I decided that this should be a STICKY !!!
Thanks to APEX214 for getting the ball rolling!
A few more thoughts. For the sake of convenience, I borrowed from Wikipedia for many of the terms.
Going to the track for the first time is intimidating and confusing for a lot of people. The learning curve can be steep because of the time table involved. Very little time between classroom, one on one and the next thing you know, you are in a strange high speed environment where things get intersting really quickly.
Below are some terms and thoughts you should familiarize yourself with in advance of your track day.
This stands for High Performance Driver Education. Also sometimes refered to as simply DE. This is what first-timers need to be looking for. Most HPDEs have run groups separated into different experience levels, including Beginner. These events are typically run on a weekend, although some of the more popular tracks, and tracks where professional race series are held, may also have them during the week. These events (or at least the HPDE groups within an event) are non-competitive
with strict passing rules designed to keep everyone safe, and to keep the cost of entry down (generally nothing more than standard car maintanence and a helmet are required to participate.)
You drive your own car, and beginners will be given an in-car instructor for all their on-track activities. Additionally, there are classroom sessions between the track sessions to educate and bring everyone up to speed.
All HPDE events should use corner workers (unlike Autocross, participants don't also have to work) and, more importantly, Advanced Life Support should be on-site at all times there are cars on track. If these elements are absent, pack up and go home. It simply isn't worth the risk to yourself or your equipment.
Most HPDEs are run by clubs that are not affiliated with the track, however, some tracks have their own HPDE programs
Open track, or lapping day events are geared more for the experienced driver. These events are typically one day events, during the week, without a lot of structure to get in the way of track time. It is not unusual for Open Track participants to have to progress through the other HPDE groups then be tested.
These events are geared towards someone who is looking to get immediately into wheel-to-wheel racing. Sometimes run in conjuction with HPDEs, they are usually more for experienced drivers who want to take the next step. You should already have a basic understanding of on-track protocol including traffic and crisis management. Most have a pre-requisute of a number of HPDE events before you will be allowed to participate in a competition school. These requirements and their intensity vary from club to club.
A subset of competition schools are the Racing Schools like Skip Barber, Jim Russell, and others. These events typically run in the thousands of dollars to attend, but you drive the school's cars, usually open wheel formula style. Upon completion of these schools, you will usually be issued a provisional race license with the organization that runs the school, where after you complete a minimum number of races, will be upgraded to an official race license.
Includes but it not limited to:
Transportation to and from track
Event pricing ranges from free to upwards of $5000 depending on what type of event and its target attendee. You won't find many free ones, but you can get on track for little or no cost. It just won't be a high speed event. It may be a charity lapping day hosted by the track, or even parade laps sometimes held at HPDE events.
For high-speed events, the pricing usually depends on the track. The more popular the track, the more money they charge to the renters, so the more expensive the entry fee will be. Some fees are based on the organization who may have a set fee no matter what track they are running at.
In very general terms:
One-day lapping/open track - $100 to $300
Two-day HPDE - $250 to $600
Two-day HPDE w/race - $400 to $800
Half-day race school (open wheel cars) - $700 to $1000
Three-day race school (open wheel cars) - $1500 to $4000
Four or Five day race school w/race and comp license - $3000 to $6000
Staging area for cars waiting to go on track. The pit may be divided by a wall, with the side closest to the paddock the false grid, the side closest to the track being the Hot Pit
This is the area of the pit lane where cars will be coming through when coming off track. Usually left clear, it is used to check out a car that has had an off-track excursion, and other situations where cars must come off track
This is the guy or gal that directs cars when to leave the pits and enter the track. If its a paid track worker, will be dressed in all white. He/she has the final say... even if an event steward or pit worker tells you to go, if you don't see a signal from the pit-out person, don't go.
This person's main function is to stay in constant communication with the corner workers and pit personel, making sure everyone is where they should be, and that everyone is following the rules. This will be the person you speak with if you have to be black flagged for anything.
Usually volunteers for the event, they keep the grid orderly, and they make sure the right cars are gridding up, and that those cars have all the proper identification/tech stickers/numbers, etc. etc.
Usually paid workers from the track or local SCCA region, these are the people that keep you safe out there.
These terms are listed here simply as a primer for people just starting out in tracking their car. It is by no means a comprehensive list, and the definitions are purposefully simplified.
Vision Up (EYES UP) -
You'll hear this probably more than anything. It means looking as far ahead as possible while you are driving. Most people have a tendency to look about 20-30 feet in front of their car (or at the speedometer)... when you really need to be looking hundreds of yards in front of you. Sometimes not in front of you either! If the road bends around, you'll need to adjust your vision around as well. Its an easy concept, but very hard to make yourself do.
Threshold Braking -
Essentially this means using as much braking force as possible, in the shortest distance possible, without locking up the wheels. The trick is to time it so that the car ends up at the right speed for the turn-in. In cars with ABS Threshold braking is accomplished by quickly and decisively using the whole pedal until ABS engages. True mastery of this technique maximizes braking WITHOUT engaging the ABS. Maximum braking is achieved just before the point of lock up - not an easy thing to accomplish (use your toes).
Refers to the moment you begin turning your steering wheel to start a turn
Refers to a point within a turn where your car is at its inner-most point on the turn's line.
- An apex before the physical center of a turn
- An apex after the physical center of a turn
- The point at which you are at full acceleration coming out of a turn.
More to come!