Monday, November 30th, 2015


Can you participate in the sport of autoracing without owning a dedicated race car?    

You bet!  And legally too!  I don’t want to even recognize street racing. Those fools give racing a bad name, endanger themselves and innocent bystanders, and drive up your and my auto insurance rates. I’m talking about legal, sanctioned events. There are two excellent venues for competitive driving in street legal cars: Autocross and Track days. 

track-day2Autocross is a great way to get started racing-on-the-cheap. Clubs hold events where pylons/cones are set up in a certain pattern and drivers run a timed slalom course, one car at a time. Courses are usually set up in large parking lots (sports stadiums, malls),  and the drivers are scored based on the fastest time with penalties given for hitting cones. Don’t let the description fool you, this is an extremely competitive type of racing, with very high caliber drivers and cars. But there are also entry to advanced level classes that run in street legal cars. Most new drivers just show up with a set of sticky race tires in the trunk, and do the prep work right there in the parking lot. SCCA holds Solo events like this all around the country.

Open track days are high performance driving events sponsored by clubs at local racetracks. NASA’s HPDE events are a perfect example. New drivers go through a track school their first day at the track. You get several hours of classroom instruction, as well as  a couple hours of driving instruction in your own street legal car, with a club instructor in the right seat. This is NOT racing, but sharing a racetrack with other experienced drivers in a safe and controlled envirionment. There are usually three levels of open track day sessions: 1-beginner, 2-intermediate, and 3-advanced. The beginner group is for drivers with instructors or those out on the track for the first time without an instructor. You must get signed off by an instructor to move up a group. There is usually no passing in group 1, passing only on the straightaways in group 2, and open passing in group 3.  Some clubs have another group called Time Trials, where drivers are competing for fast lap times, but not racing against eachother on the track. Open track days usually cost $100-$200 per day, and you will see everything from college students with their daily driven Honda Civics, to doctors driving their Ferraris.  Cars must pass a basic safety inspection, but rollcages and fire systems are not required. Drivers must wear helmets, but fire suits are not required. This is a great introduction to racing-on-the-cheap!


  1. Terrence Lam says:

    I was some what interested in this article. I have an sports car. An Mitsubishi Lancer 2002 OZ Rally. But used it daily as an driver. I only made a few upgrades like air filter, crank pulley, and engine tune-up maintenance. I was wondering where is the nearest local street legal track where I can practice racing my car. I’m trying to drive with my new parts and to see if I can get better use to the sports car. If you know the nearest street legal track around the San Francisco Bay Area can you give me the information. I would drive as much as 20 to 30 miles to find an track. But I’m trying to see if I can find the place that I can drive with beginner to medium experienced drivers. Also I’m wanting to see if I can see if its mixed import to American muscle cars. I don’t want to an all American or all Japanese street legal track. But where ever is close I would feel comfortable going to the track and checkout. If its possible can you tell me the closest track around San Francisco. From Terrence.

  2. Troy says:

    Hi Terrence, to actually go roadracing at a racetrack you need a rollcage and fire system, but there are several other ways to get some track time in a street legal sportscar. Track-days are a favorite with many drivers, as are autocross competitions (aka solo racing). Time Attack or Time Trials are another option. There are four wonderful roadrace tracks within a couple hours drive of the San Francisco Bay area – Sonoma Raceway (1 hr north), Thunderhill (3 hrs north), Laguna Seca (2 hrs south), and Buttonwillow (4 hrs south). You can do track days at these tracks with Hooked On Driving, Track Masters, and NASA. There are also a couple SF Bay area autocross organizations that use airports or large commercial parking lots to set up their courses, the SFR and Sacramento SCCA goups and AAS regularly hold events. There are links to most of these tracks and groups on my website. Best of Luck, Troy

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