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Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 11:12 am
by Clutch
This posting contains general knowledge and tips for a Waterford Hills OTD. The thread will be locked so we can update it with new info as it comes in. If you have any questions, or would like to add to this, please contact me at


Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 11:16 am
by Clutch
Flagging and Communication - What those people in White are trying to tell you!
For many of you this will be the first time on a road course. Here are a few things you will learn at the driver's meeting. Take a few minutes and review the info below:
Corner Marshals - these are the wonderful volunteers at the various stations on the track that work to keep you safe. They are out there in rain or shine (and even snow a few times!) Typically they are wearing all white, so they are easy to spot on and off the track. It's hard to hear them at full speed on the track, so they use some basic flags and hand signals to communicate with you. Always acknowledge them when they are signaling you with a nod of your head or hand gesture when safe to do so. Also make sure you thank them-We could not have this event without them!
Flags - These are the basic flags you will need to know while you are on track. When they are displayed they are applicable from that point to the next manned station on the track.

  • Standing Yellow - Something has happened ahead of you. Be alert and ready for an emergency maneuver. This flag is also displayed on your first lap at each manned station so you know where the Corner Marshals are.
  • Waving Yellow - If you see a Corner Marshal waving the yellow flag there is something ahead of you that is on or blocking the track. Blockage could be anywhere from 1-100% possibly requiring you to evade. This could be a spun car, multiple cars, or even a corner worker. When you see this you need to ease up on the accelerator and PAY ATTENTION.
  • Red - This flag means there has been a serious incident. All vehicles on track are to pull over to the side of the track within eyesight of a manned station and come to a safe stop (don't slam on the brakes - we don't want you to become an incident as well!) This is so an emergency vehicle can get by you safely. You will remain there until the Corner Marshal gives you direction.
  • Black - When you see this flag displayed to all drivers, we need everyone off of the track. Slowly reduce speed to a reasonable pace and return to pit lane. If this flag is displayed only to you, something might be wrong with your car, you might be doing something wrong, or maybe your driving skills are so awesome, we want to give you a medal! In any case, acknowledge the Marshall, maintain your pace and return to pit lane. If it's just you, you'll be directed by someone near the starter's stand to the penalty box for your reward.
  • Yellow and RED striped - This is the Surface Flag. It means something is on the track that will reduce your grip if you encounter it. This could be Oil or other fluids spilled by another car, or wildlife - we have had everything from a turtle to deer decide that the track was the place to be during a session. Best advice is to slow down a little until you see what all the fuss is about.
  • Blue with a Yellow stripe - This is telling you that there is a faster driver coming up on you, or that wants to get by. Please allow the driver pass you in the next approved passing zone for your run group. For those with high horsepower cars, have some consideration for the lower horsepower cars. They will not be able to take you on a straight, but many can easily catch up to you in the turns where you will hold them up. Be considerate. If you know you are holding someone up, you do not need to wait for a flag. Let them by so they can enjoy the ride!
  • Checkered Flag - You've won! Well… not actually. But by the time you see this flag, you will probably feel like a winner! This means your session is over. When you see this flag, acknowledge the starter with a nod or wave, slow to a reasonable pace and take your cool down lap to let your brakes and engine drop to a more normal temperature. Don't forget when you get back to your paddock spot… DO NOT SET YOUR EMERGENCY BRAKE! We've seen the rotors warp and pads stick because the assembly is HOT. Set your car in gear and throw a wheel block down to keep it from rolling.

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 12:54 pm
by Clutch
SCCA Solo Drivers - What you read here could save you a set of tires!
A few tips for those of you joining us from the SCCA Solo program:
• Driving styles on road tracks differ slightly from Solo - aggressive application of the brakes and accelerator can get you into trouble. The key to good lap times on a road course is to be smooth. Take a look at an online guide for road track driving: Race Driving Techniques
• Tire pressures - Using the same tire pressure settings you use in Solo will quickly tear up a set of tires on a road track. Your car will be running significantly longer than a solo event. Start your tire pressures near your normally recommended driving settings. Make only minor adjustments between runs (no more than 2psi) to figure out your ideal settings. I learned this the hard way and have a barely used set of overheated, chunked out tires to prove it!

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 1:01 pm
by Clutch
Passing Zones by Group
Here's a graphic representation of the authorized passing zones by group. Red is not permitted, Green zone is for point by passing only:

Yellow/White Groups (HPDE-1/HPDE-2)

Red Group (HPDE-3)

Blue Group (HPDE-4)

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Fri May 17, 2013 7:22 am
by Clutch
With the exception of the Competition groups, All of the run groups at Waterford Hills Raceway have passing restrictions that must be followed to keep everyone safe. Authorized passing zones for each group are shown above.

