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Opinion: Track days are the answer

By James Waldie, 28 Jan 2016 Features

Opinion: Track days are the answer

There’s one way to avoid speeding fines and it involves a race track

It’s tough to enjoy driving a car around the streets these days.

Roads are packed with people pretending not to text their friends. Then, clear of the city grind, speed limits are so low you need to text friends to stay awake.

Meanwhile, cars are so capable it is nigh impossible to challenge yourself without being a hoon. We can get little frissons of glee through a perfect heel-and-toe, but isn’t it sad if that’s all we’re limited to enjoy?

It seems that if people ask whether you had a good drive, they’re really asking if you saw something nice out the window. But if you know the difference between an overhead cam and the guy who hosts The Block you must dream of answering with a monologue on the nuances of the deserted ribbons of tarmac you just obliterated.

Citroen ds3 cornering on trackYet we bottle up this desire unaware roads exist where speed limits are an alien concept and passing slower traffic happens at a corner’s apex. This place is called the race track. I’ve met many who consider their car unsuitable.

You’ll meet them online, too, in any forum you care for. No limited slip diff? I better not go! No braided brake lines? How could I even consider it!? That’s all rubbish, of course. The guys and girls who take to the track have a range of ability, and the most smiles are worn by those who take it the least serious.

It doesn’t matter what your car is either. I know a guy driving a clapped-out Peugeot 405… with moccasins on his feet. Another compatriot of mine picked up a Jellybean 121, and even though he doesn’t need to brake for turn one at Phillip Island, his helmet hides the widest grin of the whole paddock.

 Mazda mx-5 driving on trackDon’t worry about lap times either. It’s commonly the guys who have spent thousands that are the ones not going any faster or too scared to risk their precious ride. It’s funny. If you want to find someone enjoying themselves, locate the MX-5 owner. They’ll tell you there’s no other legal way you could have so much fun with 1.6 litres.

My point is you don’t need an inter-galactic-looking supercar to enjoy circuit driving. Even if your ride’s stock, the speeds it’ll see are legal in some parts of the world and surely within its limits. Just don’t treat it like a pair of Converses; do a reasonable number of fast laps before letting it recuperate on some slow ones.

Find a sizeable gap in the circulating traffic if it’s busy, or in between sessions you can find the nearest public road and try some cool circulating air. Then go back for another crack.

Ford Falcon sliding around turnModern hardware should suffice; standard brakes are usually fine if you’re not piloting a land tank. The tyres will squeal but monitoring their pressures will keep you safe. The best part is you can learn all this stuff from others at the track – you’ll find them welcoming and helpful to first-timers. And you’ll probably forge some long-lasting friendships.

You can keep paddling in the kiddie’s pool if you want, but there is an ocean of fun which is far more rewarding to be discovered, and where Sergeant Plod can’t slap you in the giblets. Come on, driving pleasure awaits.