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      05-07-2019, 03:53 PM   #1
jns_e85
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First track day this weekend! Any tips for a HPDE novice?

This Saturday, I am attending my first HPDE at Road America I have been wanting to do this for years and finally decided to sign up with a club that allows roadsters.

I have never driven in a track environment (except for M Performance School a few years ago) and have been an avid autocrosser for 4 years, averaging about 14 events a year. I am not the best in my region, but have been competitive for the last two years and believe I have a good handle on car control basics.

I have taken steps to prepare my car for the day with new tires, new rotors, fresh pfc 08s, all fluids changed including fresh ATE 200, a new corbeau reclining seat to be 2"+ under the broomstick, new PROPERLY fitting helmet, and all aspects of the car gone through. I will be bringing up a lot of spare fluids, tools, a pair of wheels, etc for the day as well. Mechanically, I believe I am ready.

However, since this is my first event, I want to make sure I get the best out of the day and learn without developing any bad habits. Any suggestions or tips you experienced HPDE drivers have to make sure a rookie does it right would be greatly appreciated!!
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      05-07-2019, 05:02 PM   #2
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Sounds to me like you're VERY well prepared.

I would hope whatever organization you're running with provides you with a ride-along instructor as a novice. Relax, do what he/she says and enjoy yourself. Wonderful track in a beautiful setting.
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      05-07-2019, 07:36 PM   #3
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Just have an open mind, listen to your instructor. Try not to follow the car ahead of you but look ahead to the next corner. Smooth inputs, slow in fast out!

Car prep wise everything sounds good. Next time I’d use a higher temp fluid as I’ve been able to cook ATE. Castrol is expensive but well worth it in my opinion and probably averages out with other brands since you can go longer in between flushes.
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      05-08-2019, 11:36 AM   #4
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Your car seems like well prepared and you got some good tips from other replies.

Make sure to keep hydrated and bring small food items to give you energy all day.
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      05-08-2019, 12:15 PM   #5
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Since its a HPDE, you will be fine especially if you have an instructor.

My only advices to everyone when I am tasked to do drivers meetings back when I help with organizing track days is follows:

At the point of no return, both feet in and steering straight. Chances are, you are less likely to hit anything if you have both feet in then trying to save the car up to the last moment.

Drive with your head, not your ego. Be courteous at a track day, don't underestimate any clapped out shitbox.

And finally, keep yourself hydrated is VERY important.
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      05-08-2019, 12:25 PM   #6
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It's a awesome track I'll be up there June 8th and 9th have fun and be safe!
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      05-08-2019, 02:28 PM   #7
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Lots of good advice here. I would recommend getting HPDE insurance. Get it from day 1 and just include it in the cost of events going forward. I have seen people in Novice/Beginner have an on-track incident as recent as last weekend.

Like others said, just have fun and it will likely be a very memorable experience for you!
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      05-08-2019, 02:33 PM   #8
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Thanks all!

When I registered as a novice, I did request and paid extra to have an instructor in the car.

While obvious now, I didn't previously connect that a lot of the autocrossing techniques (look ahead, both feet in for a spin/off, etc) are also integral to HPDE

I will keep an eye on brake fluid, and depending how it goes Saturday, will make the switch to higher temp before the next HPDE event I am scheduled to do in June.

Also, did get track day insurance. While not cheap (4 events through Lockton with 37k agreed value of car and mods), it is a hell of a lot cheaper than writing off and rebuilding my car.

Misses is bringing up her F56 JCW as a support vehicle, and we plan to pack plenty of fluids and snacks
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      05-09-2019, 12:25 AM   #9
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Great point on insurance.
One more thing, keep traction ON. You must do skid pad, wet or dry to experience how car goes out of control, that teaches you a lot about car control
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      05-09-2019, 11:01 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gds52 View Post
Great point on insurance.
One more thing, keep traction ON. You must do skid pad, wet or dry to experience how car goes out of control, that teaches you a lot about car control
Interesting insight. I have heard it is better to have traction off, as the car behaves more predictably in a slide.

FWIW, I have done 3.5 years worth of autocrosses before (roughly 45 events), plus a couple car control clinics hosted by the local BMWCCA which included both wet and dry skidpads, as well as several years of winter driving/snow skid pads in my Z4. I have had a few spins and controlled slides in ax events as well as snow driving and believe I have a good sense and ability to recognize when the car is approaching the limit of grip. My driving style tends to be a little less aggressive than the top autocrossers in my region at the start, and ramp up aggression as appropriate.

Will try it both ways though this Saturday!
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      05-09-2019, 02:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jns_e85 View Post
Interesting insight. I have heard it is better to have traction off, as the car behaves more predictably in a slide.

FWIW, I have done 3.5 years worth of autocrosses before (roughly 45 events), plus a couple car control clinics hosted by the local BMWCCA which included both wet and dry skidpads, as well as several years of winter driving/snow skid pads in my Z4. I have had a few spins and controlled slides in ax events as well as snow driving and believe I have a good sense and ability to recognize when the car is approaching the limit of grip. My driving style tends to be a little less aggressive than the top autocrossers in my region at the start, and ramp up aggression as appropriate.

Will try it both ways though this Saturday!
It's great that you already have some experience and might already have quick hands. That will come in handy in a slide but keep in mind that smooth and slow hands are going to be the key on a bigger track.

My opinion - and certainly everyone has their own on this topic - is to leave traction control on until you can sense and predict exactly when it will kick in. Try to learn to drive as smooth as possible at the limit of the traction control system. Doing so will pay dividends in the future once you build up to turning it off.

