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A track day is an organised event in which non-members are allowed to drive or ride around established motor racing circuits, or alternatively (though far less common) on closed or disused airfields. Most race tracks around the world now provide this facility, where a road legal or track prepared car or motorcycle can be used without speed restriction (as if racing, though the practice of actual racing is almost exclusively forbidden at these events) by members of the public. Criteria for being eligible to participate is usually the holding of a driving licence for the vehicle in question or the appropriate racing license for the event can also be used and the payment of a fee.
There are varying formats for the proceedings, but they usually consist of two or three groups loosely corresponding to an individuals level of experience and/or how quick they are, (e.g. Novice/Intermediate/Advanced or Beginner/Experienced). One group at a time will then take to the track in order that the majority on track at any given time are traveling at similar speed, and there is usually time for a varying number of these sessions throughout the event. Usually, participants use their own vehicles, however a growing number of tracks and organizers can provide hire vehicles if required, while quite often, extra facilities such as instructor guidance, tyre sales and advice and even suspension sales and set-up are available.
Track days are also often held in the guise of racing schools where the emphasis is on nurturing the finer skills of machine control and race craft, often under the tutelage of experienced former racers. Whatever the interpretation, primarily track days are all about having fun, whether motorbike or car, the emphasis is on enjoyment in a controlled and suitable environment.
As the performance of vehicles (especially in relation to motorcycles) increases, the track day can prove an invaluable means of improving the skills necessary to properly control these machines at or nearing their full potential in relative safety. It is a common feedback from track day enthusiasts that it helps them define the massive distinction between road and track riding/driving styles and as a result, through improved skill levels and attitudes, can have a positive effect on their road safety.
Open pit lane events
As riders and drivers become more secure with their abilities and the track environment they can progress to "Open-Pit Lane" events (more common with car track days rather than bike days). These events dispense with the groups format and participants have unlimited access to the circuit throughout the event. This is usually controlled by an organiser by populating the event with fewer participants, albeit usually at a higher price, with instructor guidance facilities usually available.
Track day marshals will use a number of different colour flags to alert drivers and riders of potential dangers and penalties throughout the day, with each colour or combination of colours meaning something different:
- Yellow - A yellow flag means there's some sort of danger or hazard ahead, so take extra caution and be extra vigilant, do not overtake whilst under a yellow flag.
- Red - A red flag means that there has been a serious incident and that the track day session has been stopped. Under a red flag, you will need to slow down and return to the pits, or as directed, without overtaking.
- Yellow & Red - A red and yellow striped flag means that there is some sort of debris on the track, or that grip is poor, so take extra caution.
- Blue - A blue flag means that another vehicle wants to overtake you, so take caution and let them pass you when safe.
- Black - A black flag means one of two things, either the marshals have spotted a problem with your vehicle, e.g. smoke or oil, or that your behaviour on track is too aggressive and you're deemed to be a danger to yourself and or other vehicles on track. If you are black flagged, you will need to slow down and return to the pits immediately.