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Faster, lattiboy! Kill! Kill!
October 27, 2010 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I want to go fast in Seattle!

I've been watching Top Gear lately and realized I would like to go fast. Much faster (and more safely) than freeway on-ramps and deserted roads would allow.

I'm looking to see if you can either "rent" a track for a few minutes to see what my Malibu is made of or if there was some kind of race driving activity I could do in the area.

Would like to not go bankrupt doing this.
posted by lattiboy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Should also be specific that "race driving" program doesn't mean a school or anything, just renting or using a fast car on a track.
posted by lattiboy at 4:43 PM on October 27, 2010


I found this place but it ain't cheap. The "tracks" tab may be helpful.
posted by bearwife at 4:52 PM on October 27, 2010


Race tracks have "open" days where you can just drive around (for a fee, of course). You probably will not be able to drive your street car on the track unless you do a bunch of work on it (safety wire, remove/tape headlights, .etc. -- depends on the track). You'll be better off taking a class.
posted by phliar at 5:02 PM on October 27, 2010


Also keep in mind that your insurance policy almost certainly will not cover anything that happens to your car on a track.

(And, as someone who has been upside-down in a car without a roll cage, let me encourage you never to drive on a track in a car that does not have one.)
posted by The World Famous at 5:05 PM on October 27, 2010


I've got a friend up here in Vancouver, Canada who's a member in a BMW Club that, every so often, organizes a trip down to Portland International Raceway where they get pretty much unfettered access to a world class course.
posted by philip-random at 5:52 PM on October 27, 2010


Portland International Raceway does the Late Night Drags on pretty much every weekend. Read their FAQ and technical requirements. Most street legal cars can run with helmets and particular clothing.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2010


Also keep in mind that your insurance policy almost certainly will not cover anything that happens to your car on a track.

Not necessarily true. State Farm motorcycle insurance covers you (or did, the last time I looked into it 5-6 years ago) as long as you're at an instructional event, so I would expect that the same would go for their auto insurance. What they won't do is cover you if you're racing, but it doesn't sound like that's what the OP is interested in.
posted by asterix at 7:52 PM on October 27, 2010


And to this in the OP:

Would like to not go bankrupt doing this.

That will be difficult. Fees just to the trackday organizer will probably cost you $200-$300/day. You'll also go through gas faster than you think, and if you do it more than once or twice tires and brakes will start to cost you, too. Then there's the cost of having to put your car on an accelerated maintenance schedule. (And, of course, there's the possibility that you'll crash or otherwise damage your car.)

That said, riding/driving on a track is a truly glorious experience and every serious motorhead should do it at least once.
posted by asterix at 8:01 PM on October 27, 2010


Not necessarily true. State Farm motorcycle insurance covers you (or did, the last time I looked into it 5-6 years ago) as long as you're at an instructional event, so I would expect that the same would go for their auto insurance. What they won't do is cover you if you're racing, but it doesn't sound like that's what the OP is interested in.

In the last few years, the insurance industry has been tightening up on insuring track use coverage. While it might be covered under a given policy, it's best to check first rather than just crossing fingers and hoping.
posted by The World Famous at 8:05 PM on October 27, 2010


Yeah, no question that you should read your policy and not assume anything.
posted by asterix at 8:08 PM on October 27, 2010


Pacific raceway in kent has what you need. You have to take a safety course before you qualify, but lapping days are what you want. not cheap, but the real thing.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:18 PM on October 27, 2010


I'd suggest finding an indoor kart place and doing that. All the equipment is free to use. You'll get WAY more sensation of speed in a decent kart than in any street car driven fast on the track, too. Your whole body will hurt from the G forces the next day, I promise.

For track driving, you need instruction. Period. You will cause all sorts of problems for yourself and others if you don't. Fortunately, any High Performance Driving Event will have instructors, and most tracks can get you one even for an open lapping event.

Hard to do track events in your own car at a reasonable cost per event unless you do it a lot. There are a lot of upfront costs. On a track, you're going to need a ~$200 SA2005/2010 rated helmet at a minimum. Add in the cost of a brake job and tires after the event, 'cause you'll be pounding the hell out of them. You NEED to have the car thoroughly inspected by a mechanic before going to the event, unless you're qualified to do so yourself. Brakes should be bled, fluids should be fresh, suspension should be in perfect condition. Also bear in mind that your stock brake pads almost certainly won't be up for the task. Even my Miata with relatively low power and weight cooked the stock brakes on the second lap the first time I had it out. Needing to slow for a 35 mph corner from 90 mph and realizing your brakes are gone? That's not so much fun.

Buy track insurance if it's an expensive car, but really, I wouldn't take a car to the track if I couldn't afford to wad it up into a sad ball of steel. Last time I went to an open track day here in Michigan, 3 out of 6 cars went off. No damage done, but it's a particularly safe track from that standpoint.

If you go to an event and decide you want to do this, you should really have a second cheap car to do it in. A Miata or E30 BMW is just as at home on the track as a Corvette (possibly MORE at home), but it only costs $3k-$5K to replace. You'll learn a hell of a lot more in a slow car, too.

Once a small car is set up properly ($500 roll bar in a Miata, good tires and brakes for anything, upgraded shocks and possibly springs, etc) the cost per event can be pretty cheap. It's only $60 for a test and tune event at one of the tracks here, and that gets you about an hour of seat time. I eat about $50 worth of tires/brakes in that time in the Miata. Not so bad, really. Of course, that means focusing just on your own driving rather than trying to have the fast car on the track. THAT starts to cost serious money.
posted by pjaust at 10:05 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I wouldn't even ask my insurance company about it. I've heard of people having their policies canceled at the mere mention of taking the car to the track.

Anyway.......see if spending some time in a kart at an indoor track gets you what you want. I'm taking about machines capable of 45 mph and over 1G of cornering force on an indoor track, not the toys you drove as a kid. Much cheaper hobby.
posted by pjaust at 10:09 AM on October 28, 2010


Autocross isn't about high speeds but is very fun and may give you the thrills you seek. A lot of car clubs have events. IIRC look at the Bremerton Car Club, they regularly have events, and I used to pay $20 for a few rounds.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2010


I'm taking about machines capable of 45 mph

which may not sound like much, but on an indoor track where the longest straight stretch is maybe thirty yards, that's plenty.

But if it's true wild speed you want, take your karting outdoors. I've only had one run in a proper racing kart (top speed 80mph, I think) and the experience was intense (to say the least). The word rocketship instantly came to mind.

Later, while discussing it with a few experts, it was pointed out to me that short of Formula One motor racing, nothing on four wheels matches the power-to-weight ratio of a high-end performance kart (dragsters excepted, but they don't turn -- and turning's where the FUN is).
posted by philip-random at 12:06 PM on October 28, 2010


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