The Stuff You Need For HPDE Or Track Days
By Bradley Iger
July 20, 2016
When we are trackside for High Performance Driver Education or track day events, we often find that participants don’t have all the items they need. When you stop to think about it, it isn’t a big surprise that race track operation puts stresses on the driver and the car that street driving doesn’t. To help with this, here is our 2016 collection of the best gear for HPDE events or track days.
You will be required to have an up to date helmet. This will generally mean an automobile helmet, rated Snell SA 2010 or SA 2015. Our basic helmet is the Simpson Bandit
(all links in this article take you to the mentioned products in the Winding Road Racing Store, where you can check prices, sizes etc.):
: If you’d like a step up in case you want to do NASA, SCCA or Chumpcar racing, we have the Black Armor Circuit Pro 2
which can be adapted for radio communications (you can thank us later, for example when you do a ChumpCar race):
You perspire, and when driving on a race track you will perspire even more. It is wise to have that perspiration absorbed (mostly) by underwear, not by your helmet padding. To do that, you wear a balaclava
Pro tip: When you get out of the car, take off your balaclava and hang it on your driver’s side mirror. That will speed drying and help you remember to put it back on for your next run group.
Head And Neck Restraint
All road racing sanctioning bodies require the use of a head and neck restraint system to reduce excessive head/neck displacement in a crash. Basically, your helmet is tethered to your shoulders to limit forward movement. But these systems require a full harness. If you want similar support for your neck with a standard 3-point street car safety belt, you can use the Simpson Hybrid Head and Neck Restraint (FIA Approved)
After you get used to driving on the track, you’ll probably want some feedback on how you are doing. The basic way to do that is with a lap timer. These use GPS to measure your times. You can use an app on your phone
Pro Tip: You will need a way to mount the phone securely. The typical mounts for holding your phone so that you can text while you commute are not suitable for track operation.
You may be nervous about using your phone in a track setting. We like the AIM Solo series because they are rugged, easy to use and battery powered so there are no cables flapping around the interior. They also have most race tracks across the USA pre-loaded so they know where you are by GPS; you just turn it on and go. Get the AIM Solo
, which we offer with a rugged windshield mount for easy installation and visibility:
If you use a driver coach, be sure to bring your laptop. Thanks to AIM's popularity in pro racing, he or she will know how to analyze the AIM data to help you.
Tire Pressure Gauge
Setting tire pressures correctly ensures that your car has proper traction and handling. The thing is, the air in your tires is loaded with humidity and as a result your air pressure will change dramatically as you run laps and build heat in your tires. You’ll want to check and adjust pressures before and after each run to make sure pressure levels are correct and balanced (e.g. we run 4 lb lower cold on our left rear tire at Road America because the carousel really heats that tire up).
You need to check that your lug nuts are properly tightened. Most racers do this before every session. After all, the consequences of a wheel coming off are dire and the effort to see that they don’t is minor. We offer a small, inexpensive wrench
along with a boxed set of the 6 most common metric and SAE sockets:
You’ll want some of this to protect key paint areas, hold down loose bits and make numbers on the fly. Eight colors of tape to choose from
so you can get some contrast if needed:
You may also want clear tape
to protect surfaces without messing with the design of your car (possibly important if a photographer is present):
Pro tip: Using these numbers is also wise if you plan to take or buy photos of your car while you wheel it around an epic track.
Chances are, you’ll be driving in warm weather. You’ll run with your windows down and a/c off. You’ll be working hard. You’ll get hot. We have two solutions to this problem. The first is an ice-based driver cooling system
that circulates cold water through a cooling shirt, just like the ones our drivers use when they are racing:
The ice bag drops behind your seat and runs off a 12V power socket or you can upgrade to a Lithium-Ion battery if you would prefer.
If you opt for ice-based cooling, you will also need a Cool Shirt
An alternative is the Techniche cooling vest
. If you bring a cooler with ice to the track, you can quickly freeze the Techniche cooling packs, load them in the vest before you go out and stay cool for up to an hour (then drop the packs in the cooler after each session and reload before you go out again):
The Techniche vest uses a special phase-change fluid that freezes around 50 degrees F, which results in improved comfort and faster freezing (important when your run groups are spaced closely).
Brake Pads And Fluid
No doubt about it, race tracks put much more stress on your braking system than street driving does. Much more. We’ve seen more incidents at track days from brake failures than any other cause. At a minimum, you want a back up pad set, if you are prepared to change the pads. If not, you will want to run a more race-oriented pad material
: Losing brake pressure because your fluid is overheated is also bad. Very bad, actually, because you’ll probably notice the problem as you are, say, trying to brake from 145 mph as you approach Turn 12 at COTA. You may want to change brake fluid to Castrol SRF
with its higher boiling point:
You may lose a little oil from all that high rpm operation. Many high-performance street cars use unusual oil weights that you may not find at the NAPA store 3 miles from the track. It is always good to have an extra quart on hand
to top off your oil level:
You may want to show your friends your excellent adventure. For this a GoPro Hero+
is the obvious choice:
Pro Tip: Set the camera to one of the 60 fps settings and use the Spot Metering setting to keep the exposure locked on the windshield area not your dashboard.
You may also enjoy 360° footage from the 360 Fly camera
. With it you can pan all around the car while you watch your video:
If you buy much of the stuff on this list and you plan on doing track events with any regularity, we recommend a gear bag
dedicated to these items. That way, you don’t forget something. We have lots of choices, of which the Simpson Speedway
and Sparco Planet
are the most popular for HPDE use: