A Simple Guide To Track Day Preparation

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

It’s as overused a cliché as they come, but that doesn’t mean there’s no merit to the saying. There’s particular significance when the saying is applied to track day preparation in your own vehicle, where the consequences of failure can be catastrophic.

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In advance of Players Classic at Goodwood the weekend before last, Snap-on tools dropped off a simple but comprehensive kit to help ensure our Technical Editor, Ryan Stewart, could maintain his BMW E92 M3 Frozen Edition for the duration of the event.

Ryan has built and refined a compact kit over the last 10 years or so. It’s saved him in Austria, helped fix his own and other people’s cars at the track, and is generally a fix-all satchel. It’s now time for the fresh Snap-on kit to take the reins. Not only was Ryan in attendance for his own pleasure, but he was also taking part in offering passenger rides to all-comers throughout the day.

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Goodwood Motor Circuit, like a lot of famous UK circuits, is based around an airfield. Despite the relatively flat nature of the course, it is considered a very quick circuit. With the M3’s average lap speed in excess of 110mph (178km/h) and very little to separate you from the immovable banks which line the perimeter of the course, there’s not much room for error.

While Ryan is quite a humble sort of guy, I will be the first to say that he’s bloody quick in a car, even if he wouldn’t. I’ve seen videos of him successfully hunting down and overtaking a Porsche Carrera GT at Brands Hatch in his MkV GTI, which I’m sure is a particular highlight of his track day career. Of course, track days aren’t race meetings, but still…

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A lot of his speed comes from the confidence in the meticulous preparation prior to any event he might be attending. While his M3 will be double checked in advance, the morning of the event features one final set of checks which can be applied universally.

These checks assume that your car is already in good working order, that your fluids are at the correct levels, and that there aren’t any long-standing niggles or leaks. If you’re knowingly attending a track day with an unsolved issue, then you are most certainly doing it wrong. It’s not going to be fun for you or any of the other people you’ll inconvenience with track stoppages.

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#1. Check Your Nuts 

What is generally just solid life advice, ensuring the correct torque is applied to your wheel nuts is of the utmost importance for more than one reason. The first being that you, obviously, don’t want one of your wheels making a break for freedom mid-corner at 140mph. Torquing your nuts to the correct specification and not just swinging on them with an extended bar or giving them all of the ugga-duggas ensures that not only are they tight, but also that they can be removed again afterwards. The forces exerted on wheel fixings is staggering and incorrect torquing or over-torquing can lead to really spectacular crashes. Over-torquing is as bad, if not worse, than under-torquing, so be sure that you’ve got this under control.

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#2. Adjust Your Pressures

If you’re a track day veteran you’ll likely already have an idea of where your tyre pressures need to be when cold. If you’re not, start at the manufacturer’s recommendations and make small changes as you see fit throughout the day. The whole idea here is to make sure you get the maximum life and enjoyment from your tyres. Tyres are your best friend out on circuit, so treat them right.

Don’t immediately assume that you’re in Formula Drift and don’t need any air pressure so as to achieve maximum traction – it will end in tears. Over-inflation can also be pretty unpleasant; not only will the car begin to feel squirmy but in extreme cases it can damage the tyre’s carcass. The advice here is to build speed slowly on your first few laps of the day to get the car up to temp, and then set your pressures. After two to three checks with some hard driving in between you should see the adjustments you make getting smaller and smaller until you reach a stable pressure for the day.

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#3. Set Your Settings

While we don’t all have adjustable rear wings, there are likely some settings that you will be able to adjust. For most of us, adjustable dampers are the main example. Again, it’s a case of finding a baseline and going from there. With particular reference to suspension settings, there’s no real 100% correct setting, it’ll entirely be driver dependant.

There are two things at play with suspension setup: driver confidence and outright grip. I prefer a car to be slightly on the soft side, others will prefer a stiffer setup. Don’t assume that stiffer is better though; your main aim is to keep your car in contact with the road surface as much as possible and subtlety is key. The magic area is just hard enough, so start soft and move through the damper range.

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#4. Lock It Down

If there’s one thing you should do before leaving the pits, it’s ensuring that everything is secure and in place. From obvious things such as your bonnet (that’s what we call a hood, Americans) latch being secured to some of the more obscure things such as adjustable camber top mounts. You’ll likely have had a setting already dialled in during an earlier alignment session, but there’s no harm ensuring that everything is tight and secure, particularly if someone else was making the adjustments. Never assume something is tight, always check.

You might also find that you need to make an emergency adjustment. The cornering speed possible on track is miles higher than on the road, and sometimes this means wheels and tyres can impact the body or tyre shoulder wear is dramatically increased. It’s at your discretion, but often a little tweak can keep you out on track and enjoying the day, even if it does compromise your finely tuned alignment settings.

