Beginner's guide to track days

I see lots of questions pertaining to basic setup advice and “what’s best / needed” for track days. This thread will serve as a guide to helping those with little or no track day experience get the most out of their time and money.

Your priorities should be (in order of importance):

  • Safety
  • Reliability
  • Driving performance improvement
  • Car performance improvement

If your car has malfunctioning or poor condition safety equipment (seats, belts, ect) and you have an accident, your track days could be over in a hurry.

If you show up with a “monster” turbo setup and cook your brakes or blow your engine in your second session, your weekend is over early & you are not going to learn much. Having a car that will take everything you throw at it will make the weekend that much more enjoyable and let you focus on your driving, not worrying about breaking down.

Pay attention is class & ask questions, pay attention to cars on track that are smooth and fast, ask for advice, ride with an instructor. Get solid with your car control and basics of high performance driving:

  • Being smooth
  • Looking and thinking ahead
  • Situational awareness (other cars, flag stations, debris on track, ect)
  • Traction management (throttle modulation, threshold braking, cornering at peak capability)
  • Hitting your marks (braking points, turn in, apex, track out)
  • Trying new techniques at a reduced speed (heel toe downshifting, trail braking, left foot braking)

Once you are starting to maximize the performance of your car, you can think about upgrades. Before coming up with an upgrade plan, check the rule books in classes you may be interested in running to save time and money down the road to remain legal for potential classes you’d run in.


  • You’ll need a helmet. Requirements vary based on organization. Buy new and try not to skimp- it’s your head!

  • Do the pre-tech inspection to make sure your car will pass tech. The inspection varies between organizations. Make sure the car is in solid driving condition, with good shape bushings, bearings, ball joints, brakes, cooling system, wheels, tires, no major leaks. Check the torque of all suspension and brake fasteners.

  • Check all fluids (they should be fresh and at proper levels) & bring spare fluids.

  • Bleed your brakes. Old brake fluid contains moisture that can lead to brake fluid boil and reduced stopping power.

  • Make sure tires are inflated properly. 32-34 psi is probably a decent starting cold pressure for beginners street tires. Aim for a hot pressure that provides the best feel and limits sidewall rolling to the indicators on the tire.

  • Bring some basic tools, zip ties, torque wrench (check lug torque between sessions, they will probably loosen!), tire gauge.

  • Make sure you have plenty of brake pad material remaining. Once you get more aggressive with the brakes, you will probably want to bring spare pads.

  • Your experience may be improved by using a pair of gloves (I use an old pair of motorcycle gloves, but there are many varieties of driving-specific gloves, and I’ve even seen folks use mechanics gloves) and a pair of shoes with very thin soles to improve the sensitivity of your feet to the pedals (chuck taylors, adidas samba, aisics mexico 66 (my favorite)).

  • Consider watching some youtube videos of the track you plan on attending. Take the lines and techniques with a grain of salt; you just want to get a basic feel for what the course looks like and how it flows so you won’t be as lost during your first session out. Regardless, the first couple of sessions are dedicated to learning the track at reduced speed so you can become familiar and comfortable.


You don’t have to show up knowing everything. Generally, new students will attend a classroom session before turning wheel on-track that reviews general procedures, the meanings of flags, ect. You’ll be assigned an experienced instructor who will ride with you in your car and work with you to help you be smooth and safe. Once those two things are solid, you’ll work on your lines and hitting your marks as you gradually come up to speed.

Stay hydrated, ask questions, pay attention, and ride with an instructor in their car if possible. You can learn a lot from the passenger seat as well!


  • BRAKES: Sport / race brake pads. Hawk HP+ worked for me at stock weight and stock power and are pretty easy to modulate, helping reduce the chance of lock-up and flat-spotting. With power and/or suspension upgrades, you may want to look at Hawk DTC-60 or equivalent. For the rear, stick to off the shelf pads or other performance “street” compound (Hawk HPS, Stoptech performance street, nothing more aggressive) or you may run into rear lock-up issues. Don’t bother with drilled or slotted rotors; stock rotors will work fine and can be re-surfaced for longer life and are cheaper. You probably won’t need anything more for quite a few events. If your rotors are turning blue or smoking after a session or completely used up after 4 sessions, maybe it is time for a rotor and caliper upgrade (or you are dragging your brakes or have a sticking caliper!). Replacing your brake lines with OEM or QUALITY DOT APPROVED S.S. braided lines is a great idea.

  • TIRES: I’d recommend a 205/50-15 on a 15x7 to 15x8 wheel. For a daily driver or wet track days, the Bridgestone RE-11A, Yokohama AD08R, and Dunlop SS-II would work great. For dry only, the BFG rival is argueably the best option. DON’T START WITH R-COMPS. Extremely grippy tires will hide your mistakes and allow you to reach higher speeds where a mistake will have worse consequences. Learning to maximize the friction circle is easier to master when you start with lower grip tires.

  • CHASSIS/SAFETY: The stock seats are reasonably good and lasted me for a while before i felt a need to upgrade. The stock belts are annoying and heavy, so i decided i’d get some 5-point harnesses with stock seats. BAD DECISION.

