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High Performance Driving Events: Useful Tips and What To Expect for First Timers & Novices

High performance cars on track

You just picked up a nice sports car—like a Porsche 718 or Porsche 911—to bomb around town in. Your gearhead friends egg you on to take it for some laps around the local circuit in order to experience what your new ride is truly capable of.

The prospect of doing that is definitely a good one, and it’s also a sign that you chose the right people to surround yourself with. But it quickly dawns on you that you don’t even know how to get started, or really, what to expect. Your friends offer some insights, but you still feel anxious about the unknown.

Are you now thinking about attending your first High Performance Driving Event (abbreviated as ‘HPDE’, and often referred to as a “lapping day”) at a race track? If so, this article was written just for you.

Two Hondas racing around a track
You don’t need to drive a “race car” at a race track. Any suitably prepped production vehicle will do.

This can feel like an intimidating endeavor for first timers or novices. Rest assured that this is a normal response—after all, a lot of variables are at play, all of which can create doubts in our minds. You might think to yourself:

“My car isn’t fast or reliable enough to go to a race track.”

“Everyone else will be more experienced and I don’t know how to get prepared.”

“Are these events safe? I don’t want to wreck my car or cause an accident.”

These are just some of the most common reservations that newcomers and less experienced lappers have about heading out to the race track.

Don’t worry—you don’t have to be ready to drive your Porsche at Le Mans just yet. To help overcome these objections, here are some tips to help you prepare for an HPDE and feel confident about (and in control of) how your time there will unfold.

5 Things to Know Before You Go

Ensure Your Vehicle Is Safe and Track-Worthy

This means brake pads, all fluids, tires, etc. are in an acceptable state to withstand the rigors of high performance driving for at least the duration of the event. Some events will require a licensed mechanic to sign off on an inspection form, while others will simply trust that you have things in order. Explore our Porsche maintenance articles to learn more.

Mechanic inspecting performance car before driving event
Safety is the top priority at all HPDEs, and this begins with a properly maintained vehicle.

Choose Your Event Carefully

Sign up for an HPDE that is run by a reputable event organizer with a strong safety record—and one which also provides personal instructors. If you’re unsure where to find one, your local performance shops or automotive clubs should be able to direct you to the right people.

Instructor before start of high performance driving event
Registration and communication is usually done through an online portal, like

Study the Track

Once you’re registered, start studying the racetrack as best you can. If you’re attending an event at an established facility, there should already be plenty of resources online (track maps, Youtube videos, etc).

Make yourself familiar with the event rules provided by the organizer beforehand. This includes everything from check-in procedures to passing protocol, flagging systems, pit speeds, disciplinary codes, and general facility requirements. Following these rules is essential in determining how smoothly your day goes, from the moment you enter the facility to the time you leave—so take them very seriously.

Map of track for high performance driving event with notes
HPDEs are meant to be a lot of fun, but being prepared and on top of things is paramount in ensuring that this is the case.

Use the Right Tech in Your Vehicle

Purchase and install lap-timing equipment and if possible, video recording equipment as well. I highly recommend a Garmin Catalyst as an all-in-one solution.

I would like to stress that these are to be used strictly as educational tools and not to “show off” to other drivers. Analyzing video and data can be an essential component in improving your skills, especially when other drivers are also sharing theirs and providing benchmarks.

Video data taken from high performance driving event
Setting up and using some of these systems can prove to be a little bit tricky, but there are plenty of online resources to guide you.

Prepare for Your Event

Come to your HPDE prepared, both physically and mentally. Many events start early in the morning and can go on until the late afternoon or early evening. Get lots of sleep the night before, bring enough hydration to last throughout the day, and pack a lunch if not already provided at the event.

Don’t forget your lawn chair, sunscreen, and anything else that would keep you comfortable and prevent fatigue. Remember to bring any tools you might need, too—oh, and a certified helmet if you’ve got one (if not, the facility should provide rentals and can also clarify certification requirements).

High performance Honda car with equipment for driving event gathered near trunk
Everything you need to bring might not fit in the car you’re travelling with. Make arrangements beforehand to see if others heading to the event can help out.

5 Things to Do While You’re There

Arrive Early & Set Up

Remove all items from your car that don’t need to stay in there (tools, tire gauges, lawn chairs, etc.) while you’re in the pits, and set up your basecamp. Sometimes this space is shared with friends and other participants. Swap your wheels, top up your fluids, adjust your tire pressures, etc., if you need to.

Participants preparing for high performance driving event
You won’t be driving on the track for the entire duration of the event, so staying comfortable in between sessions is important.

Attend the Driver’s Meeting Led by the Event/Facility Chief Instructor

This is typically mandatory, and often includes a classroom element—which revisits the event rules you should have studied the day prior. This would be a great time to ask questions regarding anything you are still unsure about.

