Here I’ve put together a track day guide that should give you a good idea of what to expect on your first day, how you can properly prepare, as well as provide a few little tips. Use this track day guide as a base to get the best from your day, as I’m sure when it all goes smoothly you’ll soon be back for more.
Before you’ve even set off, there are a few things to consider before your track day that will help your day start and run a little more smoothly.
Is your bike in good working order?
If you’re taking your road bike make sure you’ve checked it over and it’s running fine. If you’ve got an owner’s manual, use it to do your usual pre ride checks and check oil and brake fluid etc. You don’t want your day to be cut short by a simple maintenance oversight.
Click here for a more in depth guide for doing a track day on your road bike and how to prepare.
Before every track day I prepare a list of all the things I want to take, which I’ll then use to get everything together and check it off against the list the day before. This helps because it means I’m not rushed in the morning and I can just throw the bits in the car and go – or rucksack if you’re riding to the track. Also this means there’s a lot less chance of forgetting things you might need if you’re sitting and thinking about it before hand.
Food and water – Taking food and water to eat and drink throughout the day is a good idea and something I would highly recommend.
Eat and drink every so often throughout the entire day and don’t plan on scoffing your face at lunch time as it will only make you feel tired and sluggish. Keep your body’s needs satisfied by having fruit and snacks throughout the day and keep well hydrated. Track days can use a lot of energy and water which needs to be replaced.
Get your sleep – This is a tough one and something I still struggle with. I know nerves and excitement will keep a lot of people awake but try your best to get good sleep the night before. You’ll need all your concentration when out on track and a good night’s sleep will help no end at keeping you fresh and alert.
Get there early – Sign-on for most track day organisers starts around 7.30 (it’s worth checking the specific time), but it’s a good idea to aim to arrive at the circuit around 7 so you have plenty of time to get yourself set up and secure a garage spot if the circuit has them.
Check over the bike – Take the time before sign-on to have one last look over your bike and make sure everything is ok. If you’re using your road bike take the time to prepare it for the track.
Again, you can read the road bike track guide for advice and tips on preparing your bike for the track.
Sign-On – As said above sign-on commences at around 7.30. To sign on you’ll need the following documents.
The two indemnity forms should have been sent with the booking confirmation that the track day organiser would have sent to you after the booking was made.
Once you have signed on and you are confirmed as being ‘on the list’, you’ll be given a sticker to put on your bike to both show you have signed on and show what group you are in.
Noise testing – Noise testing usually opens shortly after sign-on. You’ll be told at sign-on where noise testing is located; it’s usually somewhere around the paddock/pit area.
Based on the size of your bike’s engine you’ll be asked to rev the bike to a certain RPM and hold it there while they take the noise measurement. Assuming the noise level is ok you’ll get a ‘pass’ sticker to put on your bike. If you think you may be over the noise limit, it’s worth buying a motorcycle exhaust baffle just in case.
Tip: If on the day you’re worried about the noise limit, take some time before getting tested to let the engine warm up as this will make it quieter.
Briefing – The briefing will start around 8.30 – 8.45. You will be told where the briefing is at sign-on, but if not you can simply ask. Failing that, there will be a tannoy announcement explaining when it’s time for briefing and where to go. Just follow the crowd and they’ll take you there!
Listen carefully to the briefing as there is a lot of important information about how to navigate the track, what flags to look out for, and what to do in the unlikely event that you part company with your bike. If you have any questions about the day now’s the time to ask.
The first session of any track day starts at 9am unless told otherwise. Assuming you’re reading this guide because it’s your first time out you will most likely be in the novice group. Different track day organisers do things differently, so you could be the first of the three groups out, or the last. This information will be detailed in the briefing.
If you are out first you’ll only have a few minutes after the briefing before you head out on track, which is another good reason for getting to the track early so you can sort yourself out before hand. You’ll no doubt be a little nervous at this point but don’t be, there are a lot of people in your group in the same position, so just go out with the intention of taking it easy and learning the ropes and you’ll have a superb day.
Sighting laps – The first 3 laps of the first session will be sighting laps, this is where an instructor leads the whole group out for two or three slow laps of the circuit. There should be no overtaking at this point.
Take this time to familiarise yourself with the track, learn where it goes, make sure you’re happy with the track conditions and that your bike is running fine.
Session start – Different track day organisers do things differently after the sighting laps have been completed. Some have you come back in to the pits, others see the instructor come in and the session commence straight away. The format of the sighting laps will be detailed in the briefing so again it’s a good idea to listen carefully throughout.
Lunch will be called in the afternoon after 3 – 4 sessions out on track. The exact time is usually specified in the briefing but sometimes changes are made depending on how the day plays out so listen for an announcement in the afternoon to be sure.
Take your lunch time break as a time to relax (and try and wipe that grin off your face) and have something to eat. It’s very important though that you DON’T stuff your face. If you do it could well leave you feeling tired and weary in the afternoon sessions. As said above, just eat small portions throughout the day with maybe a little more at lunch time.
Lunch time is another good opportunity to check the bike over again. I’ve no doubt that it’ll be in good working order but it’s worth a check. You can also check your tyre pressures as well to make sure they’re still at the optimum track PSI.
Lunch usually runs for about an hour, but as said earlier, timings can get moved around and to make sure you get the most out of your track time it can sometimes be cut short. However, if this is the case an announcement will be made in plenty of time so you’ll know exactly when it’s time to get back out.
Having been given the chance to relax for a while and eat you’ll no doubt be feeling a little tired and this is worth taking into account as you go out for your next session.
Take your time on the first session after lunch and get back up to speed gradually as your concentration levels won’t be as high as they were earlier. Once you’re back up to speed, go ahead and enjoy the rest of your day.
It’s up to you to decide when you’ve had enough. Yes you’ve paid for all the sessions in the day, but is it really worth going out on track again just to get your money’s worth when you’re feeling exhausted? I’d say no.
If you’re feeling exhausted there’s more chance of you making a mistake, and that risk isn’t worth it. If you’re really feeling like you’ve had enough then pack up and go home. I’ve done many track days now but even I sometimes call it a day early for these same reasons.
However please don’t mistake this for the superstitious “I’ve made it this far, I’ll quit while I’m ahead” way of thinking. If you’re feeling fit to ride, there’s no reason why anything should go wrong when it hasn’t all day. Go out and enjoy your time.
Packing up – When the time comes that you do call it a day, take the time to make sure you get all your bits together, put your bike back to road trim if you’re on a road bike and make sure you have enough petrol to get home.
Don’t forget your tyre pressures need to be raised for the road. The tyres don’t run as hot on the road as you’re simply not putting the load into them. Get them raised by the tyre guy at the circuit, or if you can source a foot pump, even better. Someone in your close vicinity will be happy to help.
Thank you for reading this track day guide, and congratulations, you’ve just competed your first track day, and I have no doubt it will be the first of many to come. If you’re married however, don’t tell the other half just yet, they may not like it too much.