Relish the journey, not just the destination. This maxim, it would seem, still carries weight. And this is especially true for owners of performance cars in the UK. When testing the performance – speed, handling, etc – car owners can learn, and push, the strengths and weaknesses of their cars on one of many top track sites around the UK. Yet, for those with an insatiable need for speed, what are the best track days?
Before you go
A track day is a chance for everyday drivers to attend and test their cars on a motor racing circuit. These days tend to attract drivers wanting to push their own, often enhanced performance, cars beyond anything its ever done on average UK roads, where speed limits and junctions shape the kinds of legal driving experiences.
Many circuits will routinely host open days, inviting everyday drivers to bring along their own cars, whether modified or stock. It’s a good idea, then, to plan for your track day by thinking ahead about both the location of a circuit and the types of track days being hosted.
Best track days
Every driver has their own preferences. The driving conditions, or the circuit, can determine just how memorable a track day becomes.
Not every drag of tarmac is the same. Some circuits are, generally, considered to be the best for track days in the UK.
Brands Hatch Circuit (West Kingsdown, Kent)
On historic tarmac, Brands Hatch offers two configurations. Its circuits are split between two layouts: the shorter “Indy Circuit” (roughly 1.2 miles of circuit), or the longer “Grand Prix” route (offering approximately 2.4 miles of circuit). The first circuit, though shorter, is surrounded by an enlarged amphitheatre, ensuring there are great spectatorial views of the action – whizzing, humming cars speed by in pursuit of records. The larger circuit, limited by noise restrictions, means that it’s less often in action, unless for a major racing event like Formula One.
Silverstone (Silverstone, Northamptonshire)
One of the few tracks to rival Brands Hatch’ fame, Silverstone is the current home of the British Grand Prix. Built on an old military airport, similar to other historic tracks, the circuit features long straights and fast bends making it a challenging drive. There are four different layouts, including: a GP circuit, National, International and Stowe Circuit. Nowadays, Silverstone is one of the most famed, reputable circuits used by professionals and everyday drivers.
Encircled by scenic views, including the estate of Goodwood House, this circuit is steeped in a long history of motorsport. It remains the only circuit to retain its original character, after a loving restoration returned Goodwood to its historical form. This track represents, for many, a nostalgic trip to the former heyday of UK motorsport.
Santa Pod Raceway | Run What Ya Brung (Northamptonshire)
Popular not only in the UK, but Santa Pod is Europe’s original leading drag-racing circuit and venue. It features one of the quickest all-tarmac drag-strips in the world (which holds the world record for drag racing) and attracts crowds for its notorious “Run What Ya Brung” (RWYB) track day. Its circuit, an impressive drag strip, is tooled toward testing the performance of vehicles.
UK track days, bring your own car
Track days offer everyday drivers, especially those with performance or modified cars, the opportunity to test and trial their vehicles on renowned and famous circuits. The heritage of these sites, often record-setting, attracts drivers from all over the world to test their cars on the same straights and bends as career drivers from motorsport. This is also a spectator-sport, with many circuits offering a panoramic view of the racing action.
Whilst track days are tempting, it’s important to determine the type of track days where you can bring your own car.
· Open pitlane session
This type of track day grants drivers’ all-day access to the circuit(s). You can enter and exit the tracks with limited restrictions. Many tracks will, however, limit the number cars allowed on a track per lap, and so space may be competitive.
· Session day
As a more structured alternative to ‘open pitlane’ sessions, on a ‘session day’ drivers will be allocated time slots throughout the day.
Run What You Brung track days
On the Santa Pod Raceway, drivers can discover affordable and accessible circuits to (safely) test their vehicles to new limits. Many participants in this event bring along everyday vehicles, rather than slick supercars. Run What You Brung is an enthusiast paradise – a testing ground for cars that are seemingly, and on the surface, normal.
Which is the best track day for me?
Determining the best track days for drivers is all about fun and planning. Once you’ve decided on the circuit and type of track day or session, then you’ll need to plan out the day. You will need, for example, to secure appropriate insurance documents to take your car on a live circuit.
Beginners will most likely seek out a different experience to the more veteran track day drivers. Often circuits that are laid out over old airfield grounds tend to have more forgiving features, such as lengthier run-offs. This is a more ideal space to experiment with your modified car by driving beyond its usual performance.
Preparing your car for UK track days
If your car is roadworthy and in a good mechanical state, then it’s likely compatible with track driving. Yet, many that test their limits on the best track days across the UK tune and modify their vehicle’s performance.
Most tracks offer scenic viewpoints but are neighbouring local towns and villages. Local councils, then, will likely impose noise restrictions on track day events, which may mean that your car will need to qualify before testing the asphalt.
It’s also worthwhile to plan ahead with the following tips:
- Top up your car’s fluids
- Check tyre pressures
- Fill up your tank
- Read the rules and regulations of the track (which will be reiterated on the day, during a briefing)
Testing your car on historic tarmac can feel liberating. Many UK car owners aspire to build and drive a car that offers a more daring and inspiring journey than the kinds of familiar experiences of an everyday commute. How your car handles corners, how quickly it takes down long strips, blurring strips of road – these are questions that are poised on the mind of a petrolhead. Track days are a chance at experimenting with the boundaries of your car.
Track days aren’t the only challenge. Finding the right level of cover for you modified vehicle can be a tasking one, too. Keith Michaels is one of the UK’s leading insurance specialists when it comes to modified cars. To find out more, get a quote here.