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      06-13-2019, 12:01 PM   #1
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Track Driving Guide

I have always been keen on starting this using my own car (’12 128i) and finally this year have signed up for a weekend of HPDE1 (novice level) to get a sense of how to drive my car in a safe, controlled manner with guidance from advanced drivers.

My background: no experience whatsoever except for a single autocross event I attended. That was when I realized, I am “too safe” of a driver! Sure, I might enter a highway exit at twice the listed speed at times, just to test out the car’s capabilities (no other car around obviously) and feel good about it, but man, the autocross event taught me that I can “push it” safely and not lose control and even get more performance from the car. This is of course with the knowledge of basics such as relationships such as traction and weight transfer, following the “race” line and such. It opened my eyes to the fundamentals, though I admit I still have a lot to learn. I have been sleeping all these years I guess.

I wanted to make a little guide if you will, of good information about where to look for track driving/HPDE information for those like me who want to dabble with this. After all, track driving is NOT all about what mods you have or how much HP your particular car has. It’s all about the driver: his confidence in himself and his machine.

A good source that I have used is the NASA (Nat’l Auto Sport Assoc.). Their FAQ thread is awesome and has literally everything one has to know before (or after) signing up for their first track day.
http://nasane.com/faq/

SCCA is also a good place to start who, like NASA, organizes these events for novices and advanced drivers alike.
https://www.scca.com/pages/scca-track-events

SCDA is another. Same general information here, but again, they all organize their own events catering to all driver levels.
https://scda1.com/faq/

Ofcourse, let’s not forget about local BMWCCA clubs/chapters all over the country (world?) that’s a great resource for all things driver-related. Not only do they offer a platform for enthusiasts to get together, they’re a one-stop shop for anything BMW related. At least in terms of enthusiasts.
https://www.bmwcca.org/events

A good resource of Driver Ed (DE), Autocross (AX) events is MotorsportReg.com. It “aggregates” all events across the country so it’s easier to search and sign up.
https://www.motorsportreg.com/

I’ll add more to this thread as I learn more along the way. Hopefully, it helps anyone like me who plans to start out on HPDEs.

*Advanced/experienced drivers: Feel free to DM me or add to this thread.
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      06-13-2019, 01:23 PM   #2
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If autocross is eye-opening I have to ask, did you never do driver's ed or mess around in parking lots before? You have to ask yourself: am I into motorsport or am I just messing around?

If you're really into motorsport and a beginner your money is better spent on a driving simulator that you can practice on as much as you want, and then go to parking lots or controlled areas and apply in real life.

For experience on an ACTUAL track including the possibility to RACE other people for relatively low cost, you should check out karting or motorcycles either dirt or tarmac. Those motorsports are extremely accessible and even if you just go to open practice, it is infinitely better than doing a time trial by yourself through a parking lot.
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      06-13-2019, 01:30 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Wind Breezes View Post
If autocross is eye-opening I have to ask, did you never do driver's ed or mess around in parking lots before? You have to ask yourself: am I into motorsport or am I just messing around?

If you're really into motorsport and a beginner your money is better spent on a driving simulator that you can practice on as much as you want, and then go to parking lots or controlled areas and apply in real life.

For experience on an ACTUAL track including the possibility to RACE other people for relatively low cost, you should check out karting or motorcycles either dirt or tarmac. Those motorsports are extremely accessible and even if you just go to open practice, it is infinitely better than doing a time trial by yourself through a parking lot.
My only issue with autocross is seat time. Otherwise, it's a frantic paced dash that makes 40-50mph feel like 150mph. It's an adrenaline rush. I prefer a track, but, autocross is just as fun in its own way. It can be extremely lame when the run-count is low and the courses are short or unnecessarily complicated. Your viewpoint on autocross might change drastically as you go from a pleb that can barely get around a course to a more season competitor that can actually push the limits of their car and grip. It's eye opening when you really start to learn how to toss a car around and auto-x is one of the best avenues out there to learn that limit.
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      06-13-2019, 02:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Wind Breezes View Post
If autocross is eye-opening I have to ask, did you never do driver's ed or mess around in parking lots before? You have to ask yourself: am I into motorsport or am I just messing around?

If you're really into motorsport and a beginner your money is better spent on a driving simulator that you can practice on as much as you want, and then go to parking lots or controlled areas and apply in real life.

For experience on an ACTUAL track including the possibility to RACE other people for relatively low cost, you should check out karting or motorcycles either dirt or tarmac. Those motorsports are extremely accessible and even if you just go to open practice, it is infinitely better than doing a time trial by yourself through a parking lot.
That's what I signed up for, HPDE1 which is basically learning all these things. Sure, I could have gone on a car control clinic for a half a day, but I figured, I can't learn THAT fast. I do want to be in some sort of motorsport, not necessarily dreaming of being a Daniel Ricciardo or anything like that, but just having fun driving cars and maybe getting some friendly competition along with it.

Thought of driving sims like Assetto Corsa, but even this can get expensive with equipment and all that. With that money, I'd rather do the real thing.