We use a Point By system for passing at Waterford Hills.
  • *The driver being overtaken must Point the overtaking driver by, indicating that the driver is aware that someone wants to pass and is ready for it.
  • *It is the responsibility of the overtaking driver to complete a SAFE pass. If in doubt... BACK OUT! Do not attempt to pass if you are uncomfortable with anything about the situation.
  • *If you are the driver being overtaken, make sure you give a clear point to the side you want to be passed on. HPDE-1 and HPDE-2 drivers should only point indicating a left side pass to avoid confusion.
  • *Do not do anything erratic or unpredictable while passing or being passed. OTDs are not races. You are simply conducting a pass to allow a faster driver to get ahead of you.

  • *Blue Flag - The blue flag/yellow stripe is considered the passing flag for an OTD. If the Corner Marshals are showing you this flag, you have a faster DRIVER behind you. Allow this DRIVER to pass at the next authorized passing zone for your group.
  • *You might have noticed that I said DRIVER, and not vehicle in the above line. This is because a low power vehicle can be faster than a higher powered vehicle on a road course. The slower vehicle will not be able to pass on straights, so make sure you let up on the gas a bit, allowing them to get by.
  • *Mirrors - Part of our tech inspection covers mirrors. They are a requirement to run on our course. Use them! If you see someone riding your bumper wanting to get by, you don't have to wait for a blue flag... give them a point at the next authorized passing zone for your group.
  • *Be considerate of other drivers.

When you have a slower driver followed by faster drivers that don't want to get too close, you form a train. Trains are difficult for a Corner Marshal to sort out because of the large gap between the drivers.
Here's a few options on how to decouple yourself from the train:
  • 1) Snug up! Get yourself within a car length of the slower driver. The goal is to show the Corner Marshal that you are faster and want to get by.
  • 2) Pit Road - If you're too far back in the train, it may be quicker to pull off onto pit road and ask for a gap. This is done by pulling up to the starter and giving him a hand signal for Gap. Place your hands together and slowly pull them apart horizontally. Repeat until he acknowledges your request. The starter will hold you until an appropriate gap is available. Follow the Starter's direction for re-entering the track.
  • 3)Flash your lights - If you get caught behind a slower car, AND IT’S SAFE TO DO SO, flash your lights at the Corner Marshals as soon as they come into your view. When they see this they’ll know you want to pass, and will respond with a blue flag to the driver in front of you

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Fri May 17, 2013 7:28 am
by Clutch
Tech Inspections
There’s always a little confusion about Tech… Our OTD Chief of Tech clarifies what is expected:
  • Get there early! Tech runs from 7:15 to 9:00. No Tech inspection = No track time!
  • Register BEFORE you get in line for tech! Registration has your tech form for this OTD... you can't go through tech without the right Tech Form!
  • All of the tech requirements are found on the Registration Form. Conduct the inspection before you come out to the track so you are ready to go. We’ve had street vehicles fail tech and sit out for the day for items that could have been solved easily with a trip to the parts store the day before.
  • Image
  • Make sure your car is ready BEFORE pulling up to tech! We have to get a lot of cars through tech in a very short period of time. No one wants to wait for someone to clean out and prep their car IN the tech line… that’s what your paddock space is for! Bolted down items like the spare tire are OK. Tech will look through the entire car for loose items and floor mats, including trunk areas. Any loose item can become a distraction to you on the track, and if you get distracted enough, it could become a projectile during an accident!
  • Battery terminals. Make sure the positive terminal is insulated. Most cars will have a cover, if you don’t, a few wraps of electrical tape will suffice.
  • Clothing – Long pants, Closed Toe Shoes, and an approved Helmet. SNELL rated 2000 or newer helmets are authorized for use during an OTD. (Looks like I need to update the Registration form!) You must present your helmet to the tech inspector. I typically leave mine in the trunk area for the inspection. Make sure you are dressed appropriately. We have turned people away for wearing shorts and flip-flops!
  • Where is it? Tech is located under the awning next to the souvenir shop in the paddock. Please come to tech from one direction only, keeping the play area and tech itself on your left side. If you are doing this properly, the paddock access road will be in your rear view mirror.
  • Race Car owners – Don’t bring your car to tech, bring your logbook, Helmet, and current license. We do not want race cars started before 10:00AM to keep our neighbors happy.
  • Sound – We do monitor sound and we have a 74db noise restriction. If you break the sound requirement, you will have an opportunity to fix it.
  • Tech closes at 9:00 sharp. There is no guarantee you will be able to tech your car after that time.

