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Track Days in Your Aston

 
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Old 09-19-2014, 11:36 AM
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Track Days in Your Aston

I figured I'd make a thread about my experiences taking my '07 V8V to track days. I guess this is meant to address a number of things ranging from mileage to maintenance to performance to events. Much of this can also apply to non-tracked cars (maintenance, for example).

I'm not an expert driver by any means. I'm just sharing my experience and hopefully helping others along the way. When I generally refer to a car, it's the V8 Vantage since that's what I have the most experience with.

Plus this is something of a mental checklist-made-form since I'm freshening up my car

Thread updates
Updated information can be found in these posts, which are later in this thread:
https://www.6speedonline.com/forums/...ml#post4235846
https://www.6speedonline.com/forums/...ml#post4413131

Track days
There are plenty of ways to join a track day. I highly, highly recommend going to an HPDE (high performance drivers education). You get an instructor that rides along with you and teaches you how to drive your car on the track. As you get better, they push you further. If you have difficulty, they scale you back. Don't go to just one, either. Different instructors will teach you different techniques and you will always learn something every time you go to an HPDE. Some groups also hold track days, like my local AM dealership (structured as an HPDE). And private groups rent out tracks and then sell slots to participate (these are often solo driving - no instructors). HPDEs are very organized to help ensure safety. Private track days vary depending on the organizing group, so do your research on each group before signing up. Poorly organized and mismanaged events can be a terrible experience.

HPDE's generally cost $200-300, though some can be more expensive - $400 or so for the day, but those are often catered or include other things that warrant the price (like ride-alongs in a GT4!). A single day at Summit Point's FATT HPDE costs $250, while a full weekend with BMWCCA at Summit Point is $330. Costs vary depending on the hosting group and what all is involved, but these numbers should give you a good idea as far as pricing goes. However, these do not include insurance. Most insurance companies will not cover damages incurred on a racetrack. There are a few companies that offer insurance for events, and a quick search for "track day insurance" will point you in the right direction.

The basic rules:

Never try to race during an HPDE.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Be smooth in all you do, no sudden or jerky movements.
Drink lots and lots of water.
Leave your ego at home, it's dangerous on track.

Last thing: If you can, ride along with your instructor during one of their sessions. You'll learn a lot by watching what they do, what lines they take, and how they control their cars.

Safety
Track days are usually well organized and structured in a way that keeps all participants as safe as possible. Pay attention to all the rules of the day, and mind the corner workers (they'll let you know if there is anything going on).
There is no passing allowed at an HPDE without consent from the car being passed. You must wait for them to signal you so you can go by them, and this is only done in designated areas. Likewise, if you're holding up a car, let them pass!
Helmets are often available for rent at the track, but are usually limited in quantity and are first-come first-served. It's best to bring your own in case you miss out. The lighter the helmet, the better. The reason is simple - if you get into an accident, you don't want the weight of your helmet jerking your head around (which can seriously injure you). Most events I've been to require an SA2010 rating for your helmet.
Don't drive past your limits, and don't try to prove anything to anyone. You'll quickly get heated and you won't be able to maintain your concentration.

Astons on the track
Our cars are amazingly well sorted considering how much is packed into them. Although they are all-aluminum and small in size, the V8V weighs 3600 lbs (that's a lot). But having wrenched on my car, it's easy to see where that weight comes from. They are very stout cars. Plus there are details throughout that add weight. For example, the plastic wheel liners have a padded lining - I assume this is to reduce tire noise inside the cabin. Weight is important because it affects every aspect of a car's performance.

We're also short on power compared to other cars, considering all that weight. Our cars aren't slow by any means, but we have to work harder to keep pace. Point is, when you go out there don't expect to be the fastest and don't be upset if you get passed. Just enjoy your car and have fun.

You can fit plenty of stuff in your car for a track day. Here's a pic of the first HPDE I went to (a BMWCCA-hosted 2-day event at Road Atlanta).



Take out the cargo divider (pull the red tab and unhook the strings) and you have lots of space to work with. In the pic above, I had a folding chair, camera bag, weekend bag, helmet, jacket, tool case, two tool bags, tarp, and a box of tarp weights. Everything fit back there and I had nothing in the cabin area.

That list of items is more than you need for a track day. I took a bunch of tools just in case of emergency, since it was my first time tracking my car.