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#5. Expect The Unexpected

Despite best intentions and perfect preparation, things sometimes do go wrong through no fault of the driver. Parts can wear in unexpected ways, damage can be incurred from debris, and things that shouldn’t break sometimes do. Especially if it’s a simple issue, you don’t want your track time cut short because you don’t have the right tools with you, nor do you want to be ‘that guy’ who has to go around borrowing tools from everyone else. While we’re not saying go out and buy a complete Snap-on kit (although we’re not going to stop you from doing so either) you should have, at a bare minimum, the most basic tools to hand for the simplest of jobs that you might encounter.

Each car has its own nuances and you’ll want to build up a kit specific to the types of fixings on your car. For example, some brake nipples will be 10mm and others 11mm. That can be really frustrating just when you really need it not to be. There’s also the obvious consumables to take: oil, water, brake fluid, spare pads and that all important gaffer tape and cable ties.

You’re probably not going to change a turbocharger at the track, but you might swap in fresh brake pads if you find that brake temperatures reach an unexpected level and wear is extreme. It sounds extreme and it depends on what level you’re operating at, but being prepared to minimise your down time so that you can have maximum seat time, which should be top of everyone’s agenda.

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Top 5 Tools To Not Leave Home Without:

1. Torque wrench and wheel sockets. Keeping your wheels fixed firmly to the car is one of the most important aspects of making it around a circuit in one piece. Without your wheels, you are nothing.

2. Pressure gauge. Getting through the day with minimal wear and tear is another way to maximise enjoyment. Your tyres take an absolute hammering on circuit. Be kind to them by setting your tyre pressures correctly to get maximum grip and life.

3. Basic spanner set (8-15mm). It’s amazing how many things you can fix with basic spanners, you can even use them to brace things and bracket stuff. Imagination not included.

4. Basic socket set (7-19mm). Even more useful than spanners are sockets. 7mm and 8mm cover off most hose clamps and the rest of the gang should see you right for most other cars.

5. Allen key set (5-12mm). There is nothing more frustrating than encountering a loose Allen head when all you have is sockets and spanners. You might never use them, but for that one time you can be smug as hell.

Not included in this list is a screwdriver, as most cars include both a Phillips-head and flat blade screwdriver in the OEM tool kit so should get you out of trouble if you’re on a super tight budget or pushed for space.

Track days are the best days, but only if you’re ready for them.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos
paddy@speedhunters.com

Preparation & Driving by Ryan Stewart
Instagram: 7.nth
ryan@scene-media.com

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1

Along with sprukin tool brands, I’d also suggest that you bring all the relevant fluids for your track day weapon!

2

Good advice. If anyone has anymore tips, it’s always good to hear them.

3

Take a fuel container with you, specially if the track is a bit remote, that way you ensure you have premium fuel with you. Anything close to 20Lts (5 gallons) is fine.

4

checking fuel system is the most important thing before track days. fuel Pressure, fuel filters and fuel lines.
modern cars have fuel Pressure sensors that can be easily read form ECU and also several fuel filters, normally one in fuel tank and one in engine bay. insufficient fuel flow can negatively impact engine performance and can even cause failure of the fuel system. also carefully check fuel lines for leakage.

5

You're right, fuel surge can be really annoying too - a friend suffered from it in his M4 GTS on the same day - had to keep 1/3 fuel in his tank minimum to avoid it.

6

what a great and refreshing article! Love the look of that Seat too! we don't have those in Canada.
awesome photos as well Paddy!

7

See, if you have to do product placement / Partnerships this is a really nicely executed example

We get some info - and some nice photos but i'm still well aware of the snap on angle !

8

Thanks dude - glad you enjoyed!

9

Do you have a link or even a name for the tool kit from Snap-On? Kinda makes it difficult to find

Author10
Paddy McGrath

It's not one particular kit, but rather everything that Ryan uses at a trackday.

11

if you have a german car like the one pictured or VW etc you will also need stupid torx tools :)

12

You’ll want a set of pliers and to remove anything not essential for track driving from the car such as spare wheel etc.

Personally I wouldn’t change suspension settings at the track unless you have the correct alignment tools as you’ll just be guessing and

13

I've done the wheel nearly coming off thing, it's not great.

Hard braking at the end of the straight, just as I went to turn in, massive juddering and knocking :|

The thing I don't like about taking a fair bit of kit to the track, is leaving it out unattended, it'd be nice to think it wouldn't go missing but a few hundred £ laying about just makes me worry..

14

You have to think though EVERYONE is leaving a few hundred pounds of kit out, so if someone wants to steal something what are the chances it will be yours? Anyway people tend to keep an eye out for each other, and I have seen people bring a big padlocked box if you're really paranoid.

15

Yeah that's fair, I guess I came from the angle that I do a fair few track nights, (3 hours open pit lane) where people come to spectate as well with no limitations on pit lane access.
And it's in a not so nice area near a town with it's fair share of low lifes that'll steal anything (Middlesbrough, UK for those that know..)

A full track day has a better atmosphere , maybe I'm just being too cautious!

