HPDE Driver: Getting Your Car Ready

Because you never know what the track conditions will be like, it’s best to run through all your car’s systems before an HPDE track day.

Now that you have signed up for the HPDE, you need to get your car ready for a track day. To self-tech your car, download the HPDE Tech form, and check over all the systems highlighted on the form. You will sign this form to take full responsibility for the condition of your car while it’s on track.

Preparing Your Car for Tech Inspection

The technical requirements for the HPDE are just common-sense checks to make sure your vehicle is in good, safe working order. Here I will go over the different categories of the technical form with some short explanations.

Wheels and Tires
The wheels should be round without any dents or damage to the mounting surface. The tires should be in good condition. The tread should be above the wear bars. No cords or belts should show. Flat tires repaired with plugs should not be used because they could fail under the high stress of track conditions. Hubcaps or beauty rings should be removed. They can come off, causing a dangerous situation for you and other students. Check the wheel bearings by grabbing the tire and trying to move the wheel from side to side.

Steering and Suspension
Check the wheel bearings by grabbing the tire and trying to move the wheel from side to side. There should be no play or clunking sounds. The front wheels should move when you turn the steering wheel. There should not be any excess play.

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Engine
The engine should not have any leaks that will allow liquids to fall onto the track. These fluids will cause slippery conditions on the track. This includes radiator fluid (antifreeze), which is very slippery. The battery should be secured firmly. The battery terminals should be covered to prevent any arcs in case of accidental contact.

Brakes
The brake system should be in good working order, with no leaks in the system. The brake lines should not have any cracks. The brake fluid should be clear and at the maximum level. The pads should have plenty of life left in them, because the high speeds on the track will wear them out faster than the street. Brake lights should function properly.

Safety Equipment
Seatbelts must be in good condition. Factory seatbelts are OK. Cars without fixed roofs are required to have roll bars. Natural fibers are recommended for clothing. The ideal clothing is jeans, a long-sleeve T-shirt and closed-toe shoes. You will be required to wear a helmet when on the track. The minimum rating is SNELL 2000 (SA2000 or M2000). Newer helmets with a SA rating are recommended. Eye protection is required (face shield, goggles, glasses). The more and better the safety equipment you use, the safer you will be.

Miscellaneous
There should be no exposed wires. The car should have a good gas cap that seals. The seats should be bolted in tightly.

At the Track

Now that you made it to the track there are still a few things to do. You will want to take out everything you can. Remove your spare tire and jack. Take out all the floor mats. Next put your numbers on your door or rear windows. Blue painter’s tape a good choice because it sticks well, but it is designed to be removed easily.

Blue painters tape is ideal, 2 inches wide, is ideal for HPDE numbers on doors and window.

Clean your front and back windows with glass cleaner. There will be less glare and you will be able to see your reference points easier. Fasten any unused seatbelts. You don’t want the belts and buckles flying around. Apply some white shoe polish from the most outward tread block to around the shoulder of your tires. By checking the shoe polish after a session, you can tell if your tires are rolling over onto the sidewall. Most people need to increase the tire pressures from what they normally use on the street. How much will vary depending on your tires and car, etc.

When you come off the track after a session, use a block of wood to keep your car from rolling. Don’t use the parking brake. That will trap the heat that could cause your rotors to warp. Keep the engine running for a couple of minutes with the hood up. This will allow your engine to cool down & help circulate the hot fluids.

A folding canopy is useful throughout the day for getting out of the sun. When all the driving is done, it’s handy at the end of the day, too.

Things to Bring
Here are a few things to bring that will help make your HPDE more enjoyable. The list can be changed to suit your region and climate/season. For the car: glass cleaner, a quart of oil, rags, white shoe polish, a battery-operated air compressor, a tire gauge, a tarp to put all the stuff you took out on, and some basic tools. For you: a change of clothes, sunscreen, drinks, a cooler, folding chairs, a folding canopy for shade, a camera, and friends to enjoy the driving with.

Image courtesy of Brett Becker

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