Project Racer – Part 4: Hotlapping For Beginners

Now that you've experienced the drag strip, and solo 2, let's move onto road racing. – or more accurately, hotlapping. The most beginner-friendly road racing/hotlapping organization I have come across is the National Auto Sport Association, otherwise known as NASA. A nationally established organization, NASA is the sanctioning body of the former SE-R cup, now part of Performance Touring (PT) which receives thorough coverage through Grassroots Motorsports magazine and various other sport compact magazines. Through NASA, you can participate in their driving school called High Performance Driving Events, also known as HPDE. HPDE has 4 levels, with 1 being beginner, and 4 being the advanced group. After reaching HPDE 4 level, you are then allowed to participate in the competitive racing school with Driving Concepts. After you complete the ranks of HPDE and the Driving Concepts Racing School, you will be given your official racing license which will allow you to race in PT as well as other nationally sanctioned road racing organizations.

Preparation
    
But first before the hopes and dreams of obtaining the Trophy Jared Doll, let's begin with your first time on the road course, with HPDE 1. As an HPDE 1 driver, NASA provides instructors for you to help you learn the basics of road racing conduct. With HPDE 1, you will be learning just the basics of racing technique, and more of the fundamentals of road racing and how the road course is managed. It is basically the adaptation stage of road racing, sort of like how you leave a goldfish in its own water to allow the fish to adapt to the temperature of the water in the aquarium, HPDE 1 slowly exposes you to road racing, eliminating as much of the shock as possible.

You've managed to sign up online and register for the event. But before even arriving, there are some essential items that you should pack for your trip to the racetrack. Depending on your location, it could be extremely hot, or cold. Almost always though, the sun will be out, so pack accordingly.

Here Are Suggestions of Items To Bring to the Track:
  • A cooler
  • Plenty of water & Gatorade – dehydration can be a major problem
  • Sunscreen
  • Chairs
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Canopy
  • Snacks
  • Basic Tools, including a tire pressure gauge
  • Extra Brake Fluid, Motor Oil, coolant
  • Change of clothes – sitting around in sweaty, dirty clothes can be a miserable feeling
  • An air tank is very handy.  Proper tire pressure is very important and a useful tool for adjusting the handling of your car.  Usually there are no handy air hoses at tracks so you should be self-sufficient.
  • Come to the track with a full tank of gas- you won't have time do deal with getting gas during the day.
  • Make sure you have fresh engine oil.  Track driving is very demanding and you should use synthetic oil as sump temps can reach over 300 degrees.  A heavy 15w50 works best with an engine with no oil cooler. We prefer Motul 300V.
  • Fresh Brake Fluid is important.  Brake fluid quickly absorbs water from the air and loses boiling resistance.  We prefer Motul RBF 600 brake fluid.

At the Racetrack

Now that we're all packed and ready to go, we have to get you to the track. As stressed before, arrive on time! Like auto crossing, this will give you time to tech your car – again this is similar to the aforementioned articles. NASA provides you with a tech sheet that you can download online for a pre-tech inspection. Road racing events are not as tolerant as auto crossing events when it comes to tardiness. Being late may earn you a scolding by the head instructor of your run group, because unlike auto crossing, meetings at road racing events require ALL members to be present. Why? Because the information given is usually some sort of heads up – important information for all participants to know for their own safety and for the safety of the other drivers on the track. As a beginner driver, it is imperative to be on time to all of your drivers meetings, since aside from safety, most of the time these drivers meetings are giving valuable tips and lessons on what to expect on the road course. Some of these tips can be found at NASA's HPDE information page. Below is a sample of how the schedule is generally organized. As you can tell from the wear and tear of my schedule, I had this with me everywhere, and I made sure I knew exactly where I needed to be, when I needed to be there at all times.

 

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