Track Events (“HPDE”)
Many of us have seen the disclaimer at the bottom of TV ads which say, “professional driver, closed course” and imagined what it’s like to drive on track. With SCCA Track Events (Formerly known as Performance Driving Experience, or “PDX”) you don’t have to imagine anymore.
SCCA Track Events provide an environment for drivers who simply want to increase the enjoyment of driving their vehicle. For most drivers, all it takes to be a part is your safe street car, a valid drivers license and an approved helmet.
These events give you a chance to recreationally drive your car on a track the same way you might go to a resort for snow skiing or out for a morning jog, meaning: It’s about the experience and not competition.
Why no competition? Because the goal of an SCCA Track Event isn’t to give a high-pressure experience and high stakes of “winning.” It is to give you a thrilling experience and stories to share, all from an environment which gives everyone a level to feel comfortable. Because SCCA Track Events are not races – any on-track passes are limited to specific passing zones and only with a signal known as a, “point-by.”
Depending on the SCCA Track event, participants receive some amount of driving instruction which ranges from a classroom, trackside observers, in-car coaches, or even lead-follow drills. A wide range of topics may be discussed and shown including: following a “driving line”, passing zones, and other general driving techniques. Of course, each driver receives feedback from coaches at the end of each session. First-timers and drivers without much track experience will get more instruction and eventually can graduate to higher levels of track driving with less oversight.
There are two different styles of SCCA Track Events. First, regionally hosted “Track Days” which are hosted by regions across the country and may be single-day events, evening sessions, or entire weekends. Second is the nationally-run “Track Night in America driven by Tire Rack” program.
Materials and Preparation
The materials in the enclosed Student Packet will provide you with technical inspection information, safety instructions, rules of conduct, and procedural information. We want this to be a safe and fun event with minimal confusion for everyone, so please read everything in this packet carefully. Please remember that this is a Drivers Education event and not a racing school, overly aggressive or reckless driving will result in expulsion from the event without refund and possible suspension from future events.
- Print this packet – it might be useful to bring it with you to the Driver’s Meeting. All driver participants MUST ensure their vehicle is safe and sound before the event. The Technical Inspection we perform on the grid is a basic safety inspection. If you are unsure of the condition of your vehicle, we recommend you have it reviewed by a repair shop prior to the event. Alternately, a self-inspection by people who are mechanics or have been doing work on racing cars for many years is an option.
- All participants must have a helmet with a minimum SNELL 2000 rating – no other certifications are acceptable.
- Registration will normally take place on the morning of the Event. But you can register at any time during the weekend (provided the windows are open. Road Atlanta Registration usually opens at 7:00 am – but check the schedule to be sure – and please note when the windows close each day.
- Tech Inspection will normally be done on the Grid Sunday morning. Cars should be completed cleaned out and Track Ready prior to entering the Grid. There is limited room on the Grid for small items. All participants should plan to arrive as early as possible to register, attend the Driver’s Meeting, and properly prepare their cars in a timely manner. All cars MUST be inspected at the event – if your car is not inspected, you will not be allowed on the track.
- All students must attend the Driver’s Meeting in the Media Center or any other site specified by an announcement, Supps or other signage. We anticipate a great time and a safe event at Road Atlanta. Please feel free to call or e-mail us if you have any questions.
General Event and Track Rules
- Convertibles with an installed factory hardtop are allowed. Otherwise, a roll bar is required.
- Long cotton pants and long-sleeved cotton shirts are needed when on-track.
- The speed limit in the paddock is walking speed.
- No consumption of alcohol is allowed until the completion of daily activities.
- No one under the age of 18 is allowed in the hot pits or on the track without a completed Minor Waiver at Registration.
- Smoking is prohibited in the pit area, near the gas pumps and in all buildings.
- Any video equipment must be rigidly and securely mounted. The stewards and instructors have the discretion to request that cameras and other equipment be removed.
- Front windows must remain completely down at all times. The passenger’s window must remain down if the passenger seat is occupied. Rear windows and sunroof must remain closed.
- With the exception of instructors, passengers are not allowed. The only people allowed on the track are participants and instructors.
- Do not, under any circumstances, pound stakes or make holes in any asphalt surface. You will be held liable for all damages.
- Do not work on, fuel, or leave cars unattended in the hot or cold pit.
- It is mandatory that waste materials be disposed of in the correct drums, (antifreeze, oil, brake fluid, etc.) which are located in the paddock near the Club Race Tech Shed. Spillage may result in ejection from the facility. Participants must remove all used tires, batteries, and unwanted parts.
- Absolutely no bedding of new brakes and/or testing of vehicles on the infield roads.
- The track has gas pumps that are credit-card operated and will be available during the event. But 98 Octane is the cheapest gas there and you’d be better off filling up before arriving.
