Back to School - track day preparation

by CTS Motorsport


CTS Motorsport takes I7N Chair Christine Abbott through a basic ‘spanner check’ designed for a track day but equally applicable for preparation for a longer road trip or just a general checkup.

Many of us find it more and more frustrating driving on the roads these days. However, for those wanting test their car and driving ability to the limit without breaking laws, together with freedom from congestion, lorries, caravanners and motorhomes (I must hold my hands up to being one of those as well!), track days are becoming a more popular option. I have often wondered why I joined this ‘party’ later in life, I am certainly not the fastest or most skilled driver on circuit, but the fun and comradery of this non-competitive pastime is second to none.


Taking your precious car on track can be daunting but being prepared is key to having an enjoyable and trouble free day. Until now preparing our car for track days was husband Roger’s job, so feeling as though I should be able to share the load I turned to Jon Curry, one of the Directors for CTS Motorsport (and occasional mathematics teacher) to take me through the straight forward checks, which as a novice I could master .Jon let me loose on one of their cars, a Caterham with a Sigma 150engine that was racing the following weekend.

Everything listed (below) when preparing your car for track would apply to a general spanner check you might do regularly or before a longer trip. However, on track, as Jon pointed out, you are putting your car through as much pressure in 20 minutes as half a day of intense road driving. In addition, when you participate in any track day event you sign an indemnity form, declaring that your car is in a safe condition for such a high speed activity, so it’s well worth spending a couple of hours before the day to ensure everything is in order.

Over to Jon …


Pre - track day car check

Interior. Before jacking up the car the interior is inspected, starting with ensuring the seat belt mounts are secure followed by the seat belt condition. Secondly the seats make sure the seats themselves are secure. For those who share a car preformed seat inserts are something worth considering to save time adjusting the seat between drivers. Finally, if you carry a fire extinguisher (highly recommended – fully charged AFFF type with a minimum 1.5 litre capacity) check it is mounted securely.

Engine

The first job is to jack the car up and put it on axle stands, allowing you to conduct your check. There is much debate about jacking points on a 7 however CTS recommend starting with the rear of the car with the jacking point on the A frame and placing the axle under either end of the rear side rails. Now move to the front of the car and use the tow eye point as a guide place the axle stand under the min cassis cross member.

The car is now ready to be checked internally so remove the bonnet and nose cone and start at the front of the car.

S

tarting with the radiator/coolant levels (don’t over fill) and check all hoses and joints , move on to check oil levels again don’t over fill. It is useful to use a cable tie on the dip stick to secure it (see photo).

Next check the alternator belt for condition (see photo) - hint if you land in the gravel, when you come off circuit check to ensure stones haven’t got caught in the belt.

Fluid levels. both brake and clutch, need checking and whilst doing that check the throttle cable for its condition – hint its worth carrying a spare.

Next check all the wiring, paying attention to the condition and connections. Whilst doing this look for any chafing points which could cause damage to the wires and short circuits. Still on electrics check the battery , making sure its securely mounted and the terminals are covered by an insulating material , and take the top cover off to check the ignition wiring to the coil packs.

The pedal box is next with checks for leaks in the master cylinder .

Now move on, starting at the front working to the back of the car to do a general check of all the hoses and pipes for condition and connections and all nuts and bolts checking all are tightened pay attention to the top and bottom wishbones. Include roll over bar/cage fixings. Hint when tight, mark the nuts and bolts with paint for a quick visual check for any loosening. (See photo)

Finally check the oil cap and the condition if there is a mayonnaise looking substance this could indict a head gasket problem.

Wheel check


The first job is to remove the wheels and check the tyres for wear, doing this allows you to inspect the inside wall.

Whilst the wheels are off , Check suspension for condition and operation – look for play in joints, linkages and bushes (especially live axle cars ), radial arms, the De dion tube welds for condition and brakes. The brake pad material should have at least a third of its original thickness remaining (see photo). If you do replace the brake pads, then make sure they are bedded in before the track day. Finally check brake discs for wear.

The final external check includes checking the function and condition of the windscreen wipers (unless you drive with an aero screen), the indicators and brake lights and generally the body work generally ensuring there are no loose bits that might fall off. Indicating where the towing eye is with an arrow sticker will help the marshals in the event of an incident.

Finally check that when you sit in the car with a helmet on your head is below the roll bar so that it can do its job if there is an accident.