For me, it's just a matter of starting. Like I do with my kid, I'll try it out, see if I'll love it and be great at it. If it ends up being too expensive or time consuming, then I'll throw in the towel. But for now, the interest is there so I might as well get into it while I can.
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      06-13-2019, 02:49 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by bbnks2 View Post
My only issue with autocross is seat time. Otherwise, it's a frantic paced dash that makes 40-50mph feel like 150mph. It's an adrenaline rush. I prefer a track, but, autocross is just as fun in its own way. It can be extremely lame when the run-count is low and the courses are short or unnecessarily complicated. Your viewpoint on autocross might change drastically as you go from a pleb that can barely get around a course to a more season competitor that can actually push the limits of their car and grip. It's eye opening when you really start to learn how to toss a car around and auto-x is one of the best avenues out there to learn that limit.
Agreed, 100%.
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      06-13-2019, 04:35 PM   #6
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I would say that regardless if you're doing Track/Autocross/HPDE or any other type of event for "messing around" or for actual competition, getting into/participating in these types of events generally help to make you a safer driver.

I'm planning to push my brother and sister to get my nieces and nephew into some sort of event for young drivers that will teach them to be a safer driver. Something like the BMW Teen Driving School comes to mind.
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      06-14-2019, 10:09 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by dtla1 View Post
I would say that regardless if you're doing Track/Autocross/HPDE or any other type of event for "messing around" or for actual competition, getting into/participating in these types of events generally help to make you a safer driver.

I'm planning to push my brother and sister to get my nieces and nephew into some sort of event for young drivers that will teach them to be a safer driver. Something like the BMW Teen Driving School comes to mind.

Agreed on all counts.

I plan on doing the same thing when my son gets of age. Then, if motorsports pique his interest, maybe do DE days with him as well.

For me it's just a good way to safely test my limits. If I do ever get competitive, then maybe I'll venture out further and see how far I can go and how much I can afford doing this very expensive hobby.
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      06-21-2019, 02:11 PM   #8
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Is it really that expensive?

So leading up to my DE days on August, I've been watching a lot of YT videos of people driving tracks that I will be on. Got me wondering, if DE days cost $$$ (I'm talking a whole weekend here of HPDE1), to get to the point where you're driving on your own (SOLO or HPDE2,3,4?), you will HAVE TO SPEND A LOT, am I right?

How many HPDE1s are you required to do until you get to drive solo? Depends on the driver I'm guessing? Will someone be HPDE2 right away after a few weekends of HPDE1? And so forth?

I guess it gets cheaper when you don't have an instructor anymore or am I kidding myself?

This might be the biggest turn off for some if you pay that much to participate, plus add the cost of safety and wear items (helmet, brake pads, sticky tires) and mods as you get better (LSD, seats, lightweight wheels, brakes?). You're looking at a good chunk of cash per season.
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      06-21-2019, 04:13 PM   #9
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From my experience, this totally depends on which organization you are running with. Some require more time with an instructor and progression, others will let you out on track solo pretty quickly. I was in the latter, by the end of my first weekend I was doing laps solo. So, for example, SCCA is pretty quick to let you run solo. That who I have run under pretty much exclusively just due to what is available in my area. If you do the SCCA's Track Night in America, or Time Trials, you'll be running by yourself almost from the get-go.
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      06-21-2019, 04:13 PM   #10
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How quickly you advance depends on a lot of factors: you, the car, your instructors and club rules. Many clubs use the SLIP system to rate drivers: https://drivingevals.com/welcome. Per this system, you should probably be 'Advanced' with at least 15 days of experience. I'd say the experience at a particular track matters as well, as this can affect your pace relative to that of your run group's, which is important.

Typically it doesn't get much cheaper without an instructor, particularly relative to the amount you're spending on maintenance and Expendables.

All that said, there are clubs that don't require instructors at all, however I'm wary of such events unless they have some pre-reqs for the drivers. Track driving can be overwhelming to new drivers, so it is beneficial not only to the individual driver, but to the group, to have an instructor in the car to assist at the beginning stages.
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      06-21-2019, 05:21 PM   #11
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NASA GL requires 5 events in HPDE 3 before they will even consider checking you off for HPDE4/ TT/Comp School.

it's taken me 2 years worth of track days to get to HPDE3. I'll probably be in HPDE3 until next session. so I think 3 years of moderate track time before I'll get to TT/Wheel to wheel.

assuming I only run with NASA GL, all my weekends cost $600, and I do 6 a year, and it takes 3 years, that's about $10,000 to get to the point of competitive driving.

this will differ by organization, events per year you have time for, innate skill and how much off track "homework" you're willing to put in.
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      06-21-2019, 06:24 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by crowtrobot View Post
How quickly you advance depends on a lot of factors: you, the car, your instructors and club rules. Many clubs use the SLIP system to rate drivers: https://drivingevals.com/welcome. Per this system, you should probably be 'Advanced' with at least 15 days of experience. I'd say the experience at a particular track matters as well, as this can affect your pace relative to that of your run group's, which is important.

Typically it doesn't get much cheaper without an instructor, particularly relative to the amount you're spending on maintenance and Expendables.