Please read these rules carefully. Safety is the MOST important aspect of this event. Anyone deemed driving in an unsafe manner will be asked to leave by the Stewards without a refund. This seriously jeopardizes the likelihood that you will be allowed to participate in the future.
Remember to use the first few laps of each session to warm up tires, brakes, and yourself. Be sure to check your brakes, tires, oil and lug nut/bolt torque prior to each on-track session. A high-temperature brake fluid, such as ATE Super Blue or Gold 200, or Motul 600, is recommended since you may easily reach stock brake fluid boiling points.
- Pass only in designated areas and only after receiving a pass signal from the driver being passed. Do not attempt to pass at the end of a straight. Be sure you have the time and room before you attempt a pass. When you give a car the pass signal please back off long enough to allow the car to pass.
- Watch your mirrors! The driver being overtaken must give a hand signal for EACH AND EVERY PASSING CAR. If in doubt, don’t pass. If you did not get a pass signal, be patient and back off. Do not ride the bumper of the slower car. Never pass when operating under a YELLOW flag.
- Don’t group together. If a train, or line, forms, the first/lead car is responsible for “clearing their rear” by safely allowing cars behind them to pass or pitting in and re-entering the track after a pause. Always be aware of the traffic around you. If you have not been able to pass a slower car, consider a short pit stop and re-entry.
- Flags are extremely important. We will review them before the event and be sure to study the information on them found later in this packet. The RED flag means you must stop as quickly and safely as possible. Be sure that the cars behind you have seen it as well. Pull clear to the side of the track – NOT off – and wait until you receive a signal from a Corner Worker or Track Official before resuming your run.
- Passing Zones will be determined based on run group experience/ability. They may NOT be the same as areas used by other clubs/groups. Passing rules are discussed later in this packet. Refer to the Track map in the Driver’s Meeting.
Before you begin your Track Event, clear your car of any loose items. Make sure you remove loose items from the door pockets, behind the seats, the glove box, the ashtray, the armrest, the trunk, and your parking pass behind the sun visor. Remove hubcaps, lug nut covers, floor mats and that Anti-Theft Device you never use on the steering wheel. You will be given a car number at the Driver’s Meeting. Make sure that the number on your car is securely attached to the top-center of your windshield.
Comfortable clothing is recommended. Long, cotton pants and shirts are required. Sandals, shorts, or dangerously loose/bulky clothing are not allowed in the cars or hot pits.
Above all, pay attention. Please listen to announcements and keep to the schedule. Be ready to run as your group is called. Get into the car at the 5-minute warning and await your instructor (who is probably out on the track in either his/her own car or with a student). Get your helmet, belts, seat, and mirrors ready to go so you can depart as soon as the instructor arrives.
Staging and Track Entry
Staging – All participants will enter the grid via the Down Ramp directly adjacent to the Chalet. AS you enter the Cold Pits from the paddock stay close to the right-most lane until you are directed to move up to your Group’s Grid position. Wait by your car for Tech Inspection – open the hood and trunk. Each run group will be announced in plenty of time so you are not rushing to staging. Before your session, your instructor will come to your car. Be prepared to start the session by explaining your experience and any modifications to the car that would affect performance. Wait for the 5-minute warning – then helmet on, belts tightened, mirrors adjusted, etc.
When the track opens for your session, go out single file upon the track worker’s signal. Use the first lap to warm up the tires and get mentally re-acclimated to the track and the staffed corner stations. Each event is different and there may be one or more stations staffed differently.
Pit-In – When you see the checkered flag waving to end your session, finish that lap at a reasonably fast pace so the next group can go out. Remember to give your pit signal (fist up arm out the window) as you exit under the bridge at the pit entrance. Come into the pit at reduced speeds – 20 mph maximum slowing to 5 mph in the staging grid area. If your instructor has a student in the next group, let him/her out quickly in the pit area. BE ALERT. There could be other cars heading to stage for the next session while you are returning to the paddock or driver’s walking to cars.
If a car is to go back out for the following session because it is a two-driver car, take it to the appropriate grid lane. This will keep us organized safely and will save time for both your partner and his/her instructor. Be sure to clearly signal your intentions and move across the pit lane slowly. DO NOT PASS IN THE HOT or COLD PITS unless signaled to do so by a worker.
If you are a solo driver, stay in the pit line and follow the traffic. Be patient as instructors get out and move between cars.
All tracks provide a great opportunity for drivers to pass. With the mix of super/turbo-charged and normally aspirated, four, five, six, eight and ten cylinder, 5/6 speed manuals and automatic cars on the track at the same time, the horsepower differences easily exceed 100 bhp. So, of course, passing opportunities will present themselves.
