Finding a Track Day

This article refers to taking your own car onto a UK circuit. You can take any type of road car on the track days linked from this page, as long as you have a UK driving licence. For race cars and race licences, you can book “test days” with a circuit. Also note that on some track days, race cars are not permitted (normally means a car showing a race number), or the day is for novice drivers only.

Personally, I avoid track days that are divided into sessions, either categorised by driver experience or car type (race, road, open wheel, closed wheel) because I’ve been on days where most of your track time is wiped out by red flags in your session. Sessions is a common format at certain circuits, such as Lydden Hill (by driver experience) and Brands Hatch GP (by car type). On test days, the session format is also common, for reasons of speed differential and open wheels, so you may have no choice. On normal track days, it is comfortable to run road and race cars together because drivers are severely reprimanded or removed if they follow other cars too closely, overtake on the wrong side, or overtake around a corner.

Your first port of call when booking a track day could be, as they have a comprehensive list of all dates for track days, sortable by date, location, price and format. I’ve noticed that they offer good prices and give a very reliable follow-through, i.e. you won’t turn up at the circuit and find you’re not booked. They are a broker however, and if their website shows the venue as sold out, it’s worth looking further to see if you can still buy the day elsewhere. Companies like Javelin, RMA or Gold Track may have booked the whole circuit for that day. On the day, you either turn up at track and deal with the organising company, and they run the safety briefings, etc., or you deal directly with the circuit.

If you want to book a trackday that is not available on one website, you can go to another website where they may have spaces available. If a trackday is full everywhere, it’s often worth calling the organiser to see if you can go on their reserve list. Generally, if anyone pulls out of the day, a space becomes available. Most trackday bookings can be cancelled and refunded within a certain time window of the event.

Personally, I go straight to the circuit website first, such as MSV Trackdays, although that’s not for any particular reason (except with MSV you can get a 10% discount off your next purchase after attending two days and getting your discount voucher stamped).

Here are the most common options for purchasing a trackday in the UK:

  • Javelin Trackdays – I’ve seen them at numerous circuits and have good experience when using them
  • MSV Trackdays – as Motorsport Vision owns most of the major circuits in the UK, they have first call on trackday availability, so always check with them if you can’t find the day elsewhere, or go straight to them, as they have a good website and good prices based on demand (like an airline ticket pricing model)
  • Gold Track – A well-developed product, particularly for aspiring racing drivers, where you can get time on some of the rarer circuits. You can also collect track miles and buy packages.
  • RMA Trackdays – Another quality trackday organiser, particularly if you want circuits in mainland Europe such as Spa.
  • Open Track – Similar to Javelin, they buy the track from the owner for a day and sell on the track space, doing their own briefings and customer management.

For Test Days, I would go to:

If you’re a member of a car club, that’s also an obvious option for finding track days, as the club often books a circuit, or a number of slots at a circuit and makes them available to their members.

Transition to Motorsport (6): Frustrations, Lessons Learned & Consistency

By the time the third of four race weekends came along, I was getting disheartened at my lack of pace compared to the other drivers; who used to be the same pace or slower, but who were now quicker. As I’ve said before, it seems to me that improvement is 80% about time in the car and money available for risking the car in off-track excursions or race incidents. After a ninth and tenth place at the second round at Snetterton, gained by staying out of trouble and not pushing the speed, the third round at Silverstone was a low point. I couldn’t find the speed or enthusiasm.

Not finding the speed, and lessons learned

I found the Silverstone GP circuit difficult to learn, as it’s so long and so wide, with unknown lines to the newbie. I had only been there for a few laps in the early days (my first ever time in a Ginetta in fact, back in November 2016 and in the wet, so lots of spins), and it showed when I turned up for the race weekend, straight into qualifying with no practice day beforehand.

I also realised after the race weekend that I’d been having trouble stopping, especially going into Luffield, where it’s very easy to spin right in front of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) building! I hadn’t changed my brake fluid since getting the car 3,500 miles ago, and I’d been on eight track days and two race weekends since then. That was a rookie mistake, and I found out the difference in stopping power after I changed the fluid for the next outing at Brands hatch GP. I could lean on the brakes later and know that I would slow enough in time for turn-in.

At the Silverstone event I finished near the back in both races, 14th and 13th. I knew I could do better than that, and I learned two valuable lessons:

  • Make sure you have at least one practice on the circuit if it’s new to you
  • Change the brake fluid regularly and get the car set up by a team at least twice during the season

Set-up is important and unfortunately a bit expensive to drivers on a low budget, but should never be ignored. If you don’t keep on top of it, you’re wasting your time and money for the whole season. The same thing applies to practice at new circuits; you need to spend the money to get time on the circuit, or you’re wasting your season.

