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Basic track day questions

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    Posted: 14 May 2016 at 5:28pm
I'd like to take my BMW to a track day at some point, but never having done one before - ever, I do have some questions:

1.  Helmets - are these available at venues to borrow or rent, or must one buy a helmet and bring to the event?

2.  Insurance - in my experience, mainstream insurance companies like Direct Line, Aviva, Admiral etc. do not approve of track days.  Specialist track day insurance is available and recommended?

3.  Warranty - will track day usage void the 3-year warranty of the vehicle provided one stays on the track with all four wheels and don't do anything stupid?

Anything else that might be useful to track day virgins?  My main objective is to learn more about how the car handles when pushed above and beyond what is safe to do on the road to get confidence in my daily drive, not to set lap record in a dedicated track day car.

Jens
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote dteagles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 May 2016 at 11:01pm
1 - yes, but a limited number depending on the circuit
2 - Try MORIS, your regular insurer is unlikely to be interested
3 - Depends what you break and how you break it Smile

I recently bought a Porsche with 2 years warranty and they were encouraging me to take the car on track, the only way to invalidate the warranty is to physically over-rev the engine, no idea if BMW would be so generous, perhaps with M models but I suspect less so with others.

Think about what you can do for the club, not what it can do for you...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jenshb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2016 at 9:52am
Thank you - if you're a regular track day user, then it makes sense to get your own helmet.  Since I need to dip my toe in the water first, I'd be looking to borrow or rent one, so thank you for confirming.

What is the typical cost for one day track day insurance?

Jens

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2016 at 10:21am
Use someone else's helmet - ugh!  A decent open-face helmet is not expensive, but if you must use a communal helmet buy a cotton balaclava to seperate your head from everyone's stale sweat and old head liice etc.  Just go to any motorcycle shop and look around.

I bet a track day would invalidate your entire BMW warranty, not just the engine and transmission, but suspension and maybe bodywork too, due to the associated strains imposed by track day use. The days when BMW had goodwill for such claims are over - ask a dealer to show you in writing.  Remember - once you were a prospect, but now you are a customer . . .

I cannot imagine anyone finding a split boot floor on an E46 or Z3, six months after a track day, and getting it repaired by BMW or their track day insurer!  I magine that the best they would offer would be a 'contribution.'

If you do find insurance, be very sure of its inevitable exclusions, as even what is glibly referred to as a 'Light bump into the tyre wall' would cost a lot to repair if it fell into an exclusion clause.  Remember that the best track day car is one which you could afford to walk away from.  This was the case with my Golf GTi, but I could not afford to do that with my Z3.

Frankly, I have always thought that finding out how your car handles on the limit is something best practiced well away from other high-speed cars which are probably being driven by people who are also inexperienced in such things, and have only driven quickly for short periods in a straight line.  That is why BMWCC track days are very disciplined affairs - as distinct from those run by Max Power magazine etc!

My preference would be sprint events at Curborough etc, where the speeds are lower, the circuit better  resembles a public road,and yours is the only car on the track.



Edited by Mike Fishwick - 15 May 2016 at 3:24pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jenshb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2016 at 4:05pm
Thanks Mike.  The BMWCC Better Driving Day at Cadwell Park seems to be just what I want.  Unfortunately I will be out of the country on that date, but there's always next year.

Jens
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 May 2016 at 8:34am
A wise decision, I know people who have been on a 'track day' (i.e. a race!) organised by Max Power, and are still shaking!

For a worst case - or is it typical? - look at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftEYlrP4Q3w showing drama during an open track day at Castle Combe, which has the reputation of being a nice circuit to drive.  There are a lot of phenominal avoidances, which would really worry any sensible person.  Avoiding such antics is the reason for BMWCC track days being well-disciplined. they may be described by the head bangers as 'boring' but you have a sporting chance of driving home!


Edited by Mike Fishwick - 16 May 2016 at 11:09am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote gavp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 May 2016 at 8:06pm
I'd recommend coming along to one of the car club track days, nothing like seeing first hand.

