As the cold weather settles in across much of the country, some of us are already starting to get that “track itch” again. Whether you’re dreaming of warmer weather to get back behind the wheel or wanting to experience a race track for the very first time, it’s never too early to start planning for a day at the track. While no time behind the wheel at a race track is cheap, the following options are some of the least expensive ways to put some hot laps in yourself. In honor of that “track itch” here are three cheap ways to drive on a race track.
1. Drive Your Own Car
For a mere $160/day (2020 price) you can take your daily driver, weekend weapon, or track toy out on a race track. For $160, you might think you’d be treated to some of the worst race tracks around the country, but it is quite the opposite. Track Night in America comes to iconic tracks such as Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Lime Rock Park, and Road Atlanta. You might even get lucky and find an event that is trying to fill spots at a discounted rate as the event date approaches. But even without a discount, Track Night in America is about the cheapest option you can find from the start.
I should mention that there are some additional costs, should you want to take the “drive your own car” route. The $160-ish entry fee is just to get your vehicle on track. You really should also purchase track-day insurance as your normal road-going insurance is not going to cover you should anything happen on a race track. Depending on your vehicle’s value, track day insurance can cost you $100 or more.
Additionally, all tracks require a Snell rated helmet which will set you back in the range of $200 to $1000+ depending on your personal taste and the helmet quality.
Most importantly, don’t forget the inevitable wear and tear on your vehicle. Tires, brake pads, and brake rotors can all have their normal usage intervals severely cut from a track day or two. Maintenance costs can add up quickly once you get hooked on track days.
2. Drive an Exotic Car
Though the low initial cost of Track Night in America may be appealing, the added costs of track-day insurance and car maintenance may have put you off. So why not forgo all that and simply pay a bit more to drive your dream car around a track?
If the chance to drive an exotic car sounds up your alley, Xtreme Xperience is one great option for a track day experience on a budget. Much like Track Night in America, Xtreme Xperience will generally travel to a track close to your home. Whether you know it or not, odds are that you are within a 2-3 hour drive of a track unless you live in some of the more remote Northwest regions of the United States. Xtreme Xperience jumps around the country to many of these tracks giving you the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a supercar.
Some of the vehicles in Xtreme Xperience’s fleet include a Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4, McLaren 570S, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Mercedes AMG GT R, and a good old Chevrolet Corvette C8. With prices ranging from $199 to $399 depending on your vehicle of choice, you get to take 3 laps around the track in one of these dream machines. And the best part is you don’t have to worry about any of that expensive maintenance or consumables.
When taking your laps, you’ll be joined by a driving instructor from Xtreme Xperience. Often these instructors are ex-or-current IMSA drivers. If you’re thinking that a ride-along instructor isn’t going to let you get anywhere near 100 mph, you would be wrong. You can go as fast as your skills allow.
3. Drive OEM Performance Cars
A few OEM brands offer track experiences where you can pay a fee to get behind the wheel of their performance fleet. Audi, Mercedes Benz, and BMW are just a few of the brands that offer such an experience.
I personally have not participated in an Audi, Mercedes Benz, or any other OEMs track event, but I have driven at a BMW event. BMW offers a traveling track day program ironically named BMW M Track Days. While not as wide-spread as Track Night in America or Xtreme Xperience, BMW M Track Days does travel around the United States to a few well-known race tracks including Circuit of the Americas and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event also gives you a chance to drive on some exclusive country club tracks such as Monticello Motor Club and The Thermal Club.
Once upon a time, it would cost you $250, but with, I suppose, some years of track time inflation, entry now starts at $500. Of all the other OEM programs I have seen, the BMW one is still the cheapest as other events start in the range of $1000 and go up from there.
So you cough up $500 to BMW and what do you get? Well, you get to play with pretty much every car from BMW that has an M badge. I last attended in 2019, where I drove a BMW M2 as fast as I could through an autocross course, did some drag racing in a BMW M4 convertible, BMW M850i, BMW X3 M Competition, and BMW X4 M Competition, and did lead/follow laps in both the BMW M4 and the BMW M5 on the Monticello Motor Club road course. You even get to experience a ride-along with an instructor (usually an ex-or-current IMSA driver as well) shredding rubber for your entertainment for a hot lap.
Stop Dreaming And Start Driving
All-in-all, if you are willing to try something new, as these three cheap ways to drive on a race track prove, getting behind the wheel for some hot laps is not too expensive. You can take your daily driver out on track or even check off a bucket list item and take a few laps in a Ferrari or Lamborghini.
(Photos by Danny Korecki)