Track day experiences are a great way to both have a little fun and find the performance limits of your car in a safe and controlled environment. Still, for some, such an experience may be intimidating ... and that's why track day classes for beginners exist.
Seeing that we have a Renault Clio RS 18 in our long-term fleet, we thought it'd be interesting to check out such a service.
Why hit the track?
There are plenty of reasons you might not want to take your (daily drive) performance car on a track. For instance, you risk damaging your vehicle, wearing out certain parts and, of course, landing up with a large fuel bill (plus the track day's entry fee).
Still, if you're fortunate enough to be in possession of a performance car (anything from a hot hatch to a supercar), I'd recommend that you stretch its legs at least once on a track since this provides for the perfect (and safest) setting for you to get to know your car. And that, ultimately, can benefit you out on the road.
On the day...
Our track day experience was hosted by Junaid Hamid’s Speedstar Advanced Driver Coaching. His services start with a theoretical session running through the essentials of a track day, such as a run-down of the rules and what you can expect.
He also goes through each corner of Killarney Raceway and points out the optimal racing line. A light vehicle inspection then takes place, where he ensures the car you plan on taking to the track meets the requirements of the scrutiniser. Lastly, your driving position will be optimised to make sure that you’re seated to be both comfortable and capable.
On the track day, Junaid accompanied us and took us through the steps of signing the indemnity forms and paying our entrance fee (R615 on the day). Thereafter, we were given a participation sticker to place on the windscreen of our Clio RS and then sent off for scrutinising, where an official inspected the car to see if it was fit for the track. Once that was complete, we parked in the pits and attended the driver’s briefing, which covered the ground rules for the day.
The attendees are split into three groups, with group one set aside for beginners and group three for experienced drivers. Seeing that it was my first time attending such a course, we were provided with another briefing, running through the basics of each corner (similar to my theory class with Junaid, but in a little less detail).
On the track...
With all of the admin out of the way, our time to hit the track had finally arrived. Our first session gave us an opportunity to warm up behind the wheel and put in a sighting lap. It also gave my instructor Junaid the opportunity to scrutinise any bad driving habits I displayed. The first session was admittedly intimidating as I attempted to split my attention between the instructor's instructions and hitting the right lines. In short, it was a harder task than I expected it to be.
Once I pulled back into the pits, Junaid inspected the car’s tyre wear and heat levels. He then critiqued my technique, telling me where I could improve. Thanks to a data logger, he was able to see exactly where my throttle and brake inputs were less than optimal, which gave me a better idea about where I could improve.
This continued for another three sessions and by the time the day was over I had cut my lap time to a fairly decent 1 minute 36,300 seconds (I started at around 1 minute 38 seconds). For context, that’s just about six seconds slower than the lap time Deon Joubert posted in the similar Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy. I clearly still have a long way to go.
Still, achieving this time would not have been possible without the help of an instructor as I likely wouldn’t have been able to identify the very best racing lines on my own. I also wouldn’t have known the correct pressure to apply to the brake and throttle pedals, which contributed plenty to my improved time.
Ultimately, the track day proved to be a great learning experience that allowed me to become more familiar with the hot Clio's characteristics. It did, however, come at the cost of more than half a tank of fuel, while the brake pads also suffered, which is something to keep in mind. Surprisingly, though, the tyres were hardly affected. All in all, it's highly recommended.
If you wish to learn more about Speedstar Advanced Driver Coaching’s services, you can head over to their website for more details...