything; turbos, oversize tires, NOS, big brakes; it's all welcome, unlike SCCA events where you'd get reclassed, or banned.
Consider what it costs to build up a drag race car and driving for 10-13 seconds at a time. Now consider spending about the same (or less) and driving in 3-6, 20 minutes sessions in one day! That's what you can do at HPDEs, and no tickets! A pretty good deal if you figure driving time / money spent. At the end of the day, you are spent, with any urges to speed gone from your system for a while!
Requirements are, usually (but not always) better seatbelts, a current helmet (Snell 2000 or newer), cotton clothes, 18 years old or older, and that's about it. More safety equipment is a good idea (roll cage) but usually not required. Since you will be driving fast for quite a while, it is strongly suggested you check your tires, bleed the brakes, and check the pads.
You need a helmet. Yes you can borrow or rent one, but they can be kinda skanky, and probably won't fit well. Seriously consider getting your own. Yes, a good helmet is $250-$450, but your head is worth more then that, right? Do not cut corners; your helmet is your most important piece of safety gear next to belts.
(I recently heard that "multlug wheels" may not be allowed (so far I've heard of only one case.) A multilug wheel is where the hub of the wheel is drilled with (for example) 8 holes so it can fit more than one bolt pattern. Apparently there's a concern about the wheel center breaking out. If you have wheels like this, be sure to ask before paying your money.)
There is no official scoring other then recording your lap times (and sometimes not even that if you don't spring for the timing transponder.) Costs (see last paragraph too) differ widely, from $200-$300 per weekend depending on the event, but for that cost you get a lot of track time. If that's too expensive, some tracks offer mid-week "test days" where you pay a reduced fee of $100-$200. Of course, since testing sessions are for testing, there is no timing, nothing is organized, but you get less of a crowd, and you can do your own thing. Keep in mind, the costs above only get you on the track; don't forget the motel, food, gas, tire and brake expense. It can be an expensive weekend if you don't watch things.
While a HPDE is not true wheel-to-wheel racing, you still have to be careful. Passing is usually restricted to the straights, which keeps MOST accidents from happening, but it won't prevent you from "doing yourself in" by dropping a wheel off and overcorrecting. Occasionally, people do ball up their cars. Is this your only car, driving it to work or school? Also, consider most insurance companies will not insure damages incurred at a timed event. Can you deal with the consequences and responsibility if you break it?
Again, this is not true road-racing. If you want to get into the real deal, start at http://www.scca.org And note, all the above is "in general"; contact your local HPDE organizer to get their exact rules.
Normally, these events are announced months in advance and you must reserve a place ahead of time. In general, you are not allowed to just show up.
Racing can be very expensive. A HPDE will be less expensive because, presumably, you aren't blowing up high-strung racing engines, going though a set of pads each weekend, or buying a set of tires every event... but it can still be expensive.
Driving your car on a real track risks wrecking it, and possibly yourself. If you cannot afford to ball the car up, climb out, and walk away, and leave it there, rethink if you should really be doing this. This is an activity very much meant for a second car - not your sole means of transportation!
Rarely, someone will really screw up. In one case, the guy lost control and spun into the hot-grid, taking out several cars waiting to go out. Stuff happens, can you deal with someone smashing into your car? How will you pay for repairs? If you can't take responsibility for being there - don't go.
I don't want to scare anyone, but understand what's at stake... what's your plan if something happens? The point is, prepare well, go out and have fun, but have a plan if something happens - insurance fraud isn't one of them.
http://www.thunderhill.com (street school)
West...ish (Nevada, Utah)
http://www.silverstateclassic.com/ (A flat-out 50-mile legal race on a public road, prepare your car well!)
Southwest (Texas/New Mexico):
Way north... Canada