The right tools for track day

Don’t spoil a good time by being left out by what is otherwise and easy fix

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Rebecca Nguyen photo

“The right tools for the job” has been an essential phrase for anyone who goes to work or has hobbies. Whether you are a mechanic, a crafter or a mountain climber, having the right equipment makes all the difference between enjoyment and frustration.

Preparation

For track days, you can simply bring yourself and your car – making sure it is track ready — but there are a few more items that are good to have on hand for any minor fixes for both the car and the driver.

Space in the car itself is always a consideration. If you have trunk space, use it. Or, if you are not bringing anyone along as a passenger, the passenger seat makes for good transport area as well.

If you do consider bringing a guest, have them drive their own car – and transport all your stuff!

Remove all loose items everywhere in the car, particularly the cockpit and the trunk. Under the hood, make sure everything is properly torqued and fastened. During spirited driving, you won’t be pulling 2gs like an F1 driver, but you may be surprised at what exists under your seats when you go around a fast corner or during heavy braking.

People also remove floor mats and spare tires – but this can be done at the track in final preparation for your first session of the day. This reduces weight and may provide better cornering balance.

The author hustles his Porsche 986 down the straightway of the Auto Club Speedway road course during SCCA Track Night in America| Bradley Iger photo

Pit Area

I generally bring an EZ-Up type of shelter. Most track days you will have quite a bit of downtime and the shelter keeps you out of direct sunlight. Also, putting the car under the shelter will assure that you won’t be getting into a super-hot car when you go to do your sessions. Because such an item won’t generally fit in the trunk, you may have to put the passenger seat back and load it there — unless of course you have a back seat area too.

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Also bring a foldable lawn chair or two. Having a second chair is inviting for socialization with wandering like-minded people who can be helpful. No one likes to reinvent the wheel on minor repairs or driving technique and ultimately, making new friends with cool cars who like to drive is part of the fun of a track day.

Bring along a cooler with bottled water and food (most track days do not have food available). I pack a couple of sandwiches, energy bars and fruit. Spirited driving requires a lot of energy and concentration. You will sweat and you will exert much more energy than you would in normal driving conditions, so it is imperative to hydrate and replenish calories.

Most track days do not allow alcohol on the premises, so leave the beer at home. Later, at the bar, you can regale everyone with your stories of daring-do over libation. But even then, be safe and don’t drive home buzzed.

The author gets ready to go out at Streets of Willow | Jonathan Sieger photo

Tools

Your tires are the single most important consideration for a track day. Failure of a tire could put an early end to your sessions – or create a dangerous situation on the track. Therefore, bringing the right tools for dealing with your tires are very important.

Your car should be ready to go before it leaves your garage. Some may change to DOT slicks, or other performance tires. The advantage of using DOT race tires, beyond the track performance, is that they are a street-legal tire, which means you may shoe the car with the performance set before leaving home. A great track day tire I have experienced is Toyo’s R888R, which is an amazing performance tire.

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Having a breaker bar or a cordless impact wrench for lug nuts is good if you are changing to performance tires at the track. The breaker bar is also important because, before every session, you will want to make sure all your lug nuts tightened. This exercise is good for something to do right before a session to ease any jittery nerves, too.

I also bring my smaller floor jack, which actually comes in handy for changing a tire or getting under the car for any necessary fixes. I also bring a portable air tank, filled up from my compressor, and a high-quality air gauge. During the sessions you will want to run lower air pressures in your tires for handling as they heat up and the air inside expands much more than on the regular roads.

Ultimately, the compressed air is for the end of the day when you need to have recommended air pressures for the drive home.

The author and his three drawer BOXO toolbox and mechanic’s set | Rebecca Nguyen photo

Generally, I bring my three-drawer BOXO toolbox which come pre-packed with an assortment of screwdrivers, sockets and wrenches that might be needed in the event of something coming loose. Even if you don’t need any of your tools that day (which is a good day), it is good to have them there – just in case. You may also end up being a hero to someone who didn’t read this story and came unprepared.

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Safety

No fire suit is required for a track day. You may get to run in shorts and a T-shirt, but bring a pair of jeans in case the track day organizer requires long pants. I do sometimes wear a fire suit for track day, depending on the car I am driving. If it is my track-day car, which has 6-point belts and racing seats (and goes pretty darn fast), I will wear my full set-up including my RaceQuip helmet suit, gloves and racing boots – plus a HANS device. Even if the car doesn’t make it home, I still need to be at work on Monday.

Even if I am running in shorts and a T-shirt, I like to do any type of motorsports using my gloves and boots, particularly because they feel familiar when I drive. Helmets are required. Some track days provide them, but most do not. Get one. I generally won’t share hats with people, why would I want to share a helmet? RaceQuip manufactures SNELL approved helmets at a very reasonable price.

I certainly hope you enjoy your track day. As my fourth-grade teacher would say when teaching us accountability for homework: “Forewarned is Forearmed.”

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Tom Stahler is the Managing Editor of the ClassicCars.com Journal. Tom has a lifelong love of cars and motor racing – beginning with the 1968 USRRC race at Road America, in a stroller, at eight months of age. His words, photos and broadcasts can can be found on a myriad of media. He has won the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and a Gold Medal in the International Automotive Media Awards.

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