Plenty of us would offer you a passenger seat too.

A-Plan can do insurance that covers track days too, that is what I have, limited to 6 a year and with higher excess but cheaper overall than using Moris or similar.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Cabrio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 May 2016 at 8:17pm
Yes come to the club trackdays and you will enjoy the day - well run and nice bunch of people - the circuits have helmets and the club will have some with balaclavas and also there are instructors

As long as you don't leave the track the risk of damage to you or the car is greater on the road - hope to see you during the year - don't forget to send Nick your details so you go on the mailing list

Cheers Neil
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MHunt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 May 2016 at 8:26am
that castle coombe video is shocking.  in slight mitigation, I suspect most of the drivers knew what they were signing up for - but I would have absolutely no interest in such an event, even if I drove a banger.
 
I'll start a separate thread, but Cadwell yesterday was wonderfully well run.  very many thanks to Nick and the crew.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 May 2016 at 11:34am
Yes - the drivers started the day with some pretty nice cars, but many drove beyond their limts and did not seem to care about the damage they did!  Maybe they hated their cars, were very rich, or just imagined that was the way to do things!

You see the same attitude at the Nurburgring, particularly on a weekend.  It makes great spectating, but  seems a hard way to learn the lesson that owning a fast car does not make you a fast - or even competent - driver!

I was amazed that there were no collisions with cars which had spun on the track, but that does not make such track days a safe propostion.  The BMWCC trackdays might look like a procession of people who lack the great urge to drive to the limit, but at least they are usually crash-free.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Norrie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 May 2016 at 11:54am
There are many valid points above. The BMWCC track days are very well organised and to some extent you know who else is on the track as opposed to open sessions. I do not like the Castle Coombe offering which is something like 40 pounds for 20 minutes. There are all sorts of heaps of junk on the track combined with people with very good or new cars, the only check they do is for noise. I have seen some very careless driving and accidents there, no prizes for smashing up your car.

The contrast might be for example the Goodwood track experience, only 10 cars on track as a max at any one time and quite strict examination rules, vastly more expensive. They also offer a fleet of BMWs which you can drive on the track and one assumes are insured for damage, but check the terms and conditions. They have new M and Alpina and others to choose from.

I did take a track insurance via A Plan or BMWCCGB insurance which was 75 pounds for a day, however did not cover any damage to track furniture or recovery etc.

The helmet, I bought my own, check to see which regulations you need to comply with as mine in a motorbike helmet, but have not been refused anywhere with it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Daniel1000 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2016 at 8:44pm
Jens,

Others have already provided good advice but to give you my view on your three questions.

1.  MSV circuits usually have helmets available for economic hire. It may be best to telephone the track day organizer, or the circuit itself, in advance to check.  Both are generally helpful.  

If you find the idea of wearing someone else’s helmet distasteful then you can buy your own balaclava (my Sparco karting one was a tenner). I started with a borrowed motorcycle helmet.  Technically they are not suitable because they are designed to meet different criteria but the circuits never check the labels.  After I had completed a few track days I got a car specific helmet for about £400.

2.  I used to take out individual track day insurance with InsureMyTrackDay.com (they even put a picture of my old 330 at Snetterton on their website).  This was about £80 per day.  On advice from another BMW CC track day register member I switched my road insurance to Manning, who cover track days as part of the package and it wasn’t much more than my regular policy.  The excess for track days is about £1,000 though and would be more for a newer car.  It does not cover mechanical failure but should cover all accidents.

3. I can imagine dealers would be sticky about a warrantee claim and given that the car records so much data these days, your main dealer will probably know that the car has been  ‘tracked’ when they plug your key into their computer!  However, I drove an 11-year-old BMW 330 as hard as I could (with some mechanical sympathy but not holding back in any way) on eight track days and never experienced a single mechanical hiccup.  BMWs generally take the load.  After a couple of years I sold it back to the secondhand car dealer that I bought it from without much depreciation.   I have completed a dozen track days in a 2004 E46 M3 with only a few mechanical issues. As for only using a car you are happy to write-off, my personal view is that might be excessive.  I bought the aging 330 to preserve my newer 320 ‘daily driver’ and in fact it would have been fine to use one car for both duties.  I guess you do have to be comfortable with losing your excess if it all goes wrong.