Seats, harnesses, and rollover protection are a system. First, you should avoid 4 point harnesses due to the lack of an anti-submarine strap. Second, you can effectively utilize a sub strap without a seat with a pass through. So at this point you could buy a reclining sport seat and a 5-point harness and fabricate a harness bar. IF you decide to run a fixed back seat, you should install rollover protection because if the roof collapses the seat will hold you in place with no where to go. You should also use swivel mounts for the harness mounting points.

  • SUSPENSION: There’s nothing wrong with tracking your car completely stock. Start off with making sure your alignment is solid (relatively even camber side to side, and not excessive toe). Replacing the suspension bushings with energy suspension or prothane poly bushings is always a good investment. Also checking hub bearings and replacing ball joints is also good practice.

If your dampers are weak or blown, you can decide whether you want to get a performance aftermarket units or whether you are likely going to pursue a full coilover system. Koni and Tokico make good adjustable replacement dampers that work well with spring rates up to around 10-12k and with a good amount of lowering. These dampers can be used with coilover conversion kits that allows you to fine tune your spring rates and ride height.

A good beginner suspension setup would be Tokico Illumina or Koni yellow with ground control (or skunk2 or omni coilover sleeves) and off-the-shelf spring rates. These setups will be forgiving and very streetable but offer greater performance and control over stock while allowing more aggressive setup in the future. You can go with lowering springs, but they won’t offer future upgrade options and may lower the car excessively without enough increase in spring rate to keep you off the bump stops.

If you’re worried about outgrowing the suspension too quickly, you can step up to a more expensive / aggressive setup from the start, but just be aware that the more aggressive spring rates may make the car more neutral or oversteer biased, which is more difficult for beginners to safely tame.

My current setup for time trials is simple, cheap, easy to drive, streetable, and fast, and is comprised of:

  • Tokico illumina dampers with ground control coilover conversion
  • 7" long 2.5" coil springs, 12k front 10k rear
  • Full energy suspension bushings, prothane RTABs
  • Custom extended front shock mounts for extra suspension travel
  • Rear UCAs shimmed by 1 washer with extended bolts to reduce rear camber

This setup is fairly neutral steady-state and will rotate if i lift throttle or trail brake.

  • ENGINE: This should be the last place you spend your time and money, especially for a beginner. More power means more braking is required, and straightaway speeds are higher so if you make a mistake in a braking zone, you are heading off track that much faster. Having limited power teaches you to emphasize carrying momentum and avoiding unnecessarily losing speed. Once you have a solid foundation (brakes, chassis, suspension), by all means feel free to tinker with power.

  • WEIGHT REDUCTION: I didn’t mention this up front because not all people want to drive a gutted car. However, weight reduction offers the single biggest performance advantage outside of better driving and better tires. Horsepower makes you faster on the straight, suspension makes you faster in turns, brakes can help you push deeper into brake zones, but weight reduction makes you faster EVERYWHERE. Enough said.

For more information on safety/suspension/brakes/chassis, lessons learned and more, check out my autocross/track day/time trial build:

Driving resources:

thanks for info hufflepuff :up:

weight reduction so far on my 90 db1 rs are :
ac pwr stering removal
jdm one piece headlights
trunk gutted
lighten flywheel
manifloid bracket
water resevor

i like to keep seats and panel. what else can i remove
dont want cf parts or lexan windows

im looking for jdm supports

Good stuff HufflePuff! I agree with everything you listed there and am glad to see other stress what’s really important (hint: it’s not building the car!).

[QUOTE=skull_leader;2310431]thanks for info hufflepuff :up:

weight reduction so far on my 90 db1 rs are :
ac pwr stering removal
jdm one piece headlights
trunk gutted
lighten flywheel
manifloid bracket
water resevor

i like to keep seats and panel. what else can i remove
dont want cf parts or lexan windows

im looking for jdm supports[/QUOTE]
There is a weight reduction thread if you want to discuss weight reduction. This thread should be kept on topic and pertaining specifically to those who want to start getting into track days or racing and how best to do so.

ok coilin…

sorry im kind of new to this forum so not use to it yet…

i see if i can find it.

No worries man. Just search for “weight reduction” there are a handful of threads, plus most of it is common sense anyway.

Great thread/post.

Thanks for writing all that! Good read. I hope to get into this one day.

this is very helpful! i am in the process of preparing my car to hit the track hopefully soon!

Made some updates based on recent car changes that may save folks money in the long run, namely my favorable experience with stock swaybars.

Thanks for posting this thread. It’s nice to get a little advice from somebody who tracks their car. It’s something I’ve wanted to get into for a while now but just want to make sure my car can handle it. I’ve already some weight reduction and the full energy suspension master kit. Still on stock struts with tein springs. Figured I’d get some better brake pads, new ball joints, tie rods/ends and give it a shot.

i would like to add that you should also nut and bolt all suspension components and brakes before doing a track event. also adding a temp gauge and oil pressure gauge is never a bad idea. along with learning maintenance throttle. treat the gas pedal like a dimmer switch and not a light switch

i hope you did not use the rta bushings… they cause the rear suspension to not articulate the way it was designed to

Thank you! I’ll add those important items.

Any suggestions for drag racing. The big problem I’m having at the track is route spin. I need to upgrade my tires but what could I do to keep weight on the fronts and away from the rear?

Some guys run stiffer rear springs.

Couple of updates added for those who are planning on trying an HPDE.