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Beginner Track Day: Some Questions

SD-GTI

New member
Location
San Diego, CA
Car(s)
2020 GTI, 2019 M2C
Background: Very limited HPDE experience (2 days) and a bit of very casual autocross over the last 20 years in various cars (Saturn SC1, E46 BMW, E90 BMW). Just got a 2020 GTI which is also my daily driver. Finally able to justify a little more money on this hobby and delving further... I'd consider myself a rank beginner, but anticipate a fast learning curve?

I plan to track the car about 4 times per year, give or take. I'm in San Diego, so Chuckwalla, Streets of Willow, Buttonwillow are the most likely venues.

Setup: APR stage 1 tune, Bilstein B14 coilovers, rear sway bar, EBC red stuff pads and high temp fluid on stock brakes. Just purchased a set of dedicated track wheels with Nitto NT01's. I normally drive on PS4S's, but these have never held up well for me on track days so I decided to bite the bullet and get a dedicated set, hoping to save money long term.

1. ESC/Traction Control: should I turn this off or leave it on? I've seen recommendations for both.

2. Tires. Would I be better served driving a less advanced tire for my first 1-2 sessions? I still have my OEM wheels w/ all-season tires, which I am trying to sell since they are like new. I could theoretically thrash these tires, or just go straight to the Nittos. I also have my DD wheels with the PS4S's, but I don't really want to trash those! My immediate goal is to work on my basic driving skills, and have fun.

3. Suspension. Coilovers are currently set to a 1" drop below stock level, which I like for daily driving and appearance. Is this worth messing with on track days, at this early stage? I suspect I should just leave it be, and then with experience I might want to play with the settings.

4. Brakes. I've sorta tapped out my budget for the next year at least, but do you think it's likely I will need to jump to bigger brakes in the future? I made sure to get wheels that will fit a BBK, so at this point I am just preparing myself for future expenses. I don't intend to make any more power upgrades since I'm in CA (emission issues) and I use this car to shuttle my kids around (I don't want to be obnoxiously loud).

Thanks for any input, suggestions, commentary etc. you might have!
 

SD-GTI

New member
Location
San Diego, CA
Car(s)
2020 GTI, 2019 M2C
LOL, as I posted this topic I just remembered that I entered my M2 Competition under my profile name. It is true I also have an M2, which seems like a good track car. It's my wife's vehicle, and she might love it more than she does me. The original agreement was that I would be allowed to take it to the track occasionally. A friend of ours recently wrecked his M3 and she got wet feet. So there is the story how I ended up with a GTI and just a little flexibility when it comes to these modifications!
 

tpellegr

Go Kart Champion
Location
Boston, MA
Car(s)
2016 GTI S 6MT
Hello and welcome to the addiction. Have fun and be safe out there! A couple notes below to get you started.

1. ESC/Traction Control: should I turn this off or leave it on? I've seen recommendations for both.
When I am personally learning a new track, I leave ESC on for the first few sessions or until I have a good understanding of where it will typically interfere. In general, I've found that running with ESC off can save 1-2 seconds per minute of lap time.

2. Tires. Would I be better served driving a less advanced tire for my first 1-2 sessions? I still have my OEM wheels w/ all-season tires, which I am trying to sell since they are like new. I could theoretically thrash these tires, or just go straight to the Nittos. I also have my DD wheels with the PS4S's, but I don't really want to trash those! My immediate goal is to work on my basic driving skills, and have fun.
As a beginner, I wouldn't run anything below 200 tw tire for your first season or two. Street tires are much more communicative and progressive at the limit than a slick or semi-slick.

3. Suspension. Coilovers are currently set to a 1" drop below stock level, which I like for daily driving and appearance. Is this worth messing with on track days, at this early stage? I suspect I should just leave it be, and then with experience I might want to play with the settings.
I would leave your suspension as is and put in a few track days before making any adjustments. As long as your not rubbing or bottoming out aggressively you should be good to go.