Regarding driving standards on track days, I have completed twenty without ever witnessing anything like the mayhem typical at Castle Coombe Action Day.  These events are notorious in track day circles - they are the only track days that attract crowds to the stands and this is because incidents are expected!  The same applies to public days on the “Ring” – they are the exception rather than the rule. 

The Track Day Organisers (TDOs) I use are BMW Car Club, MSVT and Book-a-Track and standards are good (I understand Gold Track are also well run).  Etiquette on the BMWCC days is the best.  On other TDO days people do occasionally overtake in the braking zone or around bends but I have always seen them coming.  No one has ever hit me.  In terms of making a mistake of your own, it was my nineteenth track day before I made a misjudgment that resulted in nudging the barriers and that would not have happened if the traction had been control switched on. 

If you can’t make a BMWCC day then the novice days run by MSVT are great.  They generate excellent camaraderie and beginners tend to be more considerate because everyone is ‘in the same boat’.  I think it is worth avoiding track days the day before a race is taking place on circuit.  The only day I attended that was a bit hairy was an MSVT one a Brands the day before a Caterham Academy race meeting.  Many racers were there using it for testing, with little regard for overtaking rules and making many excursions onto the grass.  That said it wasn’t so bad it ruined the day.  Avoid airfield days as I understand stone-chipping of paintwork is a problem. You could try sprinting instead but you don’t get anywhere near as much track time.

 

My personal top 5 track day beginner’s tips would be:

1.    Brakes are the weak point on a road car (I had lots of issues getting the right set-up on the M3).  However, for your first day just upgrading your brake pads should be sufficient.  My 330 would go through a set of standard issue front pads in a single day at Silverstone.  Upgrading to EBC Greenstuff cured the problem.  If you have a faster car like an M3 then you will need something like Ferodo DS2500.  Make sure brake fluid and oil are not out of date.

2.    Keep each individual outing to around 15 minutes to avoid overheating the car.

3.    Be really disciplined about making at least one full cooling down lap at the end of a session with minimal braking and low revs – this is really important to preserving your car.

4.    Always take instruction.  Even a 20 minute session is really useful and will greatly improve your enjoyment of the day.  Get a slot as early in the day as possible (perhaps allow one unaccompanied session to get to know the track a little).  I always relax and enjoy the day more after instruction.

5.    Watch your fuel gauge – you will be doing about 10mpg and my E46 330 would start to suffer fuel surge on long right-handers at one third tank.

Overall, I would say go for it!  I feel that on the public road one simply cannot explore the full range of a fast car’s performance responsibly and doing so is the raison d’être of such vehicles. Modern cars are so well designed that an average road driver like me can explore towards the outer limits of the vehicle’s performance envelope without mishap.  Close to the limits of adhesion the car feels quite different and “comes alive”.  For me, it is these exhilarating sensations combined with the thrill of speed that are the joy of a fast car Smile

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Well written Daniel, an honest and accurate account of how things work Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cabrio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2016 at 9:21am
Think this should be added to the Mag or newsletter for all members to see
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Nick Wright Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2016 at 1:01pm
Jens
There is only one way to satisisfy your curiosity and that is to come along and and see for yourself.

You would be a welcome guest at any of our trackdays and there will be no end of enthusiastic members prepared to give you countless passenger rides.

I have been trackdaying for more than 25 years, and have been everywhere.
I have always done them in my everyday road car (currently a '46 330 coupe) and driven to and from the circuit.

I dont recommend looking at footage of other trackdays, some of them can put you off for life!

Give me shout if you want to join us.

