Preparing yourself for a day at the track
Driving at speed, consistently braking and turning in at the same point to make every apex, and being able to anticipate the actions of other drivers takes incredible mental acuity and concentration. Especially if you are just learning to drive on the track at speed, your brain will be working overtime the first few times you are out on the track. Even if you are experienced, things happen at a pretty brisk pace when you are on the track with other cars at speed. Starting the event with a relaxed brain is important, and here are some tips:
- Have your vehicle prepared well in advance so that you (the driver) can relax as the event approaches.
- We recommend that you do not plan to bring guests on your first day at the track. The added distraction of entertaining guests, especially when you are new to track driving, will undoubtedly impact your driving to some degree.
- Avoid alcohol for 24 hours before an event.
- Go to bed a little earlier the night before and get a good night’s rest.
- Don’t eat a heavy breakfast or lunch in advance of heading to the track. On the track, your brain needs all the blood flow it can get … so why eat a heavy meal and divert that precious blood flow to your stomach? Plus having a sugar crash after a large meal may cause you to make driving mistakes … which could lead to a much more serious crash (no pun intended).
- If you are attending an evening track event, try to plan for a relaxing workday. For example, try to avoid scheduling a potentially stressful meeting just before leaving for the track.
- Plan in advance for inclimate weather … bring suitable clothes, umbrella, and an easy-up if you have it. Items from the inside of your car will stay much drier if you bring a Rubbermaid container to stow them in (or just leave them at home). Remember, events will continue rain or shine.
- Consider the time it will take to fuel up, get to the track, register, unload your car, tape a number on your car, and attend the mandatory drivers meeting. Plan to leave yourself LOTS of time. Rushing to get onto the track is a sure way to unsettle your brain and make it work overtime.
- Either the night before or on the way to the track, FILL UP WITH FUEL and set the tire pressures to the manufacturer’s recommend cold pressure. Arriving with a fuel tank that needs to be filled or a low tire are last-minute distractions you just don’t need.
- Make sure you are hydrated well before arriving at the track. Even mild dehydration can have a significant effect on the brain’s ability to concentrate. Trying to rehydrate 5 minutes before going out on the track is not going to make much of a difference. Although we supply water at our events, you may want to bring some electrolyte drinks (like Gatorade or Powerade) to the track to help you remain hydrated throughout the day.
- Arrive early to get signed in, obtain your wristband, and meet your instructor. The last thing you want is to arrive late and miss your first on-track session.
Preparing yourself for a lifetime of driving
Perhaps the best way to improve lap times is to improve the driver. Here are some great books to read on the theory of driving at speed (with links to Amazon.com) …
- Speed Secrets: Professional Race Driving Techniques by Ross Bentley (along with his other 7 books)
- Drive to Win: The Essential Guide to Race Driving by Carroll Smith
- Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving by Carl Lopez
- Making Sense of Squiggly Lines by Chris Brown
- A Practical Guide to Race Car Data Analysis by Bob Knox
Also we highly recommend having Speed Secrets Weekly delivered to your inbox every Tuesday morning. Each issue gives you something to think about on a wide range of topics: mental preparation, games to connect left and right brain hemispheres, how driving is like yoga, improving car setup, safety and safety equipment, data acquisition and how to read your data, techniques like left foot braking and maximizing corner exit speed … and 40+ more topics just this past year alone. Not to mention the guest contributors … Mike Zimiki, Bruce Cleland, Peter Krause, David Brabham, Johannes van Overbeek, Dr. Jacques Dallaire, and many more. As one of our instructors said, “That’s the best $12 I’ve spent in a long time.” By the way, that’s just 23¢ a week … a VERY worthwhile investment.