Remove everything you can from your car before getting on track - especially your floor mats, water bottles, etc. Make sure there's nothing in the trunk. Remove all cables (phone chargers, etc). You want absolutely nothing in the car while on track.

About my car
My particular car is fairly well sorted for the track. It's a 2007 4.3L with 6-spd manual. It's got almost 45k miles on it, half of which were the original owner and half are from me. I drive my car extremely hard, so the last 22k miles have been very rough on it I have springs, wheel spacers, uprated brake pads, brake cooling ducts, heavy duty clutch, exhaust, the AM Power Pack, oil catch can kit, and a few other things. Some people have complained about their brakes going soft earlier than they would expect, but I've had no issues whatsoever. It might be because of the pads and cooling ducts.

I'm running Hankook Ventus Evo V12 tires. They're a good, inexpensive tire that do well on dry pavement. They get pretty loose in the wet, though. If you want something cheap and decent, they aren't a bad way to go. I prefer Michelin Pilot Super Sports, and I'll be swapping out my Hankooks for these soon.

UPDATE:
Since originally posting this, I've changed a couple of things. I'm now running VelocityAP 2-piece brake rotors. The car feels a little more responsive, which is great. No issue with the rotors that I've noticed. I also swapped out the Hankooks for Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The Hankooks didn't have nearly as much grip as the Michelins. With the Hankooks, I could throttle steer the car very easily and could play around with the lack of grip - the tires would slide a little, and it was very easy to control the car when hooning a bit. With the Michelins, I've had to relearn corners - lots more grip so I've had to learn better lines with less jackassery

UPDATE 2:
I changed out my uprated pads for Porterfield R4S street pads. These are able to handle some track duty, but are not ideal. I discuss them in a later post. I also changed out my OEM wheels + spacers setup for a custom-made aftermarket set. They keep the same width and diameter as the OEM wheels, but have a more aggressive offset. I've also added an engine tune, which gives me a higher redline, better throttle response, and a little more power.

Wear and Tear
I think this is what most people are concerned about. It plays into both mileage and maintenance.

The main wear item you'll have is tires. Check these before and after every track day, and be prepared to replace them as needed. Lifespan of a set of tires varies considerably, but generally expect 3-4 track days. Don't skimp on tires, either - they're the only thing holding your car to the road!

Check your tire pressure! Your tires heat up extremely quickly on track and will be over-inflated, which will ruin your traction (especially at the front tires) making you understeer really badly. Drop a few PSI from them before you get started, then check them after your first session.

Brake pads and rotors should also be checked regularly. My pad life has been considerably longer than I expected. In fact, I'm still on the same set of pads that came with my car when I bought it three years ago. Just remember that your brakes are the only thing stopping you so make sure they're good! It's also worthwhile to pull the pads to inspect them, even if they still have material left. Here's what I found on mine:



Admittedly, these pads survived several track days (way more than I expected) and a lot of abuse. Pads are a routine maintenance item, and you should expect to burn through them at a much quicker rate when doing track days. So I'd consider this "normal" for what I've put my car through. However, note the caliper itself! The clearcoat on my calipers has flaked off, and I'm pretty certain it's from all the heat the brakes generate on track. Repair for this is somewhat expensive, as the caliper has to be pulled off the car (which means labor and a brake fluid flush, plus reapplying the clear coat and labor for that as well).

I developed a clicking from my right rear wheel - my indie mechanic and I suspect that it's the wheel bearings. Looking around online, that's about $330-350, plus labor (estimating 2-3 hrs) per corner. This is the only non-routine item I've had to deal with so far, which is pretty impressive. UPDATE: The wheel bearing is fine. It turns out that my CV boot was torn and all the grease came out. The bearings were bone dry. My indie put on a boot from a Ferrari F355 (lol it fit perfectly!) and regreased it, and I was good to go. Several months later and more abuse, it's still good.



Always check your oil before and after a track day. Your engine is working a lot harder in track conditions. I notice that my oil catch can fills up slightly faster when tracking my car. Top up as necessary and if your oil drops drastically, get your car checked out.

Clutch life has always been a concern for our cars. I have an uprated clutch and haven't had any issues whatsoever in 20k+ miles of hard driving (I'm very hard on my car lol). I think the issue a lot of people have is that our clutches behave slightly different at low speeds than any other clutch I've driven so people end up riding the clutch quite a bit, which wears it out very quickly. Proper technique should help with that.

