The season is nearly up on us. The only season that matters to those of us who like the smell of petrol and the giddy thrill that comes from seeing a crash helmet. Yes, we are of course talking about track day season. We get F1 and BTCC on the telly, which in turn makes us think we’re possessed by the ghost of Senna, so we book ourselves in at our local track and have at it.
Now in all honesty, getting on track in any car is fun. You don’t have to worry about speed cameras, caravans or people on horses with those ridiculous ‘Polite’ high visibility jackets. It’s just man, machine and the hunt for the perfect apex clip.
That said, there are things you can do to your car that will make the experience so much better. You don’t need a full-on race car, just a few select modifications that will ensure you get the most out of the £200 you’ve given to Motorsport Vision. And because we’re nice, we’ve listed them here.
Though we are including a caveat, in case it wasn’t obvious. The assumption here is that your car isn’t hanging onto life by a thread. So by that, we mean you brake fluid is good, your shocks and bushes are still okay, so on and so forth. This is a bit of light reading, internet, not a Haynes manual.
Tyres – From £250 for four
You can have all the bells and whistles on your car, all the power in the world, you could even put Sebastien Ogier in the driver’s seat. It means diddly squat if you’ve got rubbish tyres. Tyres are the little bits of rubber that connect everyone your car has to terra firma. hit the track with worn, tired old rubber and you’ll either be terrified, or spat into the barrier. Possibly on fire.
If you do nothing else to your car, at least fit decent rubber. And while tyres with aggressive treat patterns and soft compound rubber are, of course, brilliant, there’s a lot to be said for what a decent sent of road-rubber can do. We’re going for Falken on Project 800 because they’re the perfect mix of road and track, but without braking the bank. Plus, they’ll transform the ride. Do the same and you’ll see we’re bang on the money.
Brakes – From £200
Power, as they say, is nothing without control. So why on God’s green would you hit the track with terrible brakes? That would be like going sledging on the condition that the sledge was on fire. It makes no sense. Plus, brakes aren’t a track day only thing. When you’re on the A34 lamenting your career choice on a Monday morning, your car will still need to stop. Good brakes are a must have.
We’ve gone for MTEC brakes on Project 800. Grooved and vented discs will keep cool under pressure, while the new pads will grabs them with gusto, ensuring we can keep our 200bhp in check. We’ve also gone for braided lines, too. Rubber lines can swell and distort when being worked hard, particularly on track. That means the pressure you’re putting on the pedal isn’t translating to pressure from the callipers. Bad times when you’re truing to outbreak that bloke in the Focus ST. The whole lot has set us back just short of £300, but depending on your car, it could well be cheaper.
Forget big power. Control is where it’s at when it comes to track day fun.
A damn good service – From £100
We’ve talked about jobs you can do yourself, and this is one of them. Giving your car a service doesn’t require you to have a masters in mechanical engineering. You just need some spanners. So get them out, the spanners that is, and get your plugs changed, flush the oil and fill your engine with some nice new stuff and change all the filters.
You’re putting your car on track. You’re going to be working it damn hard. You wouldn’t ask the asthmatic with a sprained knee to run a marathon, would you? So why would you expect your car to hit the track with clogged up flitters and sludgy oil? It makes no sense. Plus, much like brakes, this has positive implications for your car in terms of daily duties. Go on, get to it.
Lowered suspension – From £150
Okay, yes, so a proper race car will have suspension worth more than your house. But for you, flogging your Clio 182 around Thruxton, you don’t need to remortgage. A simple set of lowering springs will will make a hell of a difference. By bringing the car’s centre of gravity down, you’ll have more control. The springs are normally stiffer, too, so you’ll have less roll through the corners.
You’re not truing to save thousandths of a second off your lap times, you just want to have fun, and lowered springs will do that. Plus, your car will look a bit cooler, too. Which is always nice. Lowering springs are a good ‘gateway product’ too. Start with these, and if you get into track days more often, you can go for coilovers, remote reservoir dampers, the world is your oyster. Until then though, simple springs are fine, and they won’t ruin the ride and handling for the school run.
Strip it out – From zero pennies
There’s a reason Usain Bolt isn’t 19 stone. It’s because speed and weight do not go hand in hand. Can you imagine a cheetah trying to chase down a gazelle if it had the dimensions and pace of the Pislbury Dough Boy? Exactly. To be fast means to be light. And while most race cars are awash with carbon fibre this and composite that in the name of not offending the scales, it doesn’t mean your has to be.
We built a track car years ago. The fact it never saw a track is moot. We don’t want to talk about it. THE DAMN THING KEPT EATING ENGINES! Engines aside, we did gut it. We took everything out of it bar the dashboard and then we went to Brand Hatch, jumped on the car scales and worked out what we had saved. 190kg. That’s a lot. Had our car ever made it to a track, it would have quick. There’s no doubt.
Your car will benefit from this, there’s no doubt. Okay, so it means it then becomes an out and out track car – you’re not getting the kids in it with no seats – but hey, track time is fun. And so is saving money. Stripping your car will cost you nothing but time, so you can put your wallet away.