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Mon May 20, 2013 6:32 am
by Clutch

One of your primary defenses against permanent damage is your trusty Helmet!

Waterford Hills follows SCCA rules for helmets:

From the 2015 Solo rules:
    • 4.3.1 Helmets
      • Snell 2000 (SA, K, M) or newer, SFI (3.1.1,41.1, 31.1A, 31.2A, 41.1A, 41.2A), ECE R22.05, FIA (8859-2015, 8860-2010, 8860-2004) and British spec BS6658-85 Type A are acceptable.
        DOT certifications are not accepted.

Note that DOT ratings are not included in the approved list above. I'd like to give you all kinds of technical details on why DOT helmets are not allowed, how the testing differs, and lots of other justifications, but I'm not a helmet expert. I can only tell you that the decision to not allow DOT helmets was made, and we cannot allow them for insurance and safety reasons. So the short answer to DOT helmets is:


Take a close look at your helmet, it will have a stamp either on the back or inside under the padding that shows what standards it was tested and approved for. Many helmets carry multiple approvals (SFI and Snell). It is up to you to know where the rating is located so you can show Tech. If you plan on painting your helmet, make sure it has the stamp in a location you won't be covering up. If you can't prove your helmet certification, you can't use it on the track.

Open face vs Closed faced helmets - If you are buying a new helmet, go with a closed faced helmet. Averill of Averill's Racing Stuff: provides safety equipment for many of the test drivers at the Big Three. He highly recommends a closed faced helmet for safety. Don't skimp on this item... Think about it - a $50.00 helmet is for a $50.00 head!

Visor/Safety glasses. You're on a road course with other vehicles... they throw up debris as they move around the track. I've been hit in the face with a pebble a few times in the past driving in my hard top Mustang. The windshield only protects you from the front... make sure you wear something to keep the small stuff out of your eyes!

Used Helmets Club racers have to get rid of their helmets sooner than we do - you might consider placing a wanted ad on our Swap and Sell forum. If you do this, inspect the helmet and make sure it hasn't suffered an impact in the past. If it has, or if your current helmet has, you'll need to get yourself a different one. Never use a helmet that's been in an accident and impacted something.

Once more... because Tech Will reject you for a non-approved helmet...


Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:51 pm
by Clutch
Brake Fade - What is it?

As you begin to gain confidence and experience on the track you will also find you are pushing your vehicle and it's braking system harder than ever.

Typical braking systems use a piston to compress the rotor (disk) between two brake pads. The increased friction converts the vehicles kinetic energy into heat which brings you to a stop.

Brake system heat is easily dissipated under normal driving conditions. When you take that same brake setup onto a road course, it may exceed the cooling capabilities of your stock system. When this happens, the entire braking assembly begins to build up heat.

Indicators of Brake Fade: Once the heat build up starts to exceed the boiling temperature of the brake fluid, you will notice a spongy feel on the pedal. This is your warning sign that your brakes may not be there the next time you go to use them. Once your fluid begins to boil, you may find your brake pedal on the floor!

If your brakes begin feeling spongy or less efficent, it's time to back off and let the system cool down. Bring your car into the pits and consider replacing your stock fluid with a high temp racing version.

Proper maintenance with the vehicle's use in mind will go a long way. Most passenger vehicles rarely get the fluid changed. If you're doing HPDE or Open Track events, you need to completely change the fluid out every 2 years at a minimum. This is because the brake fluid absorbs moisture over time. This moisture reduces the boiling point of the fluid, and increases the chance you will experience fade under heavy brake usage.

Fluid type, Dry Boiling point / Wet Boiling Point
DOT 3.......401ºF / 284º F
DOT 4.......446º F / 311º F
DOT 5.......500º F / 356º F
DOT 5.1....518º F / 375º F

Another simple upgrade is to install cooling ducts for your rotors. Most track oriented vehicles have an aftermarket option for this. If they don't, take a look at your dust shields. Many racers pull them off to increase air flow over the disks during track sessions. (don't forget to put them back for street use!)

If you've decided OTD is your thing, make sure one of the first things you upgrade on your vehicle is the BRAKE system. It's way more important that a vehicle be to be able to stop over making it go a few MPH faster!

