In Part I, we talked about what your first investment in high performance—yourself. Specifically, we addressed ways to improve your performance driving skills and ways to participate in performance driving events. In this second part, we’ll address some of the FAQs we get regarding participating in these kinds of performance driving opportunities.
Aren’t you afraid of wrecking?
When I did my first SCCA PDX, the first thing my instructor asked me when we got in the car was what were my main goals for the day? My answer: First and foremost, my #1 goal—do no harm whatsoever to my car or myself. Secondly, improve my driving skills. Thirdly, have a really good time. In the five 20-minute Novice track sessions I completed at that first PDX, I accomplished all 3 goals. With the instructor right beside me, constantly providing direction and feedback, and with passes in Novice sessions only allowed by point-bys, I felt as though my risk for wrecking was very low. Of course, if you choose to move up into the Intermediate and Advanced levels, where you don’t have an instructor, that risk goes up. So to a large degree, you control the risk based on your smoothness, consistency, alertness and how far you choose to push it. Other driving experiences such as those offered through NASA, Clubs or local track events will be similarly managed and have similar risks to the SCCA driving experience.
Will my insurance cover performance driving on a track?
Supposedly, most insurance companies do cover beginners’ level performance driving “experiences”. If you decide to move onto intermediate and advanced levels and become a regular at the track, your standard auto policy probably will not cover you. Check with your agent and ask for the list of current “exclusions” from the actual policy (do this even if your agent says “No,” because agents aren’t always right). If you find you are not covered, there are companies, such as LocktonMotorsports.com, that sell track day and multi-event policies. Check the event registration websites for links to track insurance providers. While not inexpensive coverage (figure $280 +/- for one-day policy), it might be worth it for peace of mind. If you’re doing a road course novice event with and instructor, you probably don’t need the special track insurance. For Test ‘N Tune or Midnight Madness type drag strip events (especially if you’re running an 11 second or over ¼ mile car and so don’t have to have a roll cage), almost nobody gets track insurance.
How much does it tear up your car?
High performance cars are built for performance driving, and so are generally designed to handle the rigors of high performance driving. That said, performance driving on a track will certainly consume tires and brakes much more quickly than normal street driving. For 2 or 3 driving experiences a year, sacrificing a few thousand extra miles off tires and brakes due to the accelerated wear is definitely worth the great time you’ll have. If you plan on tracking your car more than 3 times per year, plan on budgeting hundreds—maybe even thousands—of dollars annually on tires, brakes and perhaps other parts. Still not a bad deal for the good times you have participating in high performance driving experiences.
Does participating in a high performance track driving event affect my warranty?
Unfortunately, this is a bit of a gray area. Generally speaking, your warranty covers your car except for “abuse.” In our minds, it would be hard for a manufacturer or a dealer to argue that participating in performance driving events with a high performance car constitutes abuse. Except for the obvious consumables such as brakes and tires (not covered for wear under warranty anyway), we would argue that your high performance car warranty should still be honored. Nevertheless, results can vary. We’ve heard of dealers rejecting warranty coverage due to “perceived” abuse, only to come back later and honor it after persistent arguing from an owner. We’ve also heard of manufacturers using VINs or license plates collected from event participants as justification for denying coverage. Whether that’s legal or not is a good question, but figure that warranty claims may require your determined persuasion and time if a dealer thinks damage resulted from abuse. The good news is–smart dealers want to keep you as a customer (after all, margins are generally higher on high performance cars), so most will go to bat for you.