All that said, there are clubs that don't require instructors at all, however I'm wary of such events unless they have some pre-reqs for the drivers. Track driving can be overwhelming to new drivers, so it is beneficial not only to the individual driver, but to the group, to have an instructor in the car to assist at the beginning stages.
I agree with requiring an instructor at least in the first few stages. I would rather do more seat time with someone telling me what to do and when. I guess my goal for embarking on this is not to be competitive (might change) but to be able to drive up to my limits in my 128i. Thanks for the input, very enlightening.
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      06-21-2019, 06:30 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ajsmithvmi View Post
NASA GL requires 5 events in HPDE 3 before they will even consider checking you off for HPDE4/ TT/Comp School.

it's taken me 2 years worth of track days to get to HPDE3. I'll probably be in HPDE3 until next session. so I think 3 years of moderate track time before I'll get to TT/Wheel to wheel.

assuming I only run with NASA GL, all my weekends cost $600, and I do 6 a year, and it takes 3 years, that's about $10,000 to get to the point of competitive driving.

this will differ by organization, events per year you have time for, innate skill and how much off track "homework" you're willing to put in.
I’m participating in a NASA event and the weekends do cost that. But wow, that’s enlightening. Cost will probably be the biggest hindrance aside from wear items. How long did it take you to go from HPDE1 to HPDE2? My plan is to do two weekends this year so four DE days. The $ will add up quick just for those two weekends. Not for the faint of heart and wallet! I haven’t checked with SCCA or SCDA but I’m assuming they’re about the same price-wise.
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      06-21-2019, 07:14 PM   #14
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three weekends in 1 before I went to 2. I stayed in 2 longer than I had to but I'm glad I did. I did 5 weekends in 2 and now I'm actually headed to my first 3 weekend right now.

if you get good enough to be an instructor you're track time gets heavily discounted or is free, so that's one way to be serious about it while saving money. the irony for me is I get violently car sick if I'm not the one driving, so no potential discount for me!

some guys have a boat, some guys golf, some guys hunt. everything fun has a habit of costing a ton of money or time, or both
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      07-11-2019, 10:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Wind Breezes View Post
motorcycles either dirt or tarmac. Those motorsports are extremely accessible
Let me tell you about my 2 weeks in the hospital, 6 months out of work, multiple surgeries and total change in life from dirt bike racing sometime... OUCH!
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      08-22-2019, 07:47 PM   #16
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First DE weekend went great. Ran with NASA NE and had a blast.

The track we were at was very technical and not novice-friendly with a few blind apexes, multiple elevation changes and 15 turns total. Learning the lines took at least two 20min sessions to master. By the end of the weekend we were going at it at a smooth pace, not necessarily fast since I was still learning after all. Not a lot of hard braking zones except for maybe two turns from a straight and mostly used trail braking techniques and lifting off the throttle. Still lots to learn but doing a full weekend definitely helped in learning fundamentals.

I had an awesome instructor who is also a Spec E30 racer. We talked about what my goals were throughout all sessions. He also set up challenges throughout the weekend for us to do but never pressured to achieve them. He also focused on track etiquette such as point-bys, heeding flags, pit speeds etc. He was firm yet gave me lots of quiet time to focus and by the end only spoke on the headset when absolutely needed. We did two drive alongs in his E30 to learn lines and brake zones. This for me was very helpful since it still took time to learn track lingo. The drive alongs were of course at 3x speed which was awesome! Went solo for the first time at the last session of the weekend and by that time, I got the lines somewhat in memory as well as braking zones and areas where I could pick up on speed. Since the track has more turns than straights, max speed for me was maybe 100mph. We switched between 3-4th gear most of the time.

As for the 128i, it performed beautifully. We did a total 1hr on track per day for the two days. Stock N51 engine except for a Euro air intake. Öhlins with Swift springs for suspension - could have dialed the dampers stiffer but was advised not to to learn how the car behaved which was a big help. I was on Öhlins recommended settings for damping (5clicks from full hard I think). Sport seats were OK. Ran on stock rubber lines, brakes and rotors with RBF600 and Porterfield R4 upfront and PFC08 in the rear. Massive dust maker, the Porterfield, but both performed as expected. The way I drove the track was not too brake-dependent though, so still have a lot left for a few more DE days this year. Still have yet to use the F30 brake upgrade parts. Overall, the stock brakes were enough at my level driving. Ran on stock 207Ms with square RS4s. Track alignment helped with even tire wear though still have yet to confirm this. Haven’t checke on the car since parking it after the weekend. Car held up fine, no temp issues were encountered. We basically drove it hard on track and parked it without worry until the next session. Comfortably drove it to-from track (70mi drive) during the weekend with no hiccups and AC on a hot weekend to boot! Nothing can beat that for a dual purpose track toy!

Looking forward to maybe two more events this year if time and budget permits. The experience exceeded expectations. Having gone through one weekend, I realized that I could shoot for getting to TT level with my 128i and then call it quits just because this is most-budget friendly and does not require getting a “new” car. Maybe Spec racing or Endurance events if I ever get there, who knows? My instructor definitely put the needle deep into my arm and got me hooked.
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