10 Ways to Prepare for Your First Time Trials Event

10 Ways to Prepare for Your First Time Trials Event

Like a recreational runner deciding to leave the confines of their neighborhood and tackle the local 5K, Time Trials is an exciting adventure for a motorsports enthusiast. Maybe you're choosing a Time Trials event for your first time ever on track, or perhaps you have years of track days under your belt, and you want to see what competition feels like. Here are 10 tips for making that first Time Trials experience a good one. 

1) Know the Safety Rules

When heading to a Time Trials event, it's best to double-check the safety requirements. Make sure that you're bringing everything you need, including the required driver and car safety gear. Check that your helmet meets the event's safety rating requirements, and that your car has all the necessary safety equipment and that it's in good working order. For instance, there is a good chance that if you have a convertible, it will need more than factory safety roll-over protection before they let you on track. 

2) Know the Car Preparation Rules

With all the available options for vehicles and vehicle modifications these days, rules governing what you can and can't do can make even some of the most dedicated enthusiasts' eyes glaze over. Even if you can't do a deep dive – it's best to read through all the sections to make sure you have a general understanding of what types of things move you from class to class.

3) Read Any "Supplementary" Regulations

Many series will have general rules, and then specific tracks or local regions will add to them because of local preferences or track-specific rules. For many events, these are called the "Supplemental Regulations," but they could also be "event rules" or "track rules." You'll want to watch for those and read them carefully because they might tell you where to park in the paddock, that you can't bring your dog, or that more safety equipment is required than usual. These can usually be found on the event page, but you can always email the event organizer if you can't find them. 

4) Know the Format

"Time Trials" is a term that gets applied to many things, but at its core, it's driving on track to get the best time possible. Although you're competing with other drivers, you're not racing them in a traditional wheel-to-wheel sense. The car that wins is the one with the fastest time, not the first to cross start-finish. A time trial event might involve driving for your best lap from many sessions, your best lap from a single day, or in TrackSprint (sometimes called track cross), it means getting your best time from running a portion of a track from a standing start. Read the event information to understand how the final results will be determined and how you will be competing.   

5) Know the Flags

The only way the officials can communicate with you while you're on track is through the flags shown by corner workers. If you have done non-competition track days, you might already be familiar with these. But, if this is your first time or you haven't been on track a lot, it's a great idea to be familiar with what the different flags mean, and what to do for each one. Visit our Rules of the Track page to read about flags.   

6) Know Passing Procedures

Since Time Trials isn't wheel-to-wheel racing and only measures the drivers' times, organizers can set passing rules which fit different levels of on-track experience. Some groups may have "open passing", which means anyone can pass – or be passed – at any time. Other groups will often require a point-by – where no one can pass unless the driver in front gives a signal to allow the pass – and sometimes these points might be allowed anywhere or only on specific parts of the track. Read up on the event to figure out which is allowed and which fits your experience level. 

7) Study Videos of the Track

Thanks to the internet and video-sharing sites, modern automotive enthusiasts can now find in-car video from almost any track in existence. 

Look up and watch others' videos to learn the track layout, the driving line, and maybe even passing zones. If you're lucky, you can find videos of drivers participating in events very similar to those you'll be attending. 

8) Know the Schedule

Understanding the event's flow will allow you to make the most of your day. Make sure to read the schedule to understand any required meetings you will need to attend, where those meetings are, and how often you'll go on track. 

9) Check your Car

The most important part of an event is a safe vehicle in good condition. Of particular importance is that your tires and brakes are in good condition without any damage to the tires. Your tires should have tread that's deep enough to handle puddles in case it rains, and brake pads with enough material to last a day. A heavy car like a Camaro or Mustang might go through more than half of the brake pad material in a single event. Also, check your fluids like oil and coolant, and it's also a good idea to make sure you have fresh brake fluid. If you don't feel comfortable doing all this yourself – bring it to a qualified shop to go over for you. 

10) Pack Well

Once you go on track, you don't want to have any loose objects in there to fly around and create a dangerous situation, so you'll need to bring something to keep your track stuff safe and dry. Bring a plastic bin or have a tarp to cover your belongings if it rains. 

Photo Courtesy of Geoff Bolte of Clarus Studios