This article was produced in partnership with Lexus.
Unlike public roads, race tracks let you unleash your car’s full potential. They’re sanctuaries of speed where you can push yourself and your whip to the limit.
If you’re lucky enough to own a 2022 Lexus IS 500, a closed circuit is the perfect place to responsibly indulge your lust for speed and engage all 472 horsepower its naturally aspirated V8 cranks out.
If you’re the kind of driver who enjoys some serious velocity, but hasn’t had the opportunity to hit the track, there’s no time like the present. But what can you expect your first time out?
“To have an amazing experience,” says Carrie Delos Santos, track operations manager at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca (one of our favorite tracks in the country.) “It might be a little overwhelming at first, but can quickly become addictive!”
Courses and track experiences make the best entrée into the race track scene. There are numerous operators around the country that provide instruction at all levels, but when choosing one there are several factors you’ll want to consider including class size, session activity, and the kind of vehicle you’ll be driving.
“Programs like Allen Berg, Skip Barber Racing Schools, and Lexus and AMG Performance Driving Schools offer a wide range of experiences,” says Santos. Depending on the program a student selects, they can acquire techniques applicable to both race and street driving.
While we think taking a course for your first time out is absolutely the way to go, you can find a public track day and bring your own car. If you do choose to track your whip, remember many insurance policies don’t cover racing, so you’ll want to check with them first.
“Program vehicles are a safe bet for a beginner,” Santos says. “Talk to your insurance company. Nothing breaks a heart like crashing your own ride home.”
Any car you take to the track should be reliable and in tip-top shape. As you’d imagine, you should refrain from bringing a car with any mechanical problems.
“Make sure all vehicle safety systems—ABS, vehicle dynamic traction controls, SRS, safety belts—are in good working order,” says Santos. “Check to ensure there aren’t any fluid leaks and there’s proper tire condition and pressure.”
Just like the pros, you want to have the best car possible under you. If your whip has any exhaust modifications, take note of any track-specific sound limits.
Nearly all tracks have a helmet requirement, so pick one up before your track day. Make sure it’s comfortable but not too loose. Opt for one that’s Snell Memorial Foundation certified.
With an eye toward safety, first-time racers definitely want to arrive early and get a good seat at the drivers’ meeting. There, you’ll get the lay of the land including rules, regulations, a flag demonstration, and procedures that participants need to know to make sure everyone stays safe and has a good time.
“Let rental organizers or track staff know of any physical disability that might necessitate assistance in getting out of the vehicle in the event of an on-course incident,” says Santos. And, of course, “make sure you stay hydrated.”
On your first track day, have realistic expectations. You aren’t Lewis Hamilton…yet.
“Beginners will usually be assigned to a novice run group, so experience levels and speeds don’t vary too widely within a session,” says Santos. “Advance at your own pace. Learning good techniques will lead to better lap times. As with any new skill, practice makes perfect.
Still have a need for speed? Don’t miss our full review test driving the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance, get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the License to Thrill documentary (and head to Lexus.com to watch the IS 500 in action in the full 6-minute video), and read our Q&A with IndyCar Driver JR Hildebrand.
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