Guide for track day first timers

Over the years the same questions arise from people heading off to their first track day with the MX-5 Club of NSW at either Wakefield Park or Sydney Motorsport Park (SMP). So we thought it would be a good idea to list out what needs to be done to your car and what to do when you arrive at the track, all in one easy to find guide.

Let's assume you’ve read the supplementary regulations, found the class you should be running in, and have registered for the event through the Club's online booking system.

You've have applied for either a CAMS "Level 2 Speed" licence or a AASA "Club" licence, keeping in mind it can take a few weeks for your licence to be approved and sent to you. The AASA licence can only be used for track days at Wakefield Park, not at SMP, so we recommend a CAMS licence as that can be used at both tracks.

You have also printed out all the forms and paperwork required on the day, which include:

  • Information Sheet - tells you what you need to know for an enjoyable day
  • Scrutineering Sheet - required for you to enter your car
  • Video Camera Form - you will need this if you intend to carry a video camera or laptiming device in your car
  • Disclaimer Form - required for registration at the track
  • List of entrants - tells you who else will be there
  • Grid Sheet - explaining which group and order you will run in

Now what?

Before the event you need to ensure that your car is ready, like you, to have an enormous amount of fun. This means that you must check all the basics normally done when your car is serviced, plus a couple of track requirements depending on whether you're running at Wakefield Park or SMP.

First up, OIL. If your car hasn’t had an engine oil & filter change in the last 10,000 kilometres, do it now before the event. If you can afford it, a full synthetic oil at around $70+ per 5 litres is cheap insurance against engine failure, provided the engine is in good condition to start with.

Next, make sure that all your FLUIDS are topped up. ie coolant, brake fluid, gearbox oil, differential oil. If your brake fluid hasn’t been changed in the last two years, change it. DO NOT use a silicone based fluid in an MX-5. A DOT 4 rated fluid is all you'll need. Check your brake pads still have plenty of material on them. If less than 3 to 4mm, change the pad to a performance pad.

TYRES. Your tyres should be in roadworthy condition. Before you get to the track, pump your road tyres up to 37psi. Air is not available at SMP and the pump at Wakefield Park is temperamental sometimes and the queue can be long when it does work. Take your pressure gauge with you to the track and check the pressures immediately after each run. As the tyres get hot, the pressure increases. You should aim for a maximum pressure of 40 psi hot in street tyres. Any higher than this and they lose grip.

BATTERY. Make sure your battery is secured by the metal bracket and doesn't move around. Cable ties will be rejected at scrutineering. NA and NB model MX-5s must have a vented battery.

Fire extinguishers and blue triangles. Both are required for Sydney Motorsport Park where the event is run under a CAMS permit. When you buy a 1kg fire extinguisher, the bracket must be made of metal. Blue triangles are used to indicate the position of the battery, and are required at both SMP and Wakefield Park. They are easily made with vinyl blue contact bought from a newsagent or similar. Each side is 150mm long. Fire extinguishers are not required on road registered cars at Wakefield Park, although they are recommended.

Polish the doors of your car. Why? The Club supplies magnetic door numbers which must be secured with tape, and a good layer of wax ensures the tape is easily removed at the end of the day. The wax also stops the possibility of pulling off paint.

OK, so now the car is ready, what do you do on the day of the event?

Make sure you’re wearing PROTECTIVE CLOTHING, as per the supp. regs and have plenty of FUEL as you can't buy fuel at the track. Non-turbo cars can easily do a full Wakefield Park track day if you have ¾ of a tank at the start of the first run. With more experience, you’ll carry spare fuel and run with less in the tank on the track but for now, you won't be breaking any records, so turn up with plenty of fuel.

GETTING THERE. If the meet is at Wakefield Park, do not be tempted to speed down the Hume Highway - save it for the track! The Hume is heavily policed and landing a speeding fine is a perfect way to ruin your day at the track. Take the first exit for Goulburn, and turn left at the first set of traffic lights in Goulburn. Run parallel to the railway line for a couple of kilometres and then take the first bridge left over the line onto Braidwood Road. Wakefield Park is about 10 minutes drive south on the left hand side. You'll spot it as you come over a hill.

Arriving at Wakefield. Drive in and find a spare carport in the two rows on the left. Take everything out of your car. Empty the glove box, pockets, and boot (including the spare tyre if you have one, tools and jack, etc). After everything is out of the car, head to scrutineering, take your paperwork, helmet and be fully dressed in the clothing you intend to drive in. Take your paperwork in for checking off, pick up your numbers and fix them to the car, taping the top and leading edge with tape supplied by the Club. Once the car is scrutineered, head back to your carport and wait for the call to the drivers meeting.

Arriving at Sydney Motorsport Park, South Circuit. The circuit is entered from the south side, off Ferrers Road. Turn left at the guard's shed, head down the hill and the track is on the right. After arriving, claim a space in the open carpark to the north of the control tower (there are no carports). Do the same as for Wakefield Park except the scrutineering is done in the garages of the control tower. In case of wet weather, gear can be stored in these garages after scrutineering is completed.

At the drivers briefing, as a first timer, you will have been assigned an instructor who will drive your car with you in the passenger seat and explain the driving lines, apexes and braking points, etc., to get you around the circuit safely. He/she will do three laps and then swap seats with you and do three more laps giving pointers on where you should be and what you should be doing. Listen carefully.

That’s it. Apart from saying "have fun", which you will, remember that it's the nut behind the wheel that's the biggest performance improvement to lap times, not the bits bolted on. Dicing with someone in your class whose times are within half a second of yours is more exciting than winning by three seconds.

See you at the track.

Secrets to Going Fast in a MX-5

Car set up: Alignment, corner weights and good maintenance/proper equipment

Seat time: Can't go fast if you don't practice ...

Coaching: Find someone who's fast in a MX-5 and ask for help! Remember that an MX-5 is a low horsepower, high handling car so get your braking done before the corner and get on the power early to go fast out of the corners.