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 7:35 am
by Clutch
Driver Classification

What does that HPDE-"X" mean?

One of the most popular questions I get is "What Class should I be in?" Well, this should clarify how the classes are set up...

  • This group is for people that are new to OTD/HPDEs
  • You are learning the flags, hand signals and track etiquette
  • You are new to driving on a road course, and are also learning how to navigate the track.
  • You are primarilly focused on your driving and performance.
  • You are learning to expand your focus to the Corner Marshals
  • You are reliant on Corner Marshals to let you know someone wants to pass.
  • Some experience - you have successfully completed 2-3 track days either here or at other tracks.
  • You are familiar with all of the flags and hand signals.
  • You are comfortable at speed on the track but still working on your line
  • You are gaining experience and comfort with passing on long straights.
  • Your focus is expanding to include drivers behind you
  • You are less reliant on Corner Marshals letting you know someone wants to pass
  • You know what an "Apex" is.
  • You have multiple track days here or at other tracks
  • You know the flags and hand signals well enough to give a speech on them
  • You have expereinced the limits of traction, and have some experience how to resume control
  • You are highly aware of all driver and Corner Marshal activity around you
  • You are genuinely suprised if a Corner Marshal has indicated a driver wants to pass and you were not aware of it.
  • You are learning how to execute passes on low speed turns
  • You measure your OTD/HPDE experience by "Seasons"
  • You are comfortable passing/being passed at any point on this track
  • You are embarrassed if a Corner Marshal shows you a passing flag and you didn't already have the passing zone picked out
  • You are capable of teaching flags and hand signals to a small group of people that do not speak your language.
  • Tires and brake pads have long ago become a known "expense" that is included in your household budget
  • You share knowledge with novice drivers on how to get started and improve their performance
  • Licenses issued by SCCA, NASA or other major sanctioning bodies are required to run in this class.
  • This class has open passing
Any questions? Contact me at

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:15 am
by Clutch
Why it's important to Torque your wheels...

If you're new to the Open Track/HPDE experience, you've probably noticed that practically everyone has a torque wrench sitting in their gear.

Why is that? Well it's a SAFETY issue! Stress failures happen. There's a reason this is a requirement for your tech inspection... It's a common failure that is more than likely going to happen during a turn. You're putting a lot of stress on your wheels and suspension during a track session. All of the forces involved in cornering are pushing and pulling your wheels against the hubs and it's mounting hardware. The most common point of failure is at the wheel stud.

Wheel studs take a lot of abuse, and not just the abuse you're dishing out on the track. Odds are your favorite shop is not breaking out the torque wrench to check your lug nuts. Most of them rely on the air tools to snug everything down to get you out the door quickly. When they do that, they may be unknowingly stressing out the wheel stud by over-torquing it. Over torque will stretch the stud, causing weak points that are likely to fail. By torquing the wheels before your sessions, you are checking that the studs are still in one piece and can handle the load.

NEVER torque a hot wheel! The torque settings you have are for ambient temperature. Torquing a hot wheel will result in over-torque, which will eventually cause a failure! I torque mine in the morning, and check it after each of the worker breaks.

The first thing you need to do is find out what your lug nuts are supposed to be torqued to. This is normally shown in ft-lbs. My car requires 100ft-lbs to give you a general idea. You can typically find this in your owners manual, or if you've misplaced it, a quick check online will reveal the specs for your car.

The next thing you need is a torque wrench. Your favorite parts store will have some basic options to fit your needs. Try to stick to a wrench that has your lug nut torque value somewhere in the middle of it's range. Using a wrench that is near it's limits will work, but is not as accurate. Cost... somewhere between $40 and $100.00 should get the job done. Pick up an extension and a deep well socket that fits your lugs while you're at it. If you can't afford one, or aren't sure what to buy, ask me or your fellow participants. Most will happily loan you the wrench if you need it.

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 9:34 pm
by Clutch
How your Winter Driving skills can make you GREAT!

I know...we can't wait for spring to blast the slippery white stuff away with more tolerable temperatures. While you're driving the rest of the winter, I want you all to keep mental notes on how your driving behavior changes on a snow day.

Being a great driver includes knowing how to react to changing conditions. One of these less-than-ideal conditions is a loss of traction. In my driver's safety speech I always talk about the difference in traction between paved surfaces and grass and dirt. Basically, that once you leave the paved surfaces you have the same traction on grass and dirt as you have on snow and ice.