Nick

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Cabrio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2016 at 6:29pm
We are also offering the chance to use BMWcup cars on a lap by lap basis if you don't want to use your own car at first - you are missing out on some great days and fantastic people who will be happy to help you
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rpennington Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2016 at 11:23pm
I am following this thread with interest as I have never done a track day before, although I have driven round Donington on a couple of times but on lap parades & I know its not the same as a track day. I also spectated at Donington on a bmwccgb track day & wished I'd took my helmet so as to get passenger rides.

Rich
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daniel1000 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2016 at 9:49pm
Rich,

Your E46 323 should be well suited to the track.  My first track car was an E46 330Ci Sport automatic.  As he says above, our organizer Nick also uses a 330 coupe.  E46s feel great when pushed, with the added advantage that even if one doesn’t get a bend quite right, they are remarkably forgiving and progressive compared to some more track-focused cars.

Many people are understandably concerned about mechanical wear.  The only issue I experienced was that after seven and a half track days, with every single up-shift being completed at maximum revs in kick-down mode, a slight crunching sound became evident when shifting up from second to third at maximum throttle (66mph).  Changing the gearbox oil cured this.  It was quite expensive but it did make the gearshift even smoother in all modes.  Smoother in fact than the five year-old E92 auto (with 90k on the clock) that I was using as my daily car.  I guess using the semi-auto function to short-shift would probably reduce load.  The alternator also failed in road use but I think that wasn’t anything to do with it going on track.  The tyres that were already on the car when I bought it lasted most of the time I ran the car.

The only upgrades I went for were poly-bushes and the EBC Greenstuff front brake pads that I mentioned above (an upgrade there is essential).

Daniel

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rpennington Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2016 at 11:29pm
Daniel
Thanks for the advice. My E46 is my daily drive so I don't think I'd be pushing it too much. It has done 124,00 miles & in the ten or so years I have owned it, I drive it mainly in auto mode. I think I have only used sport mode probably twice & driven it like a manual through the gears about a dozen times if that. I don't drive it hard as you can probably sort of tell from the post. Never been red lined / limit, I am currently running it on Michelin crossclimates.
I upgraded the front end bushes to powerflex poly about year or so but there not the black version type or what they are known as & what are the differences in the brake pads.
Having said the above though, I would still consider to try it out on a track to see how it would perform through the different gearbox modes.

Regards
Rich

Edited by rpennington - 24 May 2016 at 1:45am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daniel1000 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 May 2016 at 8:54pm
Rich,

Yes, I rarely bother with semi-auto mode on road.  On track I liked it because it meant I was already in the correct gear coming out of the bend and the 'box did not kick down between apex and exit kerb.

The bushes I had fitted were simply a Mahle heavy duty front suspension wishbone bush kit, recommended by the independent BMW specialist that I use.  The originals needed changing and it made sense to fit good ones given the use the car was getting.  The kit was only £64.55 + VAT and fitting, so I doubt it was anything too special.

The difference between pads is their ability to cope with heat.  Brake use on a track day is heavy and much more frequent than in any sensible road use.  The significant heat generated causes standard pads to disintegrate.  Brakes are the biggest issue when taking a heavy road car on track.  EBC Greenstuff pads coped fine on the 330.  The next step up in the EBC range is Yellowstuff but that should not be necessary.  

The M3 moved brake temps into a different league and caused me no end of problems! Even Yellowstuff could not cope at the front and I moved to Ferodo DS2500/DS3000.  

I think the theory is that pads with a higher maximum operating temperature perform worse at lower temperatures and thus full race specification pads may not be legal for road use due to unacceptable cold stopping distances.  My experience is that when I used DS3000 race pads on track they bit like heck even when I experimented with hard braking with stone cold discs on a gentle out-lap!  Hard pads wear the discs faster, can produce more dust and also squeak.  However, something like Greenstuff should not do these things to any significant extent, as I understand it.  Even DS3000's didn't squeak on my M3.