Here's a video I made of a track day at NCCAR. The beginning of the video demonstrates how quickly you should be on-and-off the clutch. Again, I'm not an expert driver and don't claim to be, but I've had a couple people say my shifting sounds as fast as paddles. (BTW, don't judge me for my lousy time in the vid, my tires were incredibly over-inflated so I had no front-end traction! Vid shot with a GoPro Hero2 using only the built-in internal microphone.)

http://vid65.photobucket.com/albums/...RGoProRear.mp4

Is it worth it?
Abso-f'ing-lutely. Our cars are built to be driven. You'll gain a real appreciation for your car after you've pushed it and yourself on a racetrack. Aside from that, it's amazing what kind of stuff happens. Aston Martin Racing showed up at Road Atlanta during my first HPDE, so I got to check out their then-brand new GT-E car, fresh off the boat from England:



And let's be honest, we all gawk at our cars. There are often track-side photographers that you can buy pics from. I did that and had one blown up to match a poster of the aforementioned GT-E car (with the drivers' autographs), and then had them framed and hung them in my office. Pretty awesome conversation piece, I think!



Another cool shot the photographer took:



The last one I went to was sponsored by my local AM dealership, and they brought out a Vantage GT4 race car to take people on joy rides.



That's really all I can think of at the moment aside from the usual stuff like keeping up with regular maintenance. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask and I'll do my best to help out!
 

Last edited by telum01; 10-13-2015 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 09-19-2014, 02:29 PM
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Great post. Maybe I missed it but did you mention which tires you were using?

Also, are you wearing a motorcycle helmet in the last pic? If so, you might want to rethink that and buy a proper car helmet with SA2010 or better rating.
 
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Old 09-19-2014, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by spinecho View Post
Great post. Maybe I missed it but did you mention which tires you were using?

Also, are you wearing a motorcycle helmet in the last pic? If so, you might want to rethink that and buy a proper car helmet with SA2010 or better rating.
I'm running Hankook Ventus Evo V12 tires right now, but I'm about to replace them with Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The Hankooks are a decent summer tire that's good for burning off on dry tracks, and they're really inexpensive. But I'm a huge fan of Super Sports so that's what I'm going with next.

Yeah, it's a motorcycle helmet. Needed one on very short notice for an event I did, picked it up cheap and haven't bothered to replace it. I believe it's SA2010, though.

Both are good points, though. I'll add them into the original post.
 
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Old 09-19-2014, 03:47 PM
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Ron, buddy, you're killing us with all your posts where you click the "quote" button instead of just posting your reply. Unless you're replying to a particular statement there's no need to repeat the same thing. And if you need to, kindly prune your quote so only the relevant text is copied. Thanx.
 
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Old 09-19-2014, 04:53 PM
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Got it post deleted.
Ron
 
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Old 09-19-2014, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by telum01 View Post
I'm running Hankook Ventus Evo V12 tires right now, but I'm about to replace them with Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The Hankooks are a decent summer tire that's good for burning off on dry tracks, and they're really inexpensive. But I'm a huge fan of Super Sports so that's what I'm going with next.
Agree, PSS are a great street tire. But I see that PS Cup 2's are now available in OEM V8V sizes - why not go for those instead? Still streetable, and better than PSS on track!
 
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Old 09-20-2014, 03:02 PM
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Great post. I've never tracked my Aston, but I do have a dedicated track car (Mitsubishi Evo X). Only additional suggestion I would make to anyone new to tracking is to upgrade brake fluid to a high temperature type (e.g. Motul 600). That's vital to stop your brake fluid boiling. Also, change fluid more often than you normally would - I once left some old fluid in the car too long, and completely lost my brakes going into turn 1 at Mid-Ohio! Fortunately it was just about the only turn on the track where that situation is salvageable! Won't make that mistake again.

For tires, I love Michelin Pilot Sport Cups - they're R-comps, so probably not recommended for novices. Grip is unbelievable. Don't know if the Sport Cups come in the appropriate size for our Astons though.
 
