High Performance Driver Education & Trackday Preparation
Your Porsche was made to autocross, track & rally. Get inspired: do a High Performance Driver Education (HPDE, or just DE) event: very fun, typically safe and rarely is there any damage to vehicles in introductory level events.
You don’t need a GT3 – any car* will do. And this isn’t just for aspiring racers – good car control and vehicle dynamics that you just can’t learn anywhere else. *Note on roll over protection: 911 cabriolets may not be allowed on some tracks; Boxsters usually are – check with organizers.
Typically first timers are made to feel comfortable: you can learn at the pace you want, and you are not pressured to go harder than you want. It is not racing (no timing allowed), so it's not high pressure from others – though most would agree it still feels very intense.
Safety is a priority; as is preventing car damage: you don’t need to spin or leave the track to learn your boundaries. The race school class portion, and drivers meeting, outline key safety procedures and protocols (e.g. passing is strictly controlled to certain sections of track and with a "point to pass" or wave to pass).
Real Cost Overview
All you really need is:
- Sporting car in good mechanical shape (more on this below).
- Entry fees: typically $250 to $550.
- Fuel, food & hotel.
- Helmet, though some loaners are typically available.
- It is not necessary to upgrade stock parts (unless worn/damaged).
- You'll use up some tires, brakes etc. but probably nothing dramatic at first.
- Depreciation on your car? Car maintenance records – especially Pre & Post DE by the same experienced shop – will largely mitigate this.
- Be aware your ICBC insurance is not valid while on a track. While track day insurance via PCA is available to Americans via Lockton Affinity, as of 2016 it was not to Canadians. Additional DE insurance is available via:
- Pre & post inspection costs (at least some for the season).
- Potentially addictive; may cause grief with your significant other.
It's your car and health – safety is your responsibility – the tech inspections are ONLY a double-check. Sample http://www.adaremotorsports.com/techinspection.pdf or http://www.nasaproracing.com/forms/form_hpde_tech.pdf.
- Paperwork: some tracks/organizers may require a Tech Inspection/certified mechanic to have checked your car and proof of brake fluid flush. Find out requirements and prepare ahead of time.
- Brakes: single most important item because of safety and performance.
- Start with had a professional brake inspection:
- Get a brake fluid flush: OEM Porsche fluid is fine.
- Flush fluid at least every two years, if not every year. It is hydroscopic (attracts moisture) and even in the sealed brake system slowly increases in water content. Since moisture degrades the performance of the braking system, it is vital to have it fresh.
- IF you have boiled your brake fluid, replace it as soon as possible. It will boil much faster the next time. (How can you tell if it has boiled: your hot brakes will feel spongy and brake pedal travel will be much further.)
- IF DIY fluid change, don't use cheap or old fluid: likewise don't use brake fluid from a container that was previously opened.
- Stock Porsche "black" brakes and OEM pads are just fine for learning. Porsche Sport brakes (aka Big Reds) and Yellow PCCBs are both excellent for HPDE.
- Better to have >50% of pad left. Change if < 30% – unless PCCBs which last way longer.
- You don't require dedicated track wheels / rubber: lots of fun -- and lots to learn -- on standard street tires.
- BUT performance tires do make a dramatic difference.
- May not be able to participate if:
- visible aging cracks in rubber.
- mixed brands/types of tires.
- low tread depth / excessive wear in any part (remember the inner of the rears on 911s tend to wear first -- and this is the hardest part to see).
- Tire pressure
- Get a good gauge.
- Tire pressure:
- You will need to decrease tire pressure (once you arrive at the track) from what you normally use on the street. How much will depend on your tires, driving style, track temperatures etc.
- Example: For street use, a 2005 Carrera S, with stock suspension and with Michelin Super Sports, is factory recommended ~33-36 psi (front) & ~40-44, with roughly a 5psi differential from front to rear. For track use on said car, Bullet Racing recommends starting with at least 10psi LESS and running square (eg same pressure front and rear); the above car runs well with starting at about 23-25psi (warm, not cold), with even wear and consistent handling once tires have heated up.
- IMPORTANT: at end of day, pump up your tires before you leave the track (or very soon thereafter) to avoid serious damage to tires or worse, a dangerous blowout within several hundred kms -- which can easily happen if you hit the freeway with only 25psi.
- Trick: use a white grease pencil (or shoe polish) for sidewall marking. Mark some white on the most outward tread block to around the shoulder of your tires: you can tell if your tires are rolling over onto the sidewall.
- Consider an air pump that can run from your cigarette lighter -- but you can usually borrow from someone else.
- Consider using nitrogen (instead of regular air): it is less prone to heating up as much due to carrying less moistuer.
- Check all fluid levels.
- Not mandatory, but consider a fire extinguisher & mount -- 2.5 lb Halon is best.
- Consider fresh oil & filter – better early than late. (Consider oil analysis / filter examination also with every change.)
Planning & trip
- Most tracks are a distance away: recommended to stay nearby at least one night to start the day fresh.
- If getting a helmet, consider the ratings, eg Snell 95, SA2010 – not your dad’s old one. Typically motorcycle helmets are not OK. Check requirements from organizers.
- Complete the event reg & tech forms. IMPORTANT.
- Review car prep above..
- Print map to track.
- Preview the track via YouTube & track maps.
- Clean the inside of your windows.
- Print your car number (if they give you one).
- Long sleeve shirt, long pants (newbies don’t need a racing suit nomex/fire).
- Proper shoes with thin sole and no open toe – driving shoes do give far more feel.
- Helmet (unless loaner provided).
- Car numbers/masking tape.
- Air pressure gauge.
- Torque wrench.
- Quart of oil.
- Big bag or plastic bin to throw in all loose stuff while at the track.
- Small tarp, umbrella and folding chair.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen & hat.
- Snack & water/Gatorade.
- Window cleaner & paper towel.
- Get well rested; avoid too much alcohol.
- Clean front windshield.
- A clean/washed car feels faster and looks better in photos.
- Full tank of gas.
At the Track
- Get there early.
- No loose objects in car or trunk. Remove spare tire, jack, floor mats, paper, etc.
- Pee before your first track session.
- Check your oil levels after each track session.
- Remove air pressure (see details above) -- unless your name is Ken Block, your tires will get far hotter than any street driving.
- Between run sessions... Ask to get in someone else car and go for a ride (instructors/upper group runs).
After the Track
- A quick check of oil level & visually inspect tires (look for damage) before road trip home.
- Pump up your tires back to recommended/normal street pressure before you leave the track (or very soon thereafter) to avoid serious damage to tires or worse, a dangerous blowout within several hundred kms -- which can easily happen if you hit the freeway with only 25psi.
- Mechanic's inspection: good idea to get a once over by a mechanic.
- Send pictures to friends to your friends here at the club – and other Porsche aficionados.
Tracks & Organizations Nearby
At Motorsports.reg or the BCIR Calendar, you will find most of the Pacific Northwest DE & trackdays on there: http://bci.pca.org/calendar.
This guide was written by Duane, with help from experienced friends Sean, Chris, Kees & Ken.