As participants become more comfortable and smoother in their driving, car weight, power and suspensions come into play. That 3700 lb turbo-charged sedan that blew by the normally aspirated coupe on the straight now has that lighter coupe on its tail through the corners. What ensues is a line of traffic (a train) and possible frustration. Because of this, we want everyone to follow the passing rules to the letter of the law.
Passing zones will be detailed during the drivers meeting. Note that allowable passing zones may vary between run groups (e.g., the Beginner Group will have fewer passing zones than advanced groups). When it becomes apparent someone wants to pass you, stay on-line, give a CLEAR, SPECIFIC signal (a Point of the INDEX finger) and LIFT SLIGHTLY OFF THE THROTTLE! Do not resume full acceleration until the car has passed. Give a clear signal to each and every car. Again, the driver being overtaken must GIVE A CLEAR HAND SIGNAL FOR EACH AND EVERY PASSING CAR. The overtaking car will pass off-line.
If a train, or line, forms, behind you it is your responsibility to “clear your rear” by safely allowing cars behind you to pass.
After receiving the appropriate signal, CHECK YOUR MIRRORS, pull off-line and accelerate past the car you are overtaking. Be sure to make a clean, complete pass and do not come back on-line until the lane is clear. Just because the car in front of you got the passing sign does not mean you got one. If in doubt, don’t pass. If someone wants to pass you, stay on-line and give the appropriate hand signal.
DO NOT PASS WITHOUT A CLEAR SIGNAL. NO SIGNAL, NO PASS. If someone is not letting you by, be patient and pull into the pits, drive through slowly and wait at pit out for signal from the Pit Control worker to re-enter the track.
As you lap the track, you will notice the flagging stations. Please take the opportunity to visit one of these stations during the event and see how they work. These corner workers have a vast amount of track experience and are here to ensure a safe event. Their primary job is to keep you informed about possible dangers on the track that YOU CAN’T SEE. Their word is the law at track events, so pay strict attention to them each time you pass a station and be vigilant. The following flags will be used during this event:
Yellow – Indicates trouble on the course in the vicinity you are entering. Slow down and be alert. There may be a disabled car ahead of you off the driving line. There is NO PASSING under the yellow. A waving yellow means imminent danger. Get ready to avoid a serious hazard. A car may be disabled in the middle of the driving line and you will have to avoid it. This serious flag needs your utmost attention.
Yellow/Red Striped – This is a debris flag and something very upsetting is on the track. If it is OIL, the flag will be waving and you will need to slow down and prepare yourself for a slide.
Red – Indicates serious trouble. Come to a stop as soon as possible and pull to the side of the track, not off. Do not move until signaled by a track official. Do not get out of your car unless you are signaled out, get out and move behind the barriers immediately.
Black – You don’t want to see this. This means you are guilty of a rules violation and you must acknowledge the flag (in a friendly wave, not an obscene gesture) and report immediately to the front of the hot pits. The worse the infraction, the longer we take to explain it and the less time you have on the track. A black flag with an orange circle (the meatball) means your car has a mechanical problem and you must acknowledge the flag and report to the pits for inspection.
Checkered flag – End of the session. We recommend a pace less than your full PDX pace but not 50%. Be sure to give the pit-in signal at the last turn (a raised fist out the window) and wave a friendly thanks to the corner workers as you pass by their stations.
First-Timer’s Guide to a Performance Driving Event
Prior to arriving at the Track
Preparation is everything. A track day will put a significant strain on your vehicle. Change the oil before the event and bring along an extra quart of oil just in case. Change your brake fluid, using a high-quality brake fluid.
Check tires for proper tread and balance (a shaky steering wheel makes it difficult to drive at the limit). Tires (pattern and tread) should be equal. Tires should never be mixed on the same axle and preferably on the whole car always keep to the same make. Regular swapping of the tires will help to even out the wear so that the tires wear out at the same rate.
Remove ALL unnecessary items from the car.
Before going on track
Check tire pressure. Tire pressures always increase as the tire warms up – do not inflate them to the maximum pressure, but run them at the pressure listed by the car manufacturer as a starting point. You will need more pressure than the lowest recommended setting initially but you must remember to check pressure again when the tires are hot to avoid any problems.
Check your fluid levels (oil and coolant especially) before a session. Warm up the engine before your first track session. If your vehicle runs excessively hot, PIT IN before serious damage occurs or worse, before you leave slippery fluids on the track surface for your fellow students to slide and spin on.
In between sessions
Check your car – Check tire pressures and tread. Check your wheel lugs to ensure that they haven’t worked themselves loose. Check under the hood (look at fluid levels, check for leaks).
Check yourself – Watch your fluid intake- make sure you’re drinking enough. Most importantly, take a few minutes to relax and clear your head each time before you go on track.
At the end of each day
Check over the car from top to bottom. Set tire pressures back to normal. Check tire tread. Check for play in wheels/bearings. Make sure all items are securely in place before leaving the track.