Track Days – 3 Great Reasons To Give Them A Go
As a car enthusiast, there is not much I like doing more than sitting in front of the telly and watching a bit of Motorsport. To see the best drivers battle it out for supremacy, and provide a lot of entertainment at the same time. Watching the race of champions with my girlfriend (now wife) a few years ago was actually the first time I have seen live racing! And it was excellent. But even better than all of this is to have a go ourselves. So today, we are going to focus on track days, why they are so good, and how they could turn us all into faster and safer drivers.
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Explore Vehicle Limits In Safety: driving too fast on the road is not a brilliant idea. To be honest, driving too fast on the track is not a great plan either, because you will just spend your entire afternoon fetching your car out of the barriers. But this is a much safer environment to explore the limits of your machine, which may be useful if you ever need to take evasive action on the road. To know how a car (or any vehicle) will respond in this situation could prove very useful on the road.
Explore Your Own Capabilities: It’s also a chance to find out how capable you are as a driver. In a lot of case (sorry to say this) the car might be more capable than the driver. This is sometimes less fun, but arguably safer for all. The track is the best place to explore this, in case you do get it wrong into turn 4. There seems to be an increasing number of drivers that think they are fast simply because they drive at 100 on the motorway. Then you show them a circuit and they have no idea about cornering lines and bacic track techniques.
Learn Something New: Racing on the road is clearly not recommended, but there are some elements of the driving techniques that are very useful. Looking far enough ahead of yourself. Being able to accurately judge the road conditions. Those are just two of the important ones. Learning the basics of car control when you go beyond the limits could be a life saver. The track day is a great way to explore how good you are as driver, and pick up some useful new skills too.
My Story: Last year, my wife bought me a track day at the Mercedes Benz World in Woking. Spoiler alert: I highly recommend having a go at this, as I’ve mentioned in earlier articles. It was the second track day I had been on, and it went substantially better than the first one I tried (in a Porsche 911). Even though it was a damp day in Woking, I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. Possibly more so than seeing what the car was capable of. I was looking forward to the challenge of taming 500 bhp in the damp. I had spent so long seeing people driving these and wondering if they are more capable a driver than me. Was I right to be fearful?
The days started with a simple drag strip challenge, to familiarise myself with the straight line performance. After a few slaloms, it was time to have a go on the skid pad. This really teaches you the art of balancing throttle and steering. Then finally, the alpine test track. It was now time to see if I had the capability to drive a 500 bhp car, in damp conditions. Was I fast enough round a race track to convince the instructor that I’m actually a half decent driver. Did I succeed, or literally crash and burn?
The honest answer is that the time on the track could not have gone any better! Even though it was damp, I was able to feel my way around the track, under the guidance of the instructor. And after a couple a laps, I was given freedom to drive as fast as I was comfortable. And it turned out to be rapid enough to trouble everyone else on the circuit!
There were 4wd AMG E-Classes that in theory should have been faster in conditions like this. Yet they were unable to keep up. There were drivers in AMG GTs that we were comfortably keeping up with, even though on paper they’re quicker. The track day proves a few things: on paper car specs don’t mean much in the rain. It’s more about confidence, balance and driver ability. And as I’m demonstrating, modesty. A great day out, and genuinely made me a better driver.
Conclusion: Have you been on a track day? What did you like about it? Would you go again? Join the family and let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!