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Congratulations! You are the owner of an older BMW, the Ultimate Driving Machine, and you are ready to start pushing your car to the limits in the safest way possible. It looks like a track day is in your future, but what is the best way to prepare? While every track and motorsports facility will have its own rules and regulations, there are a few basic preparations that will benefit you no matter where you plan on driving. These preparations will not only improve your performance, handling, and responsiveness, but they will improve your overall safety as well. Getting ready for a track day starts long before you ever arrive at the track.
The first step is to be sure you have adequate brakes for high performance driving. If you are planning on going fast, being able to stop is extremely important. Installing new rotors and especially having performance pads will make a huge difference, as stock brake pads will wear extremely fast on the track. Stock brake fluid will also need to be upgraded to racing fluid which can handle the higher temperatures of track conditions and help eliminate brake fade. Converting your old stock brake lines to stainless steel lines is an excellent way to complete your brake setup, and replacement will allow you to conduct a thorough bleeding of your brake system. Put some non-track miles on your car to ensure your brakes are correctly seated and working as they should. Knowing your brakes are in tip-top shape is extremely important to having a fun, safe track day.
Tires are another critical part of preparing for a track day. Most drivers will want to have two sets of wheels and tires, one for the street and one for the track. It is nice to have good tires for the street, but they are an absolute necessity for the track. Having high quality performance tires like a set of Toyo Proxes RRs is a must and having a set of high-quality wheels in the style of your choice is an excellent way to individualize your BMW. While you’re at it, having a set of spacers to widen your stance and racing studs to aid in quicker wheel changes are an added plus that will enhance our experience at the track. It doesn’t matter how much horsepower you have; if you don’t have aggressive enough tires to put that power to the ground (and upgraded brakes to stop), you are not prepared. Tires are consumables that will need to be checked before each session for wear. Your tire pressure will need to be checked anytime you head out. Recommended tire pressures vary from manufacture to manufacture, so be sure and check what is required for your application. The same is valid for wheel torques. Check to see what is recommended and check twice to be sure your wheels are properly secured.
A thorough check of your suspension components is also an essential part of preparing for a track day. BMW suspension from the factory is more than adequate for street use, but many serious BMW motorsport enthusiasts have upgraded to a coilover suspension for the track. Coilovers are a good upgrade for the serious driver, but the best way to prepare your suspension for a track day is to start with the basics by checking that your suspension bushings and drivetrain mounts are in top shape before you arrive at the track. BMWs come from the factory with bushings and mounts that utilize rubber parts to allow for some movement, but over time the rubber components break down and allow for excess movement and vibration. You will want to be sure your differential mounts, engine mounts, transmission mounts, rear trailing arm bushings, and control arm bushings are all in great shape, if it is time to replace them, go with our performance enhancing solid UHMW (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) bushings and mounts. This will help eliminate suspension deflection and will improve engine responsiveness. You will want your suspension and drivetrain to be in perfect shape to optimize your time on track and improve the overall experience.
Checking everything under the hood seems like a no-brainer but take a good look before you get to the track. A thorough technical inspection is a must. Check for leaks. The oil, coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid must be at the appropriate level. Check your accessory belt for wear, and if you see any crack or issues, replace it. Your lights all need to be working, especially brake lights.
Now that your car is mechanically ready, it’s time to check the interior. Remove your spare tire (if you have one) from the trunk and be sure your battery is correctly tied down and secured. Remove all loose items from your car. This not only reduces weight but also eliminates the chances of a Red Bull can rolling behind your pedals while leaning into a turn. Many tracks will require your windows to be down, so be sure they function correctly and be sure your seatbelts are working and adjusted correctly. There is no need to have a full race harness for a track day because BMWs are very safe cars to begin with, but you need to be sure that built-in safety equipment is working and functional. Have your seatbelt adjusted comfortably and adequately.
Now that your car is ready, let’s focus on what to bring to the track. A set of tools is essential. Bring any tool you think you might need, including a torque wrench and appropriate socket for lug bolts/nuts, a lightweight floor jack, a good tire pressure gauge, a small portable air compressor. Bring extra fluids like engine oil, power steering fluid, coolant, and brake fluid. If you drive to the track on your street tires, don’t forget your track tires and wheels. Just remember to remove all these loose items when it is time to hit the track.
The last factor to consider when preparing for a track day is your personal gear and safety equipment. You will want to have a good helmet, and while you can borrow one, if you plan on doing more than one event, you will want to get your own. While different tracks and organizations have different rules, a good SA rated closed-face helmet should work at any event. Choosing driving gloves and shoes will be a personal preference, but whatever style and brand you pick, be sure they are broken in and comfortable. While not safety-related, having plenty of water and snacks/food on hand will keep you energized and hydrated.
Your brakes are upgraded and ready, your track tires have the proper pressure, and the wheel torque is correct, your suspension is tight with no worn parts, your engine bay is leak-free and looks good, all loose items are removed or secured, and you have the proper tools and personal safety gear. Every preparation you make before you get to the track will make things easier once you get there. Now follow the rules, listen to the guys in charge/instructors, and learn all you can. As you get more experience, you can begin to choose which BMW performance parts from Condor Speed Shop will aid in your driving experience in the future. And most importantly, be safe and have fun! See you at the track.