Q: “What advice do you have for an experienced track day driver preparing for their first club race?”
A: Number one is know the rules. While I suspect – and hope – that you have a very good understanding of the flag rules, there can be some subtle (and some not so subtle) differences in how flags are used in racing. Many race series/organizations have slightly different ways of using the flags, so it’s critical that you know what the flags mean, and how they’re used. You can’t take even a second to think about it – your understanding needs to be immediate.
Know how the event is structured, what the schedule for the event is, when you have to have your car teched, when you need to be to the grid, etc. Again, learn as much as you can beforehand, and be as prepared as possible.
Contact the race event organizer with any questions you have beforehand, as they will appreciate your approach. Or, ask a driver who has raced with this organization to help you out over the weekend. Many will be thrilled to help out a “newbie.”
Be clear about what your objective is, and spend time cementing that in your mind before you get to the track. A good objective for your first race is to learn. Simple as that. No, it’s not to set a new track record in qualifying, start from the pole, and lap the field on your way to a glorious victory that will lead to being offered a seat with the Mercedes F1 team! Gaining experience and learning should be your number one objective. And guess what? The more laps you drive in the race, the more experience you’ll gain. That may mean be slightly cautious to ensure that you finish. Finishing the race is super-important because that’s how you’ll learn the most.
Racecraft – the act of starting a race, passing, and being passed – is likely different from what you’ve experienced at track days. I created a video about passing at track days, and I called it Passcraft, because the objectives are different there than they are in wheel-to-wheel racing. I’d suggest you watch that video, and then prepare and learn as much as you can about racecraft. Again, it’s different in racing.
Click here to watch the Passcraft video. Then – and this is important – watch The Racer’s Mindset video and compare them. Understand the difference between passing and being passed at track days versus in racing. But understand The Racer’s Mindset video is referring to more experienced racers.
If you want to learn more about racecraft, I have a webinar available at SpeedSecrets.com/Webinars. It’s in-depth and I believe will make a huge difference in your understanding of racecraft.
Having said all that, you’re going to have a blast in your first race, and even more fun in your following races. If you think of track days as a 2-dimensional challenge (drive the car and the track), racing is 3-dimensional (car, track, other cars/drivers). There’s another level of mental challenge, and the best racers are the ones who prepare more and better than others. And for sure, the more you prepare, the more fun you’ll have! If you show up, not knowing what you’re supposed to do, where you’re supposed to be, what to do on track, and so on, you’re going to have less fun.
Prepare, learn, have fun. That’s it!