As a veteran winter driver you already know how you should react when you lose traction. Not panicking is the key to recovery. And why should you panic? You already know how this works. Slamming on the brakes or jerking the wheel on the grass and dirt results in the same thing that happens when you do it in ice and snow lose control. Resisting panic reactions is what your winter driving experience tells you to do.

Gradual responses with the brakes and steering might have you cutting the lawn a little longer, but doing so gives you greater control of your car. Granted, it's not as cool looking on your GoPro video, but I think you'll be happier with the results!

So do me a favor this spring...bring your winter driving skills to the track! Most people will never use them, but if you do wind up in the green stuff, you'll already know what to do because of the white stuff!

Re: Open Track Day Primer

Posted: Fri May 08, 2015 7:42 am
by Clutch
Novices and New to Waterford Drivers - What to expect...

It can be intimidating if you've never done a track day
. There's a flurry of activity after the gates open; finding paddock spots, clearing out cars, long haired freaky people running amok… Take a breath and relax because it's all pretty simple… everyone here is just excited and anticipating a great day at the track!

The first thing you come up on is the guard shack at the paddock gate. You and any guests will have to park and see the attendant to sign a waiver and get a wristband to enter the facility. Guests will be charged $2.00 to come in . (Please bring singles!)

After that you will drive up to the paddock. Note the speed signs - it is 5mph and it is enforced. Go slow and watch for kids and pets.

Your next mission is to find a paddock space. This is a spot where you will unload your car and hang out while you aren't on track. Paddock spaces are anywhere on the grass. Bring a folding chair or something to mark your spot while you are on track.

Go to Registration. Registration is on the second floor of the tower. This is where you get your tech form and driver identification.

Tech your own car. We are only checking your vehicle. You are responsible for everything on your tech sheet. Make sure you pull all loose items out of the car and are ready for inspection. Mark the sheet for the driver inspection as you check each item on your equipment. Don't be afraid to ask a neighbor or any of the staff if you have questions. Track people are Awesome!

Drive to Tech - now is when you drive over and get in line for Tech. Have your paperwork and helmet ready for the inspector. Don't forget to wear long pants and closed toe shoes! The inspector will double check your inspection and if you pass, they will mark your vehicle for the track. Once you are in the tech line make sure you stay with your car.

If you are renting a helmet you will do this once your vehicle passes tech. Helmet rentals are done at the end of the Tech line. They will not rent a helmet to you unless your vehicle has already passed tech.

Return to your vehicle to it's paddock spot. Hopefully you arrived early and you have a little time to wander around. Feel free to do so! If you have enough time before the 9:00am meetings start, feel free to go out and walk the track or go to the top of the tower to take a look at the facility. Introduce yourself to others and ask questions if you have them.

9:00am Novice/New to Waterford meeting
. That building you went to for Tech inspection has a stairway that leads to an observation deck. Go up to the deck! There will be a worker that explains where the driver meeting will be, what you are going to do after the driver's meeting to do a low speed drive of the track, and how you will get paired with instructors. The worker will also answer any other questions you have.

9:15am - Driver's meeting! Don't miss it! This is your chance to watch me squirm and wrestle with public speaking. Turn off your phones and listen up. There is a LOT of information we will be giving you in a very short period of time. Pick up as much as you can, and don't be afraid to ask me or anyone else at the track if you need clarification or have a question. Most of the flags and procedures are basic and follow patterns you already know.

9:50am - Novice/New to Waterford low speed drive. This is intended for novices and anyone new to Waterford. This is your chance to go out and drive on the track at low speed so you are familiar with it when you go out on for your sessions. No helmet is required for this run, and you are allowed to bring passengers. Speed is limited to 40mph and there is no passing allowed. Don't be shy - ask an experienced Waterford driver to ride with you. Most people will be happy to show you around.

10:15am - Instructor assignments. Go back to the observation deck on top of the boutique. We will pair you up with available volunteer instructors.

Your first session!
  • You'll be watching the tower and listening for your color group to be called to grid. This is usually 5 minutes before the current session ends.
  • Get your helmet on! Check that the strap is not lose by giving it a downward tug.
  • Make sure you've cleared out any loose items.
  • Put your seat belt on and line up for grid. (If this is your first time out, let a few people get in line first so you can see what they do)
  • Check your gas! Make sure you have enough fuel to complete the session
  • A grid worker will check your helmet and see if you are ready to go on track.
  • The workers will guide you from here. Don't be afraid to ask questions!