Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGrid

Track Day 101, On Location with OnGrid

If you’re a performance car owner chances are you’ve daydreamed about taking it to the track. We vividly remember our first track day but it took a little research on how to even go about getting started. Once we got dialed in on where to go and how to go about it, we had the time of our lives. The racetrack is a car guy’s candy store. No joke!

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridTrack Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridThe track provides a challenge yet is incredibly fun once you get a few laps under your belt. It’s safe, it’s controlled, and best of all, it’s legal. The barrier to entry is very low, and instruction is available with most groups.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridIf you’re looking to get your feet wet but you’re worried about your level of experience or damaging your car if you miscalculate and go into a wall, don’t worry. There are instructors who ride with you and guide you through your opening phases. Several associations do track days routinely.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGrid

The groups we have raced with are beginner-friendly, they offer instruction as well as advanced run groups and do photo sessions for rolling shots on the track at lunch. Best of all, they’re a great community-based group that puts having fun before making money.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridGroups like OnGrid and others run the majority of their events at Thunderhill East and West in Northern California, both of which are very beginner-friendly with lots of safe run-off areas. In Southern California, Buttonwillow Raceway is similar in this sense. OnGrid also runs at Laguna Seca and are adding Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma to the calendar, both of which are very exciting tracks to drive which have a lot of history as well. NASA also offers Sears Point track days as well as other tracks throughout the country.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridOf course everyone’s car is different be it an import or a domestic muscle car. Maybe you already have a race-prepped street car, or your thinking about getting the safety equipment in your car up to speed.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridAutocross is one thing, but keep in mind, the track is not for the faint of heart. Even at an amateur track day, which is certainly the best place to start, we’ve seen people pass out from the heat; we’ve seen fires, off-track incidents, and drivers stuff their beloved builds into the wall.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridNo matter your level of experience, when things go wrong, the track is the place where they can go very wrong indeed (which is why open tracks like Thunderhill are nice to start at).

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridAs such, the first item on the list of modifications should be safety equipment. While modern cars have very good roll-over protection, this is not the case in most classics made before, say 1972 with thin roofs and A-pillars.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridThus, roll protection is always a good idea, if not an outright requirement. Furthermore, any type of cage in a car is going to help stiffen up the chassis for better lap times.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridBrakes are also another item that are often over-looked when someone brings their daily driver to the track. Imagine you’re heading a buck twenty down the main straight into turn one when you realized you cooked them into the corners on your last lap.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridUpgrade to track pads, check your brakes before each event (and every time you come off track), and you won’t have to experience this firsthand.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridHarnesses, seats, and so on would be next on the list. Be sure you do your own research here as harnesses that are not installed or applied properly can result in serious injury or even death. This goes for the street as well — safety should be your first concern when you want to go for a cruise with your buddies.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridOn that note, a quality helmet is also a necessity. If you are running harnesses, look into a HANS device or similar; it could mean the difference between hopping out after a small fender-bender or being seriously injured.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridAccidents at the track rarely happen, and when they do, they can be easily minimized with the proper safety equipment. Do not track your car if it is not properly prepared, and be prepared to get your car home in case of a broken part or engine issue.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridRunning on the track can become an expensive hobby but the fun factor helps mitigate cost. If safety equipment seems steep, you can always start with a cheap chassis in the first place. Of course, the NA and NB Miata chassis is a great place to start; they offer plenty of aftermarket support, new and used parts are cheap, and there’s a huge community.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridBMW E36 and Honda S2000-based builds are also very popular and are within the realm of affordability for just about everyone who has been working a few years.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridThere are also plenty of guys who hammer around in machines worth a couple hundred thousand dollars, so to each his own.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridTaking your upgraded car to the track and improving lap times as you learn the course is habit forming. Even riding shotgun is a blast, and no matter what you drive, we hope to see you out at an event soon.

Track Day, Fuel Curve, OnGridFor those reading this outside California and want to get in on the fun, we recommend looking at these sanctioning bodies for a terrific track day experience:

SCCA Track Days

HPDE/NASA Track Days

Chin Track Days

N2 Track Days for Motorcycles!

Trevor Ryan is a track day photographer from Northern California. He has experience in many different areas of photography but always comes back to automotive work in the end. To him, nothing is more rewarding than creating an amazing image of a car. Having purchased a ’66 Mustang almost six years ago, he had no choice but to end up immersed in car culture sooner or later. He also owns a ’99 Miata that he takes to the track. He has love for every part of car culture and besides track days often makes it to drift events, Cars and Coffee, tuner shows, and anything else he can find.