GET ON TRACK
If you’re new to trackdays, it pays to listen to the experts. We hear from the guys at RSR
RSR HAS BEEN RUNNING EVENTS AT SPA AND the Nürburgring for more than 20 years, ever since owner Ron Simons (pictured bottom right) started making the trip from his native South Holland to the Ring in one of his Alfa Romeo 75s and began offering trackday hire and tuition. These days his business has grown into a leading proponent of the trackday scene, with bases at Spa, the Ring and elsewhere, an impressive fleet of rental vehicles and a client base from all over the world. Which makes Ron and RSR operations manager Jonathan Chan ideally placed to give anyone new to trackdays some top tips on how to look after your car, your own well-being, and your wallet.
Let’s start with you, the driver. ‘If you’re coming to Spa for the first time,’ says Jonathan, ‘one of the best things you can do is get an instructor alongside you. You can be confident about what you’re doing on the track, and the traffic around you.’ RSR provides instructors for either half or full days.
‘The biggest problem we see is guys driving outside the limits of the car, the track and themselves – so if you’re hiring, we can help with choosing a level of car you’re confident in driving. The main bit of kit you need is a crash helmet. You don’t need a race suit unless you really want to wear one.’
‘And don’t drink too much the day before,’ quips Ron. ‘Generally speaking, trackdays are quite gentlemanly,’ says Jonathan. ‘It’s not a race, there’s nothing to win. If you are slower [than the car behind], just lift off the gas a bit [to let them past]. But don’t slam on the brakes – that’s even worse!’
Clearly, car prep is vital, but it’s sometimes overlooked. ‘Some guys, particularly we find with those coming from the UK, arrive with worn brakes and tyres,’ notes Jonathan. ‘They’ll be here for two to three days, but by lunchtime on the first day they’ll be needing brake pads, and then there’s a panic to get them fitted – usually expensively, on a Sunday. So have your car checked over before you come, not six months in advance. Make sure it’s all tight underneath, there’re no oil or fluids weeping, nothing like a split driveshaft boot. Make sure the oil is topped up. Anything that needs sorting over here is a waste of your track time, so even throwing away a 50 per cent worn tyre will save you money in the long run. If you’re doing two days here, bring a second set of tyres or organise to have them here waiting to be fitted. After all, if it starts to rain you’ll also want to get home without a problem!’
Ron agrees, adding: ‘Refresh your brake fluid and make sure the pads are of a certain thickness. There’s a lot of wear and tear of brakes on a circuit, but Spa is not a high brake-wear track like Zolder or Monza. The Nordschleife you don’t need much brakes at all, and you don’t have that much tyre wear either as it’s a natural, flowing track with low-grip tarmac.’
As for car choice, Jonathan has this advice: ‘When anyone asks me what the ideal car for a trackday is, I tend to mention something like a Porsche Cayman. You want something that’s quite lightweight, so it’s easier on tyres and brakes.’
‘The best car is so personal,’ adds Ron, ‘and is very different from the Ring to Spa. At the Ring you don’t need a fast car, the track is so fast down the hill anything will run 120mph easily, so you can get into a lot of trouble. So the best bang for buck is a Clio or Mégane RS, or an M2 or Cayman, but even those [latter two] are already very fast for a beginner. At Spa you can learn the track in two hours, what gear to be in, and then you can push a bit, and the track is very forgiving so you can make a mistake and only go slower, as opposed to the Ring where you will need to replace the guardrail afterwards. So at Spa everyone can drive a GT3 – you may not use it to its full potential, but if that’s what you want to do you can [hire one from us and] do it. We have everything from a Twingo RS to an LMP car.’
Most of RSR’S fleet is run on road tyres to make them more forgiving for beginners. Their BMW M2s, for example, use Michelin Super Sports and standard discs, but with an endurance brake pad that gives longer life but doesn’t generate the sort of heat that can easily warp a disc. However, adds Jonathan, ‘You can’t drive an M2 like a Porsche Cup car. You have to drive to the level of the car and not over it.’ It’s a good piece of advice for anyone taking their own road car.
RSR get around 250 miles per set of tyres on one of their rental Mégane RSS, with brake pads lasting 500-600 miles. A disc change is carried out after the third pad change. With the 911 GT3S, the tyres last about the same amount of time, with pads making only 400-500 miles. As a general rule, the company believes their costs are £2-3 per trackday mile for one of the Renaults, rising from there. They’ll inspect the car before every time it goes out, which means some cars are examined almost daily. And while they stick to the makers’ oil change schedule, they’re regularly checking and changing the brake fluid.