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Old 10-01-2014, 11:58 AM
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Just a little update:

I stopped at a local race shop and picked up a couple things. Got a proper helmet (finally) and a bottle of Castrol React SRF Racing brake fluid - the specs for which are pretty nuts, but it's expensive... $75 for a liter, compared to $16 for 1/2-liter of Motul RBF600. The dry boiling point for each fluid is the same, but the wet boiling point for the SRF Racing is almost 100F higher than the RBF600!

The helmet is nothing special, just a $300 entry level automotive headbucket. I've got too many vet bills and car maintenance tasks to splurge on a carbon fiber $2k helmet

About to order some new tires, going with Michelin Pilot Super Sports.

Brakes still look good but I'll be getting VelocityAP's 2-pc rotors soon, hopefully before I get on track.

Note: I've updated the "wear and tear" section of my original post since the wheel bearing hasn't actually gone bad.
 

Last edited by telum01; 10-01-2014 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 10-01-2014, 12:09 PM
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I had my V8V out at Circuit of the Americas this weekend. I was instructing and wanted to see how the car would do. As was said, it's amazingly well sorted for what it is. Easy to drive, very predictable, and very neutral in the corners.

Now I need more horsepower, stiffer springs, and better brakes.
 
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Old 10-01-2014, 12:16 PM
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You've got some lean going on! I've got H&R springs and they're amazing on track. Very aggressive drop, though. VelocityAP is developing a set of springs with less drop if ride height is an issue. Definitely worth getting springs, either way!

Btw, welcome to the forum!
 
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Old 10-01-2014, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by telum01 View Post
You've got some lean going on! I've got H&R springs and they're amazing on track. Very aggressive drop, though. VelocityAP is developing a set of springs with less drop if ride height is an issue. Definitely worth getting springs, either way!

Btw, welcome to the forum!
Got a link to those springs? Don't mind the drop, I've been driving aggressively sprung cars for 15 years.

That photo is of turn 10. It's a fast downhill sweeper, I've been building speed since turn 8, and cresting the hill is somewhere around 100 mph. You have to turn into a blind apex and stay on the throttle the entire time. Lifting here ends badly and it's a real gut check to not brake before corner entry. I love that the photographer caught me right at the apex.
 
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Old 10-01-2014, 12:30 PM
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I go through Stuart at VelocityAP for most of my stuff, I'm pretty sure he sells the H&R springs as well as the ones he's developing. I believe RSC sells them as well, and I'd imagine any H&R dealer can source them.

I haven't done that track but the 'gut check' description of that corner reminds me of Turn 12 at Road Atlanta
 
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Old 10-01-2014, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by telum01 View Post
I go through Stuart at VelocityAP for most of my stuff, I'm pretty sure he sells the H&R springs as well as the ones he's developing. I believe RSC sells them as well, and I'd imagine any H&R dealer can source them.

I haven't done that track but the 'gut check' description of that corner reminds me of Turn 12 at Road Atlanta
I haven't done Road Atlanta, but I hear good things. Every good track has at least one corner like this. CotA is very weird in that it really punishes beginners. So many of the corners have tons of run off if you're doing it right, but have very little if you do dumb things like apex wrong or lift in a corner. We see lots of beginners in the wall, but very few advanced students.

It's the toughest track I've driven though, many corners are blind or designed to trick you into false apexes or bad lines. You also really have to think about complexes as few corners aren't linked to others. And I honestly believe to understand the line in T3, you need to think about the line in T10.
 
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Old 10-02-2014, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by einTier View Post
I had my V8V out at Circuit of the Americas this weekend. I was instructing and wanted to see how the car would do. As was said, it's amazingly well sorted for what it is. Easy to drive, very predictable, and very neutral in the corners.

Now I need more horsepower, stiffer springs, and better brakes.
Who was running the track day at COTA? I am working up my experience to drive COTA. I am thinking of doing it this spring. Do they allow roadsters on COTA? If not, I will need to bring the rs5.
 
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Old 10-04-2014, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by jmargolese View Post
Who was running the track day at COTA? I am working up my experience to drive COTA. I am thinking of doing it this spring. Do they allow roadsters on COTA? If not, I will need to bring the rs5.
The next BMWCCA Trifecta event at COTA will be the weekend of March 20-22, 2015. It is co-sponsored by the three Texas BMWCCA chapters and one does need to be a member to enter the event. I ran the HPDE this past spring in my Elise and last year in my 1M. As pointed out earlier, it is much more technical than it appears, but lots of fun.
 

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