CAR’s expert guide to what you need for a track day

Make your first track experience as smooth as possible with our handy track day guide.

track day essentials

by Ryan Gilmore |
Updated on

If you're serious about making the most of your track days, you need the right gear to go with the right car. It's understandable that you should want to. Track days run across the country and are a fun and safe way of enjoying your car closer to the limit than what is allowed on the roads.

And while it's all too easy to think that you just need to turn up with some money and a steely-eyed face of concentration, if you don't prepare properly, you risk missing out on making the most of your time - or not even being allowed out on the circuit. How deeply disappointing that would be.

We've combined our experience of track days and put together a guide of essential kit you'll need alongside some nifty extras so you can enjoy your first track day as much as possible.

What you need for the car:

Having the correct tyre pressure is crucial to getting the most from your car on a track day. You'll be looking for two pressures; cold and hot. If you're running regular road tyres, you ideally want to reduce your tyre pressure by about 2-4 psi for the cold psi. This will then increase by 4-6 psi for the hot reading.

All this means is that you should look at bringing a tyre inflator with you to make sure your tyres are set up properly. This digital tyre inflator from AA features a clear digital readout so you know when your tyres are ready. It can also be used to quickly inflate your tyres for the journey home.

Rain is guaranteed in the UK more than death and taxes, so there's a fair chance there will be some miserable weather on at least one of your track days. Applying some Rain-X to your windscreen will help the weather be less of an issue by improving overall visibility.

What you need for yourself:

A proper helmet is essential for any track experience, and as renting a helmet is problematic (not just because it'll be very sweaty) at the moment, it's a good idea to buy your own. You don't need to break the bank buying your first helmet, you can get a quality option like this helmet from Sparco at a reasonable price.

ECE-approved and made from Advanced Thermo Material (ATM), this helmet is designed for track use and features a hypoallergenic lining and cooling ducts to keep you comfortable as you drive around.

You'll be amazed how quickly your hands become sweaty once you take your car on a track, especially if you have a shiny leather steering wheel. A decent pair of racing gloves, like these from OMP will ensure your hands don't run out of grip before your tyres do. Featuring a grippy suede palm and fully FIA-approved, these retro-themed gloves are a stylish and fully fire-retardant way to enjoy your car for longer on a track.

Other handy things to have:

Timing is not allowed when on a track day but if you're on a test day (you'll need a full motorsport license) then you can track your times. Just in case you decide to take your track driving experience to the next level, we've selected this excellent GPS lap timer from Alfano.

Fully compatible with Android and iOS, all data can be stored and viewed on a free app. It features auto-track recognition, precise timing and is both waterproof (IP65) and shockproof for roofless driving.

GoPro HERO8 Black
Price: $297.99

Recording your lap may be something that interests you and not much comes close to a GoPro for recording a track day. Pretty much indestructible, waterproof and incredibly compact, it will easily survive an intense day of track day filming.

It can record in 4K (UHD), features hyper-smooth stabilisation and can even be used for live streaming. Just be warned that the battery is quickly drained.

Sametop Suction Cup Mount
Price: $10.99

Obviously, you can't hold a camera while you're driving so you'll need a camera mount. There are several places you can easily mount one, including on your helmet or on a roll cage (if your car has one). The best place, however, for recording your track experience is using a suction mount on the windscreen.

The last thing you want is your recording device coming loose from its mount and getting jammed under the brake pedal as you approach a corner. A secondary tether will keep your GoPro (or similar) secured even if your primary mount fails. Each one of these tethers can hold up to 15kg and will keep you and your tech safe.

Best for improving your overall times

A step up from a simple lap timer, this device from Garmin will provide telemetry of how you're driving and help coach you to improve your lap times. We've tested one and found it to be a fantastic device for understanding how you drive.

This suction mount from Sametop is easy to mount, has excellent adjustability and comes with a quick-release buckle, too. Just make sure that you only use it on glass.