Also considering you will have an instructor in the car, keeping it turned on may be their preference anyway. Have fun and report back after the weekend with how it went!
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      05-09-2019, 07:45 PM   #12
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Be warned...

A. You're going to have a blast!

B. This is a very addictive (and expensive) hobby.

Enjoy!
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      05-09-2019, 08:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jns_e85 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by gds52 View Post
Great point on insurance.
One more thing, keep traction ON. You must do skid pad, wet or dry to experience how car goes out of control, that teaches you a lot about car control
Interesting insight. I have heard it is better to have traction off, as the car behaves more predictably in a slide.

FWIW, I have done 3.5 years worth of autocrosses before (roughly 45 events), plus a couple car control clinics hosted by the local BMWCCA which included both wet and dry skidpads, as well as several years of winter driving/snow skid pads in my Z4. I have had a few spins and controlled slides in ax events as well as snow driving and believe I have a good sense and ability to recognize when the car is approaching the limit of grip. My driving style tends to be a little less aggressive than the top autocrossers in my region at the start, and ramp up aggression as appropriate.

Will try it both ways though this Saturday!
I missed the part about many autocross events you did. With all those skid pads n all I think you are all set

Enjoy your track day
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      05-10-2019, 08:00 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jns_e85 View Post
This Saturday, I am attending my first HPDE at Road America
Awesome! I will be out there as well, not my first time tracking but my first event at Road America. Look for the blue coupe, could use a friend
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      05-10-2019, 08:29 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azeka1 View Post
It's great that you already have some experience and might already have quick hands. That will come in handy in a slide but keep in mind that smooth and slow hands are going to be the key on a bigger track.

My opinion - and certainly everyone has their own on this topic - is to leave traction control on until you can sense and predict exactly when it will kick in. Try to learn to drive as smooth as possible at the limit of the traction control system. Doing so will pay dividends in the future once you build up to turning it off.

Also considering you will have an instructor in the car, keeping it turned on may be their preference anyway. Have fun and report back after the weekend with how it went!
This an intriguing exercise! I have always thought of TC as being a "crutch" to help bad drivers not crash in this type of setting, and never have thought of it as a potential tool to use to hone driving skills. Will have to try it
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      05-10-2019, 08:32 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Zed View Post
Awesome! I will be out there as well, not my first time tracking but my first event at Road America. Look for the blue coupe, could use a friend
Will do! May need to have a photo op of a IB coupe and IB roadster this weekend
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      05-10-2019, 08:53 PM   #17
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You didn't indicate whether you're running the M or 3.0i. If the 3.0i, keep an eye on your rear brake pad wear. TC on the non-M is all done through the brakes and your rears will get quite a work out.
Take your torque wrench with you and check torque on all lugs on all 4 wheels between each session. Your brakes and therefore your hubs and wheels will see a lot more heat which can make the lug bolts loosen up a bit.
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      05-12-2019, 02:12 PM   #18
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Drove the ///M yesterday for Road America

It was...AMAZING!

Shout out to Brent 86Zed for excusing my idiocy regarding meeting up and unintentionally ghosting him. Sorry again mate!

Had a great time learning more about my car and its limits. I was fortunate enough to have a fellow Windy City BMW CCA club member and Z3M coupe owner instruct me, who provided great advice. Ended up only using traction for the first session as I kept approaching its limits, and he was comfortable enough to release me on my own for the final session of the day.

I definitely have a lot more to learn about the different driving techniques that apply to HPDE, (namely more patience on approaching a corner, as well as better braking and downshifting technique), but overall I met my primary goal of being able to drive home and the secondary goal of getting under 3 minutes. Needless to say, I'm hooked and can't wait to do another event in June!

Videos! Unfortunately, I ran out of storage space on my phone for the TrackAddict data from my fastest lap of the day

Fastest lap with data - 2:57.515


Fastest lap no data - 2:51.740
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      05-12-2019, 03:55 PM   #19
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Those are some very good lap times! I'll be there in June too. Will be the frist time for me in the my Z4m but have done many track days there in other cars.
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      05-13-2019, 11:44 AM   #20
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Solid experience and awesome improvement for the first time out (and at Road America). It's a FAST track and certainly pushing my mental limit before the cars limit.

Sadly I dropped the ball on photo coverage - more focused on driver improvements and keeping the car intact this time out! One of the few shots of my car



Chatted briefly with a fellow SCCA Z4MC owner as well, he was holding his own quite well in the fast group.

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      05-14-2019, 12:01 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jns_e85 View Post
Any suggestions or tips you experienced HPDE drivers have to make sure a rookie does it right would be greatly appreciated!!
Vision was my biggest change as I progressed through HPDE and gained experience. The whole "look at nothing, see everything", widescreen vision, looking as far ahead as you can see is true - otherwise you can miss flag stations and lose ability to plan your line and anticipate trouble.

Check out Dion Von Moltke's videos at Road America and try to look where he would be looking down the track: YT clip 1 and YT clip 2
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      05-27-2021, 08:56 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3002 tii View Post
Just have an open mind, listen to your instructor. Try not to follow the car ahead of you but look ahead to the next corner. Smooth inputs, slow in fast out!
These are good pointers. I will expand on the "not follow the car ahead" part. I always tell students to try and "look through " the car ahead of you, which is not instinctive. People tend to focus on the car in front as a matter of learning, competition and prep for something to go wrong. In fact, you peripheral vision has a faster response, so if you're focused on "looking through" to your track markers, you're more likely to catch the guy in front of you doing something wrong fast.

Always look ahead. You should not be looking at the apex or track out point where you are--it's already too late. If you missed it, you should already have your eyes focused on the next marker to hit it.

To many new track / autox guys, smooth feels slower, but is actually much faster.
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