4. Brakes. I've sorta tapped out my budget for the next year at least, but do you think it's likely I will need to jump to bigger brakes in the future? I made sure to get wheels that will fit a BBK, so at this point I am just preparing myself for future expenses. I don't intend to make any more power upgrades since I'm in CA (emission issues) and I use this car to shuttle my kids around (I don't want to be obnoxiously loud).
IMO at stage 1 you should be perfectly fine with a decent set of pads (or even stock pads) and higher temp fluid (especially running just 4 days a year and dual purposing the car). Just make sure you are not running 20 hotlaps in a row during your sessions. Probably a good idea to follow up one or two fast laps with one or two laps where you are thinking more about the racing line and letting the brakes cool a bit.
 

SD-GTI

New member
Location
San Diego, CA
Car(s)
2020 GTI, 2019 M2C
That is excellent advice, I like the idea of running a couple of fast laps, followed by a lap where I slow down a bit and concentrate on the right line and braking points, etc. If I can get away with my stock brakes, that would be great.

So you would recommend just sitting on the new wheels and NT01's for the next year? That is going to take some real will power!! I probably jumped the gun by buying those.
 

ShagginGSW

Go Kart Newbie
Location
MD
Better brake fluid is a must to make it doesn't boil on track. Besides that leave everything else stock, and concentrate on learning the track/line/car before trying to set any fast laps. The speed naturally picks up as you learn those three things.
 

kep

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Boston
Car(s)
Mk7 Golf R, NA Miata
If you already have the NT01s you may as well use them, but it is harder to learn how the car behaves at the limit on tires such as those. Personally, I think stock pads have no place on the track and you should be running at least something like DS2500 or StochTech 309 pads. High temp fluid is a must. As long as your GTI has the PP brakes (which I think all of the 2020s do), your calipers and rotors are fine. You will hinder your learning if you're constantly worried about smoking your brakes on track.
 

R Golf

Go Kart Champion
Location
Lenox, MA
If you already have the NT01s you may as well use them, but it is harder to learn how the car behaves at the limit on tires such as those. Personally, I think stock pads have no place on the track and you should be running at least something like DS2500 or StochTech 309 pads. High temp fluid is a must. As long as your GTI has the PP brakes (which I think all of the 2020s do), your calipers and rotors are fine. You will hinder your learning if you're constantly worried about smoking your brakes on track.
I agree on swapping out the stock pads. Good high temp fluid (motul 660 or even better Castrol SRF) and DS2500s will take you pretty far before needing to upgrade to an even higher temp pad.
I've been running for years in advanced groups with stock rotors and calipers but excellent pads and fluid. I use FERODO DS3.12s with SRF, but the 3.12s are not necessary the first couple of years.
 

bobivy1234

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Greensboro, NC USA
Car(s)
2016 VW Golf GTI
For stock PP brakes, here's a list of simple things to do that will help with your track day:
  1. Remove the GTI badge on the front calipers, it pulls out easily and traps heat in there otherwise
  2. Remove the heat shield behind the rotor if you can get back there before the track day, trimmed is ideal to protect ABS+ball joints while allowing more cool air
  3. Get RS3 plastic air deflectors to install on the lower control arms to move more air into the rotors
  4. Better pads on the front like DS2500s are great for your first 10 track days (buy from FCPEuro for lifetime warranty)
  5. Rears you can leave stock pads for now
  6. Better brake fluid is a must, I've used ATE200 and has been great
  7. Stainless steel lines are always good to have versus the rubber stock although some will debate this one
  8. Titanium shims on the front rotors are probably overkill but I've used them with good success, some say that traps heat the wrong direction and glazes the pads
  9. Bleed your brakes before you go ideally with a power bleeder to get air out of the lines
  10. Do a bunch of OBD11 tweaks like turning off straight brake stabilization, hydraulic brake boost, remove torque limitations, etc.
Met a guy at my last track event with a GTI that was proud that he literally melted the paint off his PP rotors due to the heat and turned them black, that's not a good thing.
 
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