Read the full Garmin Catalyst review

Not every track will let you use the pit garages, which can be a pain if the sun is particularly blistering or it's teeming with rain. Some people choose to recycle the family gazebo to keep themselves protected from the elements, but a proper weather-resistant marquee is a better option.

This marquee from Hamilton is made from 350g/sqm PCV coasted fabric and is designed to withstand strong winds without inverting itself like an umbrella. You can even buy some matching sidewalls to give yourself an even cosier setup.

A small generator like this one from Sealey is another clever addition you can bring on a track day. If you need to use some power tools or simply run a floodlight, some proper power is a useful addition. This generator automatically adjusts engine speed to suit the load, reducing noise and increasing fuel efficiency.

Limited time track deal

Best for a fathers day gift

Want to experience something other than your own car on a track day then a driving experience is a great idea. Choose between driving a classic muscle car or a modern supercar with this awesome, limited-time deal that covers 11 locations across the country and is open to anyone over the age of 12.

What else you need to know before taking to the track:

Pay attention to the safety briefing

This may sound painfully obvious but the safety briefing is a crucial aspect to keeping everyone safe on track and you should pay full attention and ensure you adhere to the rules. Nobody wants to be that person that gets black flagged for driving like a berk.

Learn the track

It's always nice to turn up to a track and know how to drive around it straight away. If it's your first track experience then there are ways to ensure you turn up already looking like a seasoned pro.

Not only are there a load of YouTube videos that will show you the track layouts, but some of the better-known tracks (Silverstone, Brands Hatch etc) can be found in racing games, while games like iRacing have a rich selection of fan-made recreations of smaller tracks. We've got a list of the best racing games right here.

Some tracks also offer instructors you can hire to teach you the track. Don't be afraid to use them, they are experts after all.

Prepare your car

Now we're not saying to strip out the rear seats, fit a full roll-cage and add brake discs the size of manhole covers, but there are certain things you should do to prepare your car for a trip to the track:

  1. Make sure your car's tow hook is exposed, you'll be grateful for doing this if your car ends up in a gravel trap.
  1. Top your car up with the correct engine oil. This will just make the whole thing run smoother (you shouldn't need motorsport engine oil just yet). We have a guide to engine oil right here.
  1. Give your car a full inspection. Go around and make sure that everything is as it should be. Ensure that all bolts are properly tightened and nothing looks damaged/ready to fall off. Most track day stoppages are caused by ill-prepared cars that either leak oil everywhere or suffer some mid-lap weight reduction littering the track with debris.

Remember you need something to drive home in

Unless you've brought your track car on a trailer and can bring it home, if you blow the engine up you'll need to remember some basic mechanical sympathy. All those late braking moments and redline gearshifts may make you feel like a racing driver, but they can cause premature wear on your car which could spell disaster for your journey home after the race.

The same goes for tyres. While there's no need to go and buy Some Toyo semi-slicks straight away, you do need to take care of your regular car's tyres. Remember to check they have a legal tread depth before setting off for the journey home.

Be considerate of others

Imagine you've just bought a brand new Nissan GT-R Nismo and want to get some track experience in. Obviously, it's a very capable and quick track car in the right hands, but if you don't know the track or the car very well you're not going to be the best through those corners.

There will be smaller cars that are much quicker through the corners even if they can't keep up with you on a straight. Think mid-range Caterhams, track-built hatchbacks like the JCW Mini and more nimble sports cars. And while most racetracks allow overtaking on the straights (left-hand side only), it's not allowed on corners.

What this basically means is that while your expensive sports car is monstrously quick on the straights and you'll be able to overtake everything else with ease, when it comes to the corners you'll end up holding them all up. In short, don't hold everyone up in the corners after overtaking them all on the straights because everyone will think you're a bit of a prat.

Other tips

Bring a friend. Not only will this make the track day a more enjoyable experience, but two pairs of hands will be better than one when it comes to impromptu mechanical work.

Get track day insurance; you won't be covered with your regular car insurance.

And don't forget to bring your driving license.

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