With regard to tyres, I am no expert as I have not experimented; I have just used good road tyres.  The 330 came with Dunlop Sport Max TTs and I have used Michelin Pilot Sport 2s and Super Sports on the M3.  The Cross Climates will not grip as well and thus wont't be as quick but that should not matter if they are progressive and thus provide good enjoyable feel approaching their limit.  One thing about road tyres is that if it rains you find that you are suddenly faster than all the track-prepared cars wearing semi-slicks!

Regards,

Daniel
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cabrio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2016 at 8:19am
Daniel some great posts from you - the only thing i would add is I would avoid green for fast road or track use - I suggest you use the yellow will be an improvement and last the day better but if I didn't do trackdays I think you would convince me to give the club days a go 😎

If any further worries or concerns the Cadwell better driving days may be the easier start or the normal days with an instructor from the start or use one of the club cars

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MHunt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2016 at 8:23am
+1 for yellow which I have used on a few track days on a Z3M coupe.  Never had a hint of fade, but I try not to be too hard on the car on track days - for example easing off on the straights some of the time.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jenshb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2016 at 2:40pm
Thanks for all the replies - particularly Daniel1000's experiences and advice and Nick's invitation. I've been off the forum for a few days, and that Castle Coombe video was not how I would want my track day to be - far too much wild west, and too many people exceeding their abilities.

My F30 has M Sport brakes, so hopefully they will be adequate for track day use - they certainly proved their worth on the Autobahn on a couple of occasions.

Speaking of helmets then - what regulations do they need to comply with?  Do they need a certain "stamp"/marking/certificate since it appears any old helmet won't do?

Jens
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Robert Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2016 at 4:39pm
Jens, I don't think you are listening to the advice given here. You may have "M Sport brakes" but they still come with road pads and are not suitable for the sustained braking which occurs when driving around a track.

I used Mintex 1144 on my old M3 and sometimes 1155. But I still found six laps enough and needed a cool lap before continuing. I never fitted brake cooling ducts but should have.

Rob.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rpennington Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2016 at 5:56pm
Thanks Daniel & the others on here that have posted very interesting & helpful advice regarding this thread. This is giving me a lot of things to think & consider about on taking my car on track for a first attempt. As I would need to look at getting the right brake set up & possibly tyres as well sorted out first. I would certainly like to have a go in a club car or passenger rides under some guidance on track first.
I came to a bmwccgb track day at donington before as a spectator & forgot my helmet, but still thoroughly enjoyed the day & I think I got the bug then a bit.

Regards
Rich
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cabrio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 May 2016 at 7:36am
Jens - you can try as your car is currently but as you move forward different pads would be helpful
Regards helmets no specific regulations for trackdays as not a competitive or timed event but most helmets meet use on a bike as a minimum and just make sure no damage as its your head do spend what you can afford - the Trackday register has deals on some manufacturers

If you come and take it easy to start and with tuition build your speed and breaking distances etc as it feels comfortable - hope to see you and Rich at a Trackday soon
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote richardbaxter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 May 2016 at 12:04pm
Jens

Have you considered coming along to the Car Clubs hill climb event on 12th June at Shelsley Walsh? helmets are not mandatory, it's a one way road and non competitive, would give you a feel for track driving.

For all the good advice provided already one little piece on track driving that I picked up along the way, be very clear who is coming up behind you and know how you are going to come out of a corner before you go into it...

I hope you take the time to try one day it is very liberating and helps to appreciate just how good a BMW actually is...  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Robert Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2016 at 10:20am
Originally posted by richardbaxter richardbaxter wrote:

Jens

For all the good advice provided already one little piece on track driving that I picked up along the way, be very clear who is coming up behind you and know how you are going to come out of a corner before you go into it...



Adding to what Richard says the most important lesson I came away with from all the track days I attended was learning threshold braking. This knowledge has helped me avoid two major accidents on the road. I personally believe that threshold braking from 70mph avoiding an obstacle should be part of the driving test.
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