Preparing for the day

Fuel

Setting off for the track day, whether you are driving your car there or towing it make sure you have at least ¼ tank but less than ¾. You might also want to bring fuel with you in a suitable container (most track day venues will have fuel for sale, which can be rather pricey, whereas others don’t have it available, so it’s worth checking)

Clothing

You will need appropriate clothing that covers up your arms and legs preferably natural fibres as you will: a) get hot and b) in the rare case of a fire will not melt onto your skin. Also ensure you have sensible footwear, thin soled, flat shoes/trainers tend to work best for maximum pedal control. On the circuit you will need to wear a full face helmet. If you don’t want the expense of buying a helmet then some track day providers will hire these so it’s worth checking. Either way you might want to invest in a balaclava as it can get quite hot and sweaty (say no more). A pair of driving gloves will not just protect your hands but give you a better grip of the wheel

Equipment

If you have two drivers then you may want to consider using a seat insert to save adjusting the seat for each driver.

If you are driving to the circuit rather than towing your car you might pack a camping chair and tarpaulin/bag to store your possessions in while you are on circuit

Tool kit – a basic tool kit with basic spares is useful. There is no requirement to do this and you will find other track day users really helpful if you have a problem. For a basic tool kit – a set of spanners, socket set, torque wrench, tyre gauge, compressor/tyre gauge, tank tape (gaffer tape), tie wraps, jubilee clips, brake fluid, oil and water. Carrying an assortment of nuts and bolts will bring you new friends in the paddock.

Finally. Remember your driving licence and check it’s valid !

On the day

When you get to the circuit the first job is to remove all loose items from the cockpit and boot – having that pack of polo mints rolling around your feet is not a good idea! The next job is to do the final checks of the wheel nut torque and tyre pressures (remember these will change as they get hot, so will need adjusting throughout the day). If you have any wheel trims/ centre caps remember to remove them and check the fuel filler cap is secure and the bonnet is clipped down correctly. If you use side screens then make sure these are secure.

Fastening your seat belt

Make sure you and your passenger are strapped in securely with a fixed harness belt. Tighten the waist/hip belt first and then the shoulder straps as tight as you can. The centre of the harness should sit just below your stomach when completely tightened, NOT on your rib cage. Hint don’t tighten the shoulder straps before your switch on the engine – you will not reach!! If you are on circuit without a passenger, then buckle up the passenger seat belts to stop them flying around.

During the day

When you return to the paddock after a session the brakes will be hot so DO NOT put the handbrake on but rather leave the car in gear. While the car cools down this is the opportunity to do a quick visual check. With the car under pressure on the circuit it’s important to check tyre pressures and wheel nut torque regularly

Your maintenance

The car is now ready to go, what about you? You will be required to attend a safety briefing so listen carefully, the circuit staff know the circuit better than anyone and will give you lots of valuable tips as well as the routine safety information. If there is anything you are unsure about – ask. They want you to have an enjoyable and safe time.

Look after your own fluid levels drink water and plenty of it, it may not be a hot day

but you will get dehydrated and your concentration then wavers. Circuits often provide great food but eating little and often is better than that steak and ale pie, with treacle pudding and custard, however tempting it might be! And finally stop when you are tired. And don’t be tempted to do that last run.

Let the fun begin …


Note: A check list and full illustrations to down load you will find in the Service section of this website. Check here


LOTUS AND SEVEN SPECIALISTS

CTS Motorsport

www.ctsmotorsport.com

Hire 7’s for track days and race meetings. Based in Lincolnshire UK.

Lotus on track

This is a track day club run by Lotus enthusiasts for lotus enthusiasts with events all over Europe. Lotus on track


Sevens only track Club UK

A Facebook group of track day enthusiasts who run track days in association with other organisations. See here


OTHERS

Circuit days

Track days in UK and mainland Europe and some imaginative road tours. Circuit Days


EasyTrack

UK track days across the year: Easy Track


Gold Track

Track days in UK and Europe at major circuits. Gold Track


Javelin Track days

A popular track day provider who run days on circuits and ex airfields in UK and Europe. Group discounts available. Javelin


MSVT

Not only the owners of Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Donington Park, Snetterton, Cadwell Park and Bedford Autodrome, MSV is also a track day operator at these circuits. They also run novice days. Motorsportvision


Want2race

Formerly BookaTrack. Tracks include those in mainland Europe and UK. Hire both Ginettas and Caterhams. Want2Race


Trackdays

A one-stop shop of track day listings and driving experiences. Most track day companies utilise Track Days to promote their calendar, however, just be aware not all use this service. Trackdays

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