If you have a safe, reliable car, wearing tires that aren’t dry rotted, you’re basically already set. However, there are a few things that will make your first track experience more enjoyable.
Factory pads are fine on the street, but when subjected to constant pedal-to-the-floor braking at highway speeds, lap after lap, they’re almost guaranteed to “glaze” or “fade.” If it takes you 120 feet to stop on lap one, you’ll need 160 feet by the time you get to lap five. Will lapping with stock pads kill you? No, but you’ll spend more time on track and less time waiting for your brakes to cool with an appropriate pad.
Like most mods, pads are a compromise between ‘track worthiness’ and comfort. The more aggressive the pad, the louder it’ll be. Pads are a fairly vehicle specific thing, so the easiest way to find out what will work is to talk to other
More aggressive pads will also increase rotor wear. Speaking of rotors, don’t believe the hype surrounding drilled and slotted rotors. The idea behind them is that the ‘slots’ or ‘holes’ help extract hot gasses being released by break pads, which made sense when pads were asbestos based, but today pads are usually ceramic. Other people claim that they aid cooling, though most tests show that these benefits are minimal, if at all existent. The drawback is that not only are slotted/drilled rotors more expensive, but they’re more prone to cracking, and they reduce the pad/rotor contact patch.
Like pads, factory brake fluid won’t kill you, but it will cut down on how much time you can spend on track. The brake fluid that came in your mother’s Civic isn’t designed for the extreme temperatures track driving generates. It’ll boil making your pedal feel squishy, eventually reducing the amount of pressure your able to put on the brakes. Like pads, using factory fluid won’t kill you, you’ll just need to stop and cool down more often than you’ll probably want to.
The solution? Flush out the factory DOT3 fluid and replace it with a high-performance DOT4 brake fluid. You can find a list of high performance brake fluids here, complete with their wet and dry boiling points.
Not only will factory tires produce inferior levels of grip, but like factory pads and brake fluid, they’re not designed to deal with the heat that track driving generates. So, they’ll overheat and get shredded in record time. This means that you can convince your partner/spouse/parents/financial advisor that buying a set of 200 treadwear high-performance tires is an economical decision because they’ll survive on track much longer. *wink*wink*
The tires available to you largely depend on your wheel size, which of course depends on what you drive. So, you’re going to have to do some research. Tire Rack’s “Extreme Performance Summer Tire” category is probably a good place to start. Here are some popular options:
- BFGoodrich G-Force Rival S (15″-18″ wheels)
- Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R (15″-20″ wheels)
- Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec (14″-19″ wheels)
- Falken Azenis RT615K (14″-18″ wheels)
- Hankook Ventus R-S3 (15″-20″ wheels)
- Toyo Proxes R1R (15″-18″ wheels)
- Pirelli P Zero (17″-20″ wheels)
- Michelin Pilot Super Sports (17″-20″ wheels)*
*The Pilot Super Sport is a 300tw tire, but a good option none-the-less.
A note about wheels: I could write an entire article about tire and wheel sizes. If you don’t know where to start, the manufacturer recommended wheel size for whatever tire you’re buying will work. Use real wheels – they’re a whole lot cheaper than breaking a replica on track. If you can’t afford real aftermarket wheels, use your OEM wheels, or OEM wheels from another car that will fit.
This might seem obvious, but if you’re late on an oil change, haven’t done a coolant flush in twenty-years, or are hearing suspension/drivetrain clunks, you should probably get that sorted out before you hit up the racetrack. You don’t want to be that guy who has a massive coolant leak on track, leading to someone else’s accident.