As I looked forward to 2010, I thought about my road to my first track day.
When I first got interested in track days, I really had no idea where to look. I (at the time) didn’t know anyone that did track days, and my only real lead were occasional posts on the my350z.com forums. It looked about as awesome as it did terrifying. Where do I sign up, I thought.
My company (at the time) had sent me to our vendor’s conference in February of 2008. At this conference, I found the gate to my track day addiction. I was seeking out a gentleman named Jason who worked at this vendor, but not for car reasons. I had spoken with him many times over the phone in search of support for the software I was trying to sell. Conveniently, I did find Jasonand quickly discovered his deep rooted interest in cars (how we went from talking about our companies and the software products we sell to the pursuit of love over cars, I don’t know).
Somehow (it was really fuzzy), I agreed to try out a track day with him. One thing I do remember for sure, though, is that I could not find any simple resource telling me what tracks near me were good to begin at. My track knowledge only included Gran Turismo 4’s courses, so needless to say, I didn’t think that Suzuka as my first track day experience would be plausible. Luckily, the Detroit thread on my350z presented me with a timely opportunity: “We’re doing Gingerman Raceway on Memorial Day. Who else is in?” Gingerman Raceway? Never heard of it, but sounded delicious.
Time warp: after many excited e-mails and several months later, it was time. I realized that I knew nothing about Jason, but here I was driving at 10 PM at night towards the hotel by the race track to risk my life, car, and bank. In hindsight, the only thing I was really risking was my bank, but that’s a dark road that will probably never end at this point.
Most people have some kind of checklist of things to bring. I literally knew nothing about track days and had no preparation at all. Brakes weren’t checked. Fluids may have been questionable. Tires had never been replaced as far as I knew. Tools? What tools? If only the others on track that day knew how little I knew, they might not have ran in my run group.
It was definitely time. We got on track that day, aptly named Memorial Day because it’s a day I’ll never forget (though, I’m sure our forefathers are rolling in their graves at my misuse of their holiday). I learned more about driving in those eight hours than I ever did in the eight years I had been driving up until then. Life changing? Oh yeah. For the better? Absolutely.
Track days were a fun thing that was all about speed the first time. By the end of that day, just a little bit, I felt like a hero. Strong word choice there, I know. Hear me out on this, though. Watching all those races on TV really never put it in perspective. Once I sat in the driver seat and turned the laps, I never felt exhilaration before (nevermind that I was probably the second slowest in the novice class). Sure, I’ve felt sheer terror like it, for example being on the waterfall drop ride at Disney World. However, I’ve never experienced sheer exhilaration.
When I stepped out, I did feel a little bit like a race car driver: accomplished, content, and professional. And, it’s the feelings are the same each time I get on track. I’m no Michael Schumacher or Tom Kristensen, but I can say that every time I get out of that car, I’d bet I’m just as happy as those guys after they’ve completed a race.
On to 2010!