Consistency and enjoying the experience

For the final race weekend of our four-weekend, eight-race season, we were going to Brands Hatch GP circuit. This is a rarely opened circuit, and most track days are on the shorter Indy loop of the circuit. Consequently, track days are expensive at the GP, in the region of £500. I was in money saving mode as usual, but my girlfriend told me I was wasting my time if I didn’t make the most of the season and buy the track day that was coming up. Well, that was good advice, and I did the RMA track day. I loved the circuit, particularly with new brake fluid and better stopping power.

For the final race weekend, I also found a track evening at the Indy circuit and used it to get myself finally under the one-minute lap time by working on a couple of corners. I realised that I had learned a lot during the season, as I was quicker than most cars on the circuit, doing consistent lap times (when traffic allowed) and five seconds quicker on a lap.

I was now feeling more positive and looking forward to the final race weekend. It helped that Brands Hatch GP is such a fantastic circuit to drive when you get into the woods at the back. Hawthorns bend is fast and exciting, and Sheene Curve is exhilarating as you decide how little to back off as you go into the blind crest and ride the kerb.

Final race weekend and championship results

We don’t have an official championship in GRDC, and points are not officially counted. However, we all like to count the phantom points and know where we end up, of course.

At the race weekend, I qualified 11th of 15 cars, which is the same result as my first race weekend at Rockingham. The track was wet to start, and drying through the session. Tom Golding, our championship leader was taking three seconds off each lap as the track dried. I was taking one second. I wasn’t sliding and not risking anything. We need to get three timed laps or we can’t race, and we’d already been stopped for a quarter of the 20-minute session by spinners.

In both races, I got mugged at the starts as usual, not because of bad starts this time, but because of poor defending on the technical corners on the first laps. I just let competitors go when they make a lunge, and then I lose momentum. Nevertheless, due to others’ spins and off-circuit excursions, and a couple of nice overtakes, I regained places and finished 10th in both races.

I finally got myself involved in close racing, over the fast parts of the circuit, where you can carry momentum and make overtakes if you like that kind of speedy flow, as opposed to the technical, diving corners. I avoided damage but got a couple of tyre rubs, which seems normal in racing.

Television coverage

All season, we have been supporting the British GT Championship. For our final weekend, we were lucky enough to be selected as one of the four races in the TV coverage, broadcast first on the British GT YouTube Channel, and then on Motorsport TV. It brought great satisfaction to the end of the season to see our race with full coverage and commentary.

All in all, my first season in motor sport was extremely rewarding and I learned a great deal on a steep learning curve. I finished 10th of 19 in the “championship” and I didn’t sustain any major damage or have huge costs for support, track days or tuition. Next year I can concentrate on the tuition to iron out my mistakes and get faster, and do the races I can afford.

Transition to Motorsport (2): Buying a Track Car

I looked at buying or building a track-adapted car several times, including BMW 3 Series Compacts (750 MC championship eligible) and Renault Clio 172s. The price was about £3-5,000 for a built track car, apparently road legal. In my view, the problem with buying a track-prepared car is that you don’t know how reliable it is, or how legal for MOTs. If I were building a track car, I know I would have to make decisions, and possibly compromises about taking equipment out (such as airbags or electronics) or adding specialist parts that may cause difficulty for a road-going vehicle (such as lowering springs or camber).

I had the Porsche sitting in the garage depreciating slowly, so I decided to switch it for a factory-prepared race car, rather than buying a cheap track car as an extra to the Porsche. I found that the Caterham 7 and the Ginetta G40 were the two main options. I wasn’t, initially, considering the race championship options, although both came with that option.

I looked at the Caterham in the factory in Crawley, but I still find them a bit old-fashioned in appearance, and lacking a roof. If I’m spending the amount of money they ask, I want a car that ticks all the boxes, and Caterhams didn’t do that for me. I was looking at virtually the same car in the 1980s when I visited the factory in Caterham.

And so to Ginetta, and the G40. I have been watching these cars as they support the British GT Championship, and although they seem a little tail-happy to drive, they are exciting to watch. I liked the strong, tubular chassis and the clamshell hood for efficient access and quick repair of front-end race damage.

I filled in a form on the Ginetta website to enquire about the road-going version of the G40. The response was instant, and by phone from the Commercial Director. They said they can provide a G40 road car, which has a bigger 2.0 litre engine, but why don’t I sign up for the racing version, with the 1.8 litre engine? The race package was cheaper but the car is not so powerful. The 2.0 litre road version is also suitable for track, but can’t be used for the racing.

I decided to go racing, as it was now or never. The GRDC package included car, race licence application and entry into four rounds supporting the British GT Championship. Now that’s a quick way into a professional race series if ever there was one. But there’s a steep learning curve ahead, as I’ll describe in the next posts.

Ginetta G40 GRDC as advertised for sale in 2016 at around £30k including a year of racing