Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Get Involved - PDX / HPDE / Track Days

This entry details the easiest way to get time on a proper race track: Professional Driving Experiences, High Performance Driving Events, and Track Days - all different names for similar activities.

Get Involved is a series of posts detailing a forms of grassroots motorsports on a weekly basis.  I write these posts with one goal:  To get you to bring your car to an entry level motorsport event.  I want you to stop buying parts, stop planning for 'some day,' stop building the perfect car, and register for an event.  It is ridiculously easy to have fun with your car right now, as you're currently driving it.  You don't need a racing license.  You don't need a roll cage, a fire suit, or expensive modifications.  You do need $100, a valid state issued drivers license, and a car in safe driving condition.  I doesn't matter if its a stock Camry, a tuned Civic, or a $75k Corvette, there's a place for you.  There are a number of ways to get started - whether you want to drive on asphalt, dirt, or a race track.

You can see the full list of event types here: Get Involved.  This page will be updated as each installment is posted.

These types of events are ways for us 'normal' folk to drive on a racetrack.  If you follow LeMans racing, World Challenge, or even NASCAR, this is your opportunity to drive on the tracks you've seen on TV.  Most of these events provide instructors, so you have someone with good experience helping you around the track.  You'll learn much about yourself, your car, and the track all very quickly.  The first time I went through the 'Esses' at Road Atlanta, I fell in love with my car all over again.  You'll come away with a whole new appreciation for your car and you'll think differently about every race you watch from then on.

Drivers are allowed to bring their personal cars onto real racetracks.  There may be a speed limit imposed (around 100mph) for new drivers, until you are signed off as a trusted driver.  There is no competitive passing. Slower cars must give cars behind them a point by to allow them to pass.  This prevents incidents where one of the two drivers could be caught off guard.  You are on a real race track at race speeds and if you go off track, there are real cement barriers and tire walls waiting for you.  While most people have no problem at all and drive home happy, as a general rule, you should not bring anything onto a racetrack that you can not afford to walk away from.

Varies from $100-$500 depending on the event and track.  Higher cost usually leads to more drive time.

Level of Competition:
These are non-competitive, untimed events.  There are no winners, no losers, and no aggressive driving.  This is solely an opportunity for you to experience driving your car on a race track.  Due to this, some insurance policies will cover your vehicle while on track.  Contact your insurer to find out, making sure to emphasize that it is a non-competitive, untimed event.

Vehicle & Gear Requirements:
  • Helmet - usually Snell M2000 or better rating
  • Closed toe shoes, full length pants and a long sleeve shirt.  Preferably 100% cotton - stay away from polyester since it will melt to you in a fire.
  • Factory seat belts for most cars, a proper harness may be required for heavily modified vehicles
  • Car is leak-free (a drip may be OK - we just don't want to create a slick for the person after you)
  • Battery is properly secured - new hardware can usually be found at your local auto parts store
  • Lug nuts are tightened
  • No play in wheel bearing - push/pull on your tire, if it moves, you need to take it to your mechanic
  • Remove all loose items from your trunk and front seating area
  • All body panels properly secured
  • Bleed your brakes in the days leading up to the event
  • If you have a convertible, you should contact the event organizer to check for specific rules.  Some tracks require roll bars and others do not allow convertibles at all.
  • Bring some sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and plenty of water with you
How to get involved:
The SCCA hosts PDX's at a number of tracks around the country.  They can be hard to find (some people call it the Secret Car Club of America), so you may want to Google for your local SCCA forums.  You can also check the track's website to look for upcoming SCCA events that you can inquire about.  If you don't find anything that way, check this site:  SCCA Region Directory and email the regional executive of your area to find out how to register for a PDX. The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) hosts HPDE's regularly and you can use the same methods to find locations and dates for events.  There are a number of independent groups that host track days around the country.  Google is once again your friend here.  You can also go to and see what events are coming up in your area.

If you're in the southeast US, the next NASA event at Road Atlanta is Sept 13-14, 2013.
Registration is here:
$399 for a total of 160 minutes of track time over 2 days

The next SCCA event is Nov 3, 2013.
Registration is not yet open, but will be on, listed as the American Road Race of Champions.
$100 for approx 40 minutes of track time on Sunday morning

What it looks like:

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