Rather than ease you into my opinion of the track day I experienced, I’d like to get straight to the point; it was one of the most exciting, fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had.
"It was one of the most exciting, fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had."
After a long 1.5hr drive to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, the day started with a very long, compulsory drivers meeting. For as long as it was (and it was long!) a complete amateur like me needed to hear it, I listened intently throughout. As much as I tried to retain the information I was receiving, my main concern was knowing what the flags meant; the irony being I did not see one flag throughout the whole day.
We were told which lines to take, which was also outlined on the map we were all given at the beginning of the briefing. We were cautioned about where not to attempt a pass/overtake, taught hand signals and various other nuggets of information.
All first timers like myself had to do at least two mandatory laps with an instructor, before we could be let loose on the track.
My first lap was terrifying to say the least, imagine heading on to a track, where cars are blistering by at 150mph+, and having no clue where you should be. Yes absolute everything I was told in the briefing, went in one ear and out the other, I didn’t remember a thing he said. So it was safe to say my the first lap was a disaster, and quite frankly a safety hazard. Unfortunately my repeated warnings to my instructor, that this was my very ‘first’ time on a track, weren’t taking as serious as I’d have liked.
After the first lap we returned to the pit, where my instructor then took the wheel to demonstrate what I should be doing and where I should be going. I wish he had done this from the very beginning, because by just observing, I was put at ease and gained at least a semblance of what I should have been doing, which I then implemented with success on my 2nd & 3rd lap, improving each time.
After returning to the pit, I was free to go back on the track on my own, however I still didn’t feel I knew enough and my confidence wasn’t quite there. My first instructor then partnered me with another instructor, who sat shotgun with me for another 3-4 laps. His pointers were a game changer! I took on what he said and really started to feel like I was hitting the circuit correctly; following the best lines, braking at the right time with the right force, turning right on cue and accelerating like a bat out of hell!
I came back to the pit full of confidence, every correct move I had performed was met with a reassuring ‘good job!’ And a thumbs up from my instructor.
I was now ready to hit the track by myself, I was nervous, but excited and confident. With my videographer Jake sat shotgun, we headed out to the track and I went for it. This was the first time round the circuit without the instructors supervision. There was almost no communication between Jake and I while I completed my laps. I guess it was a combination of me focusing extremely hard, and Jake being overwhelmed with the experience, add to that anxious that a first timer was thundering round the track at speeds in excess of 150mph.
"...hit 163mph on the oval turn (that’s fast!)."
When we returned I think there was a uniformed sigh of relief, and small celebration at returning back to the pit alive. We returned a few times to complete more laps, my confidence growing each time. I even managed to hit 163mph on the oval turn (that’s fast!).
After a few laps I was content, I had done what a I set out to do, I had an amazing time and learned a great deal about my cars performance.
My McLaren 570GT handled fantastically, accelerated viscously and braked efficiently every time. It was great to see what it could really do, it was completely at home on the track doing what it was made for. I want to say a huge thank you to McLaren New Port Beach for inviting me to the track day, and making sure my car was in safe working order before and after the event.
This may just be the beginning of something!