By now, your one-on-one instructor may also have introduced him or herself to you—if not, make sure you know where to find this person!

Driver's meeting before high performance driving event
Most facility chief instructors have professional racing experience. Leverage their unique expertise to accelerate your own progress as a driver.

Bring an “Elite” (and NOT “Elitist”) Mentality

This could be a whole article on its own, but in short, leave the ego at home. Have that conversation with your instructor, who will help keep you on track, figuratively and literally. You’ll be reminded that today, “winning” means finishing the day as a better driver than when you first showed up, not about going faster than other participants.

Instructor talking to driver during high performance driving event
Your personal instructor is there to provide tailored advice based on your current experience level. He/she will ride-along with you on the track and have a first-hand view of what you’re doing right and wrong.

Trust the Process

Today is about learning new things, regardless of the caliber of car you’re driving. Be receptive to the advice your instructor provides during ride-alongs. Don’t be a stranger; strike up a conversation with other drivers, too—a simple tip can lead to epiphanies on and off the track.

Drive within your car’s limits (as well as your own) during the day, as chances are you’ll be driving that very same car to get back home—don’t do anything to jeopardize that! Remember that this is NOT a competitive environment; it’s meant to be an educational one.

Find performance data for your Porsche here.

High performance Porsche car on track during event
You’re not going to be as fast as you could potentially be after just a few practice laps. Be patient with yourself while staying mindful of the process to improve.

Treat High Performance Driving Like a Science

With the support of all the aides at your disposal—instructors, your lap timer, video, experienced drivers, etc.—create a sequence of goals and objectives that are easy to visualize as you progress throughout the day. This can be anything from incrementally improving your pace (lap times) in each session, to more specific things like braking a little deeper into a turn or hitting a higher top speed on the long straight.

This should all be done progressively as the event goes later into the day; the more laps you’ve turned around the course, the more your confidence and knowledge will grow.

Information for high performance driving event displayed on Garmin device
Even if it’s your first time out, it’s never too early to get into a technical approach of high performance driving. Your instructor can help facilitate this.

5 Things to Remember As You’re Leaving

Say Thank You

Don’t forget to thank the event organizers, instructors, helpers and facility staff who did an awesome job ensuring that your safety and enjoyment at the racetrack were at the top of mind. Some of the marshals have been standing in the hot sun all day, while organizers are running around all day making sure things go smoothly.

If there were any spin offs,  fluids leaks, or worse, that day, they were also there clearing off the aftermath. It can be a tough job.

Event organizers after high performance driving event
You’ll quickly recognize that HPDEs are all about the people, and that this is what makes them so rewarding.

Clean up After Yourself

Your basecamp should be tidily packed up, with no signs that you were there (no garbage, spilled fluids, etc.). There’s a good chance you’ll run with the same group again in the future, so don’t do anything that could tarnish the relationship between them, the facility, or yourself.

Don’t forget to gather all your tools and equipment, as they may have been scattered (i.e. borrowed by others) during the day.

Vehicles on track after high performance driving event
Showing care to the facilities we race at is not only good for the race track itself, but also for the surrounding community. Neighbors should be just as happy about having one in their backyard as you are driving on it.

Make Sure Your Car is Ready to Hit the Road

If you’ve been adjusting tire pressures throughout the day (in some instances, lowering them well below OEM specs), make sure you borrow or bring an air compressor so that you can top back up before the drive home. If you’ve towed your car, go through the necessary checks to ensure everything is mounted up safely and securely.

Trailer for high performance vehicles after driving event
While I don’t at all recommend using a Honda Fit for towing a trailer, this picture was too good to pass up.

Drive Home Safe

Full-day events often run from 8 am to 5 pm, so by the end your body might be fatigued and your brain could still be in race track mode. Remind yourself that there are speed limits on public roads, and that they will probably feel extremely slow to you while you continue to adjust from the high-tempo nature of the event.

Enjoy a nice and chill ride home, turn on your favorite tunes, and crank the A/C if it’s hot out. Grabbing dinner on the way with the new friends you’ve made at the event isn’t a bad idea either.

Group of drivers outside Motorsport Circuit building after high performance driving event
You’ve enjoyed your time at the race track. Now it’s time to get home safely. Don’t be that guy/girl that gets a speeding ticket right after the event.

Start Planning for Your Next HPDE

You’re going to do this again, right? By now, you should already have a strong sense of accomplishment and a sense that you’ve graduated to a new level. This is what makes these events so rewarding after all, while also encouraging repeat customers.

Motorsport custodians always love to see more familiar faces at the race track, as it’s a sign the sport is growing. That being said, as a novice, you’ve purposely left plenty of room on the table for further improvement—opportunities to progress at the next event, and the ones after that, can be just as fruitful of an experience. You just have to keep coming back!

Porsche ahead of other cars on track during high performance driving event
The journey has just begun and it’s up to you to take it as far as you want it to go.