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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there,

I took my week-old 3 on a long drive through West Virginia mountains yesterday. It's the first time in a long while I've had a car I that had any sporting pretensions at all, and I had a blast.

It occurred to me that a great way to increase my enjoyment of such things would be to start tracking. However, I don't have the first clue about how to...start tracking. Like, to the point that I don't even know what to Google to get answers.

I generally understand that you pay a fee, bring your car to a race track, undergo a safety inspection and get to enjoy freedom from the usual driving laws. However, I don't know how you lead up to all that stuff, how to ensure you're safe, what proper etiquette is, etc. Is there a group I should hook up with? Is there some sort of series? I just have no clue.

What I'm looking for in this experience is 1) some amount of driving instruction to increase my skill as a driver, 2) to better understand what my car does and what it doesn't do (the limits of the car) and 3) some sort of camaraderie with others who are interested in learning.

If there's a thread or other resource I should be using, please point me to it! As I said, I'm not sure what questions to ask to surface that info, so the help is appreciated.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Best thing to do is first go to a HPDE driving school and learn how to drive your car on the track. If there is a facility near your go there and check it out. Find out whatever rules they have for using the track and go from there.
Another way to do something like this is to see if there are any SCCA or other Autocross clubs in your area. Less hassle and expense, less equipment needed. These are generally done in parking lots, airports or some other large paved area so there are lots of autocross events around, far more than track day events.
 

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autocross is very, very different from track racing. With that said, hit up google or even facebook and find your nearest road race track. I bet they have a website. Check their calendar for "open track day" (or something close). It`ll give you fee and safety equipment info as well. When you go, get there pretty early and make some friends. What happens at our local track is they group cars of similar capabilities and each group gets on the track in rotating sessions. The newest drivers get to have a driving instructor ride along with them to give advice and driving tips.

It`s expensive in more than one way (entry fees can be pretty steep, and yeah, you`re bound to break something on the car eventually) but it`s a ton of fun.

FWIW, when my son gets his learner`s permit for his license I am going to also teach him how to drive at the track so that he has the skills to navigate emergency situations on the road (car sliding, getting the car to go where you want it to go on a split decision etc)
 

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I participated in a few HPDEs and Open Track Days at both VIR in VA and NCCAR in NC and had a great time.

One piece of advice. Check your insurance closely. I stopped going when my insurance dropped coverage for track events. Members will tell you there are ways around this. Your agent has the best answer.
 

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I participated in a few HPDEs and Open Track Days at both VIR in VA and NCCAR in NC and had a great time.

One piece of advice. Check your insurance closely. I stopped going when my insurance dropped coverage for track events. Members will tell you there are ways around this. Your agent has the best answer.
Insurance does NOT cover racing. Track days and autocross if you crash your on your own to repair the vehicle. If you are caught claiming it you will be charged with insurance fraud and banned from any future track days and autocross events. This is why many people get old civics and Integra's to race on the weekends, cheap parts, easy to fix, still tons of fun.

As I do not know the insurance policies in countries outside of Canada, you would be advised to contact your insurance company just to be sure. There could be other insurance companies that offer track day specific insurance tho I doubt it. Best way to find out, search for a local track day/autocross event and start chatting it up with as many people as possible.

Skip Barber is one of the top racing schools in North America, if you have the opportunity to goto one of their schools at Virginia International Raceway, take it.
http://skipbarber.com/programs/

Here is another one I found which may suit your desires.
https://www.hookedondriving.com/index.cfm?
 

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I remember track day ins, but it was costly and had a deductible of several thousand dollars.
 

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Try doing a search for SOLO autoX. That is by far the safest type of event for anyone wanting to learn what their car can do, without worrying about running into other cars, walls or fences, just taking out an occasional cone.

Also, most of the SOLO auto X clubs offer a novice training day, the day before an event.

https://www.scca.com/pages/autocross
 

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The following is for track driving, not autocross, and is in no particular order.

Track-Day Insurance: https://locktonmotorsports.com/product/hpde-insurance

Safety: Get a brake system flush with high-temperature brake fluid. Here is one example: Motul - Products show - your can order it or other high-temp fluids online if you can't find them locally.

Additionally, you'll be required to have an approved helmet, which in 2017 will likely mean a helmet with a Snell certification sticker showing a certification date of 2010 or 2015. If you have to buy a helmet to meet this requirement, look for one with a 2015 date on it as most clubs won't let you run with a helmet whose certification is more than 10 years old. Also, if you've got a motorcycle helmet and its Snell certification is 2010 or 2015, it may be one that you can use. The organizers of the event will state the helmet requirements quite clearly.

Tools: At a minimum, have a decent quality torque wrench, a socket that fits your wheels' lug nuts, an extension for the wrench (if your lug nuts are recessed in the wheels), a quality tire gauge, and some means for adding air to your tires (bicycle tire pumps work!). Before you go to the track, look up the torque range for your lug nuts and practice using the torque wrench to torque them to Mazda's specification. At the track, do this prior to every session you run on the track.

As a very rough guide, shoot for hot tire pressures of ~38 psi, and start the day with cold tire pressures of ~33 psi. If you want to stay on top of tire pressures, take your hot pressures immediately after you stop the car back in the paddock at the end of a session. Even if your instructor isn't done with you yet, tell him or her that you have to check the pressures first - the instructor will understand.

In addition to those tools, bring some gloves and a few rags to help you stay clean while you're checking your oil, brake, and coolant fluid levels. This is something you should do prior to the beginning of each on-track session, so make sure you leave time for it (track days are generally very busy, esp. for novices). Bring oil, brake fluid, and coolant with you in case you need to top any of them up - oil is the only fluid likely to require a top-up, but you need to go to the track prepared. It's never any fun having a day cut short because you don't have something you need; however, track people are very helpful, and if you ask for help with an issue you're quite likely to have multiple people offering to help you.

Tires: Pay attention to them! Depending upon the track, its surface, and your driving, track sessions can be very tough on street tires. Look your tires' tread over between track sessions, making sure chunks aren't coming off (not likely, but it does happen), and that the outside shoulder isn't getting too worn down.

Instruction: Do not go out on the track without an instructor in the car with you. That's for your safety, the safety of others, and to speed your progress. You'll get more out of a day with instruction than you will just driving around on your own. It will likely be easier on your car and tires, too. For example, novices tend to be very inefficient with their braking, and it's not unusual to see a novice in a high-horsepower car use up a set of brakes in a weekend.

Clubs: Look for a club to join that runs at tracks that are either convenient to you or that you particularly want to run on. I don't know exactly where you live, but the Mazda 3 is a good match for Summit Point Motorsports Park in Summit Point, WV. Regardless of the track, I can recommend the following clubs, each of which offers quality instruction to beginning, intermediate, and advanced drivers alike:

NASA - https://www.nasaproracing.com/regions

BMWCCA - https://www.bmwcca.org/

Audi - https://www.audiclubna.org/

If you look up your region on those sites, you can look at its list of HPDE / Driving School events and see the tracks on which they run, the cost to attend, the requirements for you as a participant, and a contact who will be able to answer any questions you might have.

There are other clubs out there as well - Hooked on Driving, Chin Track Days, Porsche Club of America, Ferrari Club, etc. I've run with all of these clubs at one time or another, and you'll have fun with any of them.

In addition to looking at the schedule of events at a track that you may be interested in driving on*, you may discover the events being held at your closest tracks by going to motorsportreg.com^: https://www.motorsportreg.com/ This is a site many clubs use to both list their events and to register their participants.

* = This, for example, is the 2017 calendar of events being held at Watkins Glen, including all of the HPDE events that will be run there this year:
http://www.theglen.com/~/media/8B3EFC517B4B47ABB629A0C0BD33C699.ashx

^ = This is an example of an event description and registration entry at motorsportreg.com: https://www.motorsportreg.com/events/bimmers-across-border-xix-le-circuit-mont-tremblant-bmw-cca-boston-233499 Included are the event requirements for drivers as well as links to procedures and rules, the club's inspection and medical information forms, a 20-page first-timer's guide, a guide to the track, information on the process you will use to evaluate your instructor, etc. This event is sponsored by a club that has been running events for many years - they're extremely thorough, and this series of pages is an excellent introduction to what's involved in going to the track.

Inspections: Some clubs have inspection forms they want filled out by a shop before you bring your car to the track. With other clubs, you can fill out the inspection form yourself. Some of the clubs will take your inspection form and then inspect your car at the track, including performing a brake fluid moisture content test. It's not fun watching someone fail that test!

I've attended more than one hundred of these types of events, both instructing and driving - feel free to email me if there's anything you think I might be able to help you with.
 

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Not saying it can't be done, but I personally would not track a stock M3. Maybe after some suspension and tire upgrades. IMO, they are better suited for autocross. NASA offers a teaser program (HyperDrives) where you can get out for a session (usually around 20 mins) for $50. That may be a good way to test the waters.
 

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I would recommend going to VIR`s charity laps in the fall and seeing how car your feels being pushed and the challenge of driving on a track.
 

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This is autocross btw
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hey all, thank you for the information!

I appreciate the feedback, and it's given me enough to go research where to start. I have a buddy with a Ford hatchback who's going to join me. I think we're going to do one of those teaser opportunities that were mentioned earlier, just to get our feet wet. He's in VA and I'm in DC, so we've found several opportunities.

Anyway, I'll post an update once we've gotten out there. Thank you to everyone who responded!
 

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Bringing this back from the dead...

After 27 years of autocrossing at (both locally and nationally), I am ready to give up doing 12-14 autocrosses a year (including any Evo Schools or Starting Line Schools I teach) at the end of 2021 to run 3-4 HPDE's a year from 2022 onward. One of the factors is the specter of our region losing its only site. I have run with other regions, but that's a story for another day as I'd come off as rather critical. Another factor is the cost per time factor. Yes, an HPDE is 2x to 3x the price of an autocross (at least it is in the Northeast / Mid-Atlantic area) but a $300 track day that gives you 80 minutes of seat time is a much better value than an $80 autocross that gives you 6 minutes of seat time.

To that... Hagerty offers track day insurance and I'll definitely do that going forward. As was said, bring oil, rags, brake fluid, a jack, jackstands, a tire gauge, compressor, and tools, especially if you have to bleed the brakes or do an impromptu alignment. Prior to the HPDE, an oil change is a must (and you'll be doing this job again afterwards). As for brakes, I used to keep a dedicated set of rotors and Porterfield R4 pads. Now I'd run a Hawk or Pagid pad with a dedicated set of rotors.

As was also said, all this is not necessary each time one goes autocrossing but track driving puts much greater strain on the car if you drive 8/10 or greater. However, autocrossing does a MUCH better job of teaching car control skills and understanding vehicle behavior at the limit because the inputs are more amplified and the frequency and tightness of turns and other elements is much greater. It has been said for many, many years many, many times that autocrossers transition to track events (and wheel to wheel road racing) better overall than track day participants or road racers transition to autocross.

So, who else has run a track day in a Mazda 3 since this thread was first created?
 

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Some 40 yrs ago I bought a 71 Datsun 510 (2 dr; used) in the waning months of my engineering school days. The thought was to autocross/slalom/Solo that car... be able to run it with a sense of abandon re laterally peeling rubber off the tire treads, being hard on wheel bearings, downshifting into first gear at comparatively high speeds, etc. That car with its unassisted brakes and bottom hinged throttle was a school in double-clutching/heeling&toeing. Best car ever to do that in! Loved it. Minor mods... pumped the tires to 45 psi, removed the air cleaner and spare and jack and let loose! In those days there were no charges to compete.

Good memories :).

