On Thursday I participated in not only my first event at Dominion Raceway (http://dominionraceway.com), but also my first SCCA/Tire Rack Track Night in America.
Track Night in America (http://tracknightinamerica.com) is put on by three organizations:
- SCCA: Sports Car Club of America (http://www.scca.com) is one of the premier sports racing outfits in the nation and puts on many events for ever level of driver, with multiple types of events, too. Their motivation for helping to put this event on is to provide a low cost, SAFE, method for people to experience driving their cars in a SAFE, controlled, high performance environment, and to get more people involved in the sport(s) surrounding auto racing. I have *many* friends and colleagues who are involved with SCCA, from levels of simply taking photos, all the way up to pro-level sponsored drivers – Myself and the others have found that it presents a SAFE (notice a trend?) and fair environment to learn what your car is actually capable of.
- Tire Rack (http://tirerack.com) is an e-tailer that sells not only tires, as the name implies, but also sells many aftermarket performance parts for a myriad of different vehicles. Parts such as bake pads/rotors/calipers (even full kits!), Intakes, Wheels, Suspension parts, and fluids can all be found within their site. I’ve purchased wheels and tires from them many times, and can honestly say it’s always a fantastic and easy buying experience. In the one event something with my order wasn’t 100% fantastic, they asked me if I had any suggestions on handling it (which I did) and they agreed with my assessment with no argument.
- Dominion Raceway: Dominion is a relative newcomer to the auto racing world, as it was only constructed in the last several years. They offer a road course (which we participated on), an oval, and have a drag strip coming in the not too distant future. Off-track amenities are The 118 Bar and Grill lounge/restaurant area, complete with restrooms, viewing windows (for the tracks), and some pretty decent food! They’ve done a fantastic job of getting this track put together in short order, and I can say that despite being close to some concrete walls, they’ve done a good job of getting run-off and safety barriers exactly where they are needed so you can save your ride (which I did have to do!)
I registered for the “Intermediate group”, as I have some on track experience at a few other race tracks + a few AutoX events, and was greeted by a 150.00 registration fee, plus an option to do an “online drivers meeting and tech inspection” – I simply had to fill out a form saying that my car was good to go and that I verified everything was technically sound. This is mostly common sense stuff for those who track, but some who don’t may not realize that removing the floor mats is a good idea since they can slide around an possibly impede your ability to brake.
I also chose to get track-day insurance through Hagerty (http://hagerty.com), which specializes in track day applications. They also offered me a substantial discount for going through the Track Night in America event, which was much appreciated!
My car is 2018 Audi RS3. From the factory, it’s basically ready to be put on a track and driven at it’s limits. I’ve made a few tweaks to ensure things were set and ready to go:
- Change from winter to summer tires: The higher temperatures that the track can produce would have chewed through my all-season setup in no time at all. The Summer set that I have also offers a wider tire contact section, which results in better handling.
- Change out brake fluid: The factory brake fluid is probably fine, however I traded mine out for Castrol SRF using a Motive Brake Fluid Pump (Essentially this flushes the brake fluid through the bleed valves). This also ensures that the brake fluid can handle the temperatures of track use, and has no adverse affects during daily driving
- Remove nut-covers – The wheels will get hot during track use, specifically at the center, near the hub. This can cause the little plastic covers that some manufacturers put on their wheel lugs to come off, so it’s easier and safer to simply remove them. I put them back on once I’m home and the car has been washed off.
- Torque your wheels to manufacturer specs: For my car, that’s 90lbs of torque, using a torque wrench – NOT an impact wrench! I only use an impact wrench for removing bolts, never for tightening!
Once I did this, I did go ahead and inflate to factory pressures for the drive down, however I did lower those pressures considerably after I arrived. Factory recommended pressures are: 44 front, 39 rear – I started at 35 front and 35 rear – My ending pressures were 28 front and 33 rear. I also carry a small cordless air compressor with me to ensure I can fill them back up (at least a bit) before driving off track property.
Arrival and Check In:
Upon arriving at Dominion Raceway – I was immediately greeted by several folks, including the event director, Jon Krolewicz. Since I had already done my inspection and filled out all the forms, they simply got me in, handed me some swag, and got me out the door with my packet of information. This packet (pictured below) included the track map (with passing zones), a few stickers, some stuff from advertisers, and some other odds and ends. I also snagged a hat and a koozie from Hagerty.
Once a quick helmet inspection was complete, they put my wrist-band on for my class (blue for intermediate) and I was off to the paddock.
On Track Car Prep:
I’m going to do another post on what I actually take to a track day/weekend, but simply put – I take very little if I can help it. Mainly a torque wrench, paper towels, tire gauge, hat, sunglasses, cooler of water/gatorade/tea, chalk, tarp, and the aforementioned cordless inflater. I’ll edit this post with a link to my “what to bring” article in a week or so.
The Track Itself:
This is where the fun starts! My class was after the Advanced and Novice group – and we staged up on pit lane – they gave us a “one minute” warning, and then we were off. The best way to show the track is through video, so here ya go:
The track flows extremely well, and doesn’t cause you to ever “jerk” the wheel to stay on line. The infield is deceivingly technical for how slow it *can* be – but if you’re on-line, it’s an absolutely blast. I think I found the right line a few solid times per corner and section, unfortunately just not all on the same lap! What’s that mean? I’m going back!!!
I did have one off-track incident:
What happened was that I let the car get in front of my driving abilities. I knew that the car could *probably* have made the turn at that speed, and the tires *probably* would have held it, or that the brakes *probably* would have slowed me down much quicker, but it simply wasn’t worth it to push that hard for something that I still need to drive home! So I simply slowed as much as I could in the short time, and pulled straight forward onto the gravel. You can’t hear it in the video, but I definitely said “oh, oh poo came out”… Clearly, I watch way too much Grand Tour/Top Gear…
Yeah, I’m going back. Simply put. It’s a great run facility, and everybody from the SCCA was tremendous to work with, Jon Felton, the Director of Road Course and Special Events for Dominion was tremendous to work with, and the folks I spoke to about my insurance at Hagerty were also just amazingly helpful all the way through. The biggest downside is that now I’m starting to see shortcomings in my own driving abilities, and want instruction. I also would like for my car to do certain things slightly differently, which is going to require some upgraded parts (specifically, the brakes). Look for a review to come on my next Track Night in America, Driven by The Tire Rack and SCCA next month, on May 17th.