If you're a true petrolhead, or you enjoy motorsport in any form, there's a good chance you've considered doing a track day. I did my first one last week at Miller Motorsport Park here in Utah. The format was a beginner's introduction to track days where we had a classroom session, a bus tour of the circuit for corner familiarisation and then a bunch of laps in formation behind a pace driver.
Once we got into the actual driving part of it, I was OK but when we were in the chute waiting to join the track for the first time, I could feel my vastly increased heartrate in my jugular as it was pushing against my helmet strap.
The idea was simple - you get two laps as the car immediately following the pace car, then you pull over and join the end of the queue allowing someone else to have a go at the front. The pace driver adjusts his pace depending on how well (or badly) you're doing at keeping up with him. The cars we used were modified Ford Mustang GTs with Brembo brake conversions, sports suspension, short-shift gearboxes, roll cages, bucket seats with 5 point race harnesses and remapped throttle response and engine mapping. At the end of the procession laps, we came in and took a passenger ride with the pace driver to illustrate to us just how fast the cars really could go. That was a little demoralising because we'd been under the impression that we were doing pretty well. He ripped 15 seconds off our lap times. Either way, I didn't care. The experience of driving a race-prepped car on a race track was exhilarating. The weather was perfect and racing with the windows down meant we got the full experience of all the smells and sounds, from whining brakes to roaring engine.
One other thing: for sure playing serious racing videogames helps - I was able to remember the track and pick my lines and braking points within 2 laps because of experience playing racing games. The other interesting side effect? When I got home and played the game again, I was able to take 2 to 5 seconds off all my previous lap times.
Now I have to decide whether to go the next step and do a full day Ford Racing school....
The author, with number 22 at Miller Motorsports Park: