Ever tightening speed limits and heavy road law enforcement has seen a corresponding boom in so called 'track days' where enthusiast drivers take their (usually sporty) car to a race track and engage in this moderately competitive form of motor sport.
Sporting car clubs or one make clubs specialise in organising track days but there are so many these days that it's becoming difficult to secure a spot on a race track calendar even with 12 months notice.
Track days aren't about fender bending or out-braking the car in front going into a hairpin, they are more about beating the clock.
Technology aids this with electronic transponders attached to participating cars in track day events for dead accurate timing.
Every time your car passes a certain point, it's timed to a hundredth of a second.
The pressure's on after each on-track session of which there are usually about six that can go as long as 20 minutes or 10 plus laps of the circuit. Up to 10 cars at a time are on the track in each session and though overtaking isn't encouraged, it's tolerated on the straights.
A LS2 licence covers drifting, hillclimbs, sprints and super sprints (how track days are usually run), rallycross, rally sprint and regularity trials
Then after your drive, it's into the control room to check the digital read-out screens that don't tell lies and give you an idea of how well (or otherwise) you are driving.
What you need
You'll need either a one day licence from the race track or better still, an LS2 CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) 12 month licence which permits restricted events on a `race track.' It covers drifting, hillclimbs, sprints and super sprints (how track days are usually run), rallycross, rally sprint and regularity trials.
An LS2 licence will cost $125.00 for a year.
You'll also need a car that you can share a car with another competitor and that means cutting costs although you will still have to pay the full entry fee which is around the $150-180 mark for the day.
The car will have to be roadworthy though unregistered race cars with slick tyres can compete in their own category.
Most people use their road registered car fitted with whatever modifications the owner wants and a set of good tyres and competition brake pads.
The last two points can't be overemphasised because street brake pads fade in about two laps and road radials don't really cut it on the track as they overheat, have hard rubber of up to 600+ tread wear and also lose the plot after only a few laps.
`R' (race) compound tyres (aka semi-slicks) with tread wear of about 100 are what you need. These tyres are essentially grooved slicks and rely on super sticky rubber for grip.
They last longer and with the correct wheel alignment, make the car steer and brake better as well as corner faster.
Toyo Tires put a set of Proxes R888R semi-slick tyres on a car we took recently to a Toyo sponsored Toyota 86 Club track day. For this particular event, Toyo paid all entry fees if the car was fitted with their rubber - can't argue with that.
Track days are an excellent form of driver training as they truly show a person how to drive a car properly
Most cars had either 888s or the slightly more road oriented R1R tyre. Both have a big reputation among the track day fraternity.
Our on-track experience underlined the R888Rs effect on a car giving sharp steering, straight braking and quiet, fast cornering for lap after lap.
A set of these (or similar) tyres can last a year of track days on a light, moderately powerful car or about six to eight track days plus a few other `events' on the side. From experience, semi-slicks only `go off' a little bit over a year and will even grip well with no tread left (on a dry track).
The car will need to be properly serviced with a sump full of new oil, all fluids topped up or replaced and nothing in the boot, glove box, centre console or passenger compartment.
You'll need numbers, a blue stick-on triangle showing where the battery is, a 1kg fire extinguisher fixed in the cabin and a tyre pressure gauge to monitor pressures.
That's about it.
Most clubs will put novice drivers in with experienced drivers to demonstrate the correct lines around the track, where to brake, change gears and all the other nuances associated with fast lap times.
Apart from being outrageously good fun, track days are an excellent form of driver training as they truly show a person how to drive a car properly - and also quickly let them know their limitations.