16

Prep before the trackday. Go over the car with a fine tooth comb, ensure you are happy with the state of everything, no odd noises, nothing feeling bad.

Change your fluids, bleed it up.

Check what the deal with breakdown cover is, will yours pick you up from the paddock?

Have you got anywhere to stash your stuff?

Where is the nearest fuel station?

Bring water for you.

Also the AmmoNYC video on prep is fantastic.

17
Matthew Everingham

This is a great little story.

18

Excellent advice, especially if you drive your car too and from the circuit like a lot of us do. After years of track days myself I now know what tools I need to carry around with me to ensure I have a smooth day and if it does go wrong I can normally fix or get the car into a state where it can be driven or at worst recovered home.

19

Enough already - where's PROJECT GTR?! I need a fix.

Author20
Paddy McGrath

Technically, there's two GT-Rs in the SH Garage, so you'll need to more specific... :)

21

Dino's, of course :D

22

All of the tools in the images are brand new, NEVER or near never used.

Title should have been "A simple guide to the Snap On tools Snap On gave me as long as I wrote an article".

23

If someone wanted to give me a free set of nice tools in exchange for some coverage, you better believe he's getting a few words of promotion from me.

Author24
Paddy McGrath
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25

So product placement article then....

Bro, I am a fan of Speedhunters, but this is some of the strongest product placement if I have ever seen on the site.

What is he doing in this picture? Undoing his strut tower brace? Get out of here, clear staged for picture.

In another image he clearly undoes his wing bolts just to put them back on so you could take a picture of him using a Snap On ratchet.

Few thousand in free products and any article can be made? Don't go that route, don't sell out like many other outlets. Your my diamond in the rough.

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26

This is where you adjust the camber plates on the BILSTEIN clubsport suspension. They are a different design to most and use the top mount studs to clamp the camber plate. If you've taken your car to an alignment shop before a track day and camber has been altered, it's a good idea to check that they are tight. Assuming someone else has done a good job isn't always best, a quick check leaves no doubt in your mind to push on.

Author27

You claim to be a fan, but you don't appreciate that while Speedhunters is free for you to read, it's certainly not free to produce. These kind of posts - which we're always up front about - help keep the lights on without having to put everything behind a pay wall.

Also, he's adjusting the camber adjustable top mounts.

28

Wait, aren't these the BMWs you aren't supposed to wash?

29

These things are a total PITA to clean

30

Aha...aha...aaaaaaaahahahaha that was great.

31

Where are the spare parts! O well also Make sure you find a Good towing company! I know no one wants to use them its better to have one you can trust. Engine failure at the track is not uncommon and is unexpected.

32

In some of my previous daily drivers, I've carried homemade jumper wire assemblies, custom tools I made out of old box end wrenches and screwdrivers, even blocks of wood for special jobs on that particular car.

I've got a locking block I made to hold the crank in place in my Volvo 850 in order to remove and install flywheels. Made it out of a piece of living room crown molding.

33

Spare parts and fluid, along with other consumables like zip ties and gaffer tape are a good idea too!

34

Torque wrench for wheel nuts?

Please.

I've always followed the advice of a friend's dad, who said - and I quote:

"Torque spec? Hell, just horse 'er down as hard as she'll go! Been doin' that for 40 years, ain't had one come off on me yet!"

35
Rod Millington

You missed the most important rule. Tighten them with what you are going to remove them with as you won't have that breaker bar when you're stopped on the side of the road.

36

Quite right, and I'm a bit paranoid about it.

Which is why for the last 15 years, the trunk of my car's been home to SAE & metric sockets, a 1/2" breaker bar, Fix-A-Flat, washer fluid, Vise Grips, channel locks, JB Weld, screwdrivers, etc.

Even safety glasses.

Sooner or later, I'm gonna need that stuff. Might as well have it with me.

37

I hope you like warped brake discs and cracked alloys.

38

It's never happened.

39

yep, unless im doing head or main studs tight enough and knowing what that is by experience is always good enough

40

Funny thing about that.

When I build an engine or a transmission, I'm paranoid about getting all the torque specs right.

ON EVERYTHING.

I'll research the hell out of it before I turn a wrench, and make sure I've got a list in front of me as I do it. I'll make sure I've got the right assembly lube, use the right sequence, all of it.

I'm flippant about wheel torque because I've never had a problem being flippant about wheel torque.

41

over torquing your wheel nuts/studs is the biggest reason for wheel bolt thread stripping and/or stud snapping. Doing them up 'as tight as you can' is as bad as not doing them up tight enough. There is a reason all critical fixings have a manufacturer's specified tightening torque

42

See, this is the proper way to lower a car.

Wheels are still basically vertical, there's practically no gap, you can still see the entire tire sidewall and there's actual ground clearance.

43

Cheers dude, it's really important to get the front/rear rake right on an E92 - they are unusually sensitive to the ride height. This setup is working really well.

44

Seriously, this car looks really good.

45

thank you for the tips

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