Forward some 40 or so years... and I'm at a Mazda driving event with a few Mazda Miata's and a surprising nimble Mazda6 turbo. It all came back. :)
 

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Some 40 yrs ago I bought a 71 Datsun 510 (2 dr; used) in the waning months of my engineering school days. The thought was to autocross/slalom/Solo that car... be able to run it with a sense of abandon re laterally peeling rubber off the tire treads, being hard on wheel bearings, downshifting into first gear at comparatively high speeds, etc. That car with its unassisted brakes and bottom hinged throttle was a school in double-clutching/heeling&toeing. Best car ever to do that in! Loved it. Minor mods... pumped the tires to 45 psi, removed the air cleaner and spare and jack and let loose! In those days there were no charges to compete.

Good memories :).

Forward some 40 or so years... and I'm at a Mazda driving event with a few Mazda Miata's and a surprising nimble Mazda6 turbo. It all came back. :)
Which Mazda event ? Sorry if i already asked... where are you located ?
 

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Not saying it can't be done, but I personally would not track a stock M3. Maybe after some suspension and tire upgrades. IMO, they are better suited for autocross. NASA offers a teaser program (HyperDrives) where you can get out for a session (usually around 20 mins) for $50. That may be a good way to test the waters.
I kind of disagree with this. I'd prefer not to raise the car's limits before accidentally passing them. I think it's better to take it slow with a less capable set up, so that it isn't catastrophic when you make a mistake. The alternative is potentially having a car with mods that raise the car's limits enough to let you get away with bad driving up to a certain point, and then you find yourself in a much worse situation when you do pass that point.

This can also be a good way to evaluate what characteristics of the car you want to change with future mods. One thing that I would say is always a good idea is some brake pads that can handle higher heat. If you're starting out slow, and paying careful attention for fade, stock might be just fine, though it might cut your sessions short if they start to fade and you have to back off.

I say this having never tracked my Mazda3. But I've done some HPDE's prior to owning this car.

Below are some organizations that do HPDE's. Most will have beginner groups that require you to ride with an instructor until the instructor signs off for you to drive alone. Some are looser about this than others.

 

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I kind of disagree with this. I'd prefer not to raise the car's limits before accidentally passing them. I think it's better to take it slow with a less capable set up, so that it isn't catastrophic when you make a mistake. The alternative is potentially having a car with mods that raise the car's limits enough to let you get away with bad driving up to a certain point, and then you find yourself in a much worse situation when you do pass that point.

This can also be a good way to evaluate what characteristics of the car you want to change with future mods. One thing that I would say is always a good idea is some brake pads that can handle higher heat. If you're starting out slow, and paying careful attention for fade, stock might be just fine, though it might cut your sessions short if they start to fade and you have to back off.

I say this having never tracked my Mazda3. But I've done some HPDE's prior to owning this car.

Below are some organizations that do HPDE's. Most will have beginner groups that require you to ride with an instructor until the instructor signs off for you to drive alone. Some are looser about this than others.

True ..
Its not as Formula 1 speeds as you think ...
I kind of disagree with this. I'd prefer not to raise the car's limits before accidentally passing them. I think it's better to take it slow with a less capable set up, so that it isn't catastrophic when you make a mistake. The alternative is potentially having a car with mods that raise the car's limits enough to let you get away with bad driving up to a certain point, and then you find yourself in a much worse situation when you do pass that point.

This can also be a good way to evaluate what characteristics of the car you want to change with future mods. One thing that I would say is always a good idea is some brake pads that can handle higher heat. If you're starting out slow, and paying careful attention for fade, stock might be just fine, though it might cut your sessions short if they start to fade and you have to back off.

I say this having never tracked my Mazda3. But I've done some HPDE's prior to owning this car.

Below are some organizations that do HPDE's. Most will have beginner groups that require you to ride with an instructor until the instructor signs off for you to drive alone. Some are looser about this than others.

I agree ... if you planning on tracking alot or attending autocrosses having fresh brake fluid (higher temp dot 4 or 5.1) with higher temp brake pads does make a difference
at the track ... if you want more time on the track than waiting for the car /brakes to cool down .
Finding out the limits of your car can be easily done at any advanced driving course that have skids pads and drive along instructors .
 
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