For the fun of it: Taking to the track with a daily driver

Image by Jessica Isley

For the fun of it: Taking to the track with a daily driver

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

For the fun of it: Taking to the track with a daily driver


Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack and Regional SCCA Track Events lack class rules – and that rules! That’s not to say there aren’t any rules, because safety is always job one; but when it comes to car classifications and modification allowances, the sky’s the limit. Want to track test your daily driver? No problem! Want to modify your car? Go for it! Ultimately, SCCA’s Track Events offer the freedom to do as little or as much as you want to your car so you can focus on the fun.

Track Events can serve other purposes, too. For one, they’re super affordable ways to scout tracks you haven’t previously visited as a racer. We’ve also seen drivers use SCCA Track Event entries to thank dedicated crewmembers and volunteers, allowing them an easy path to driving on track.

But for us, it scratched a nostalgic itch. You see, our multi-time National Championship Runoffs-winning Toyota Yaris racecar retired shortly after it won the 2018 H Production National Championship at Sonoma Raceway, and we haven’t run a Yaris on the racetrack since. We do, however, commute in one. And, really, if you can run an SCCA Track Event or Track Night in America event in a base model 2009 Toyota Yaris sedan commuter, you can run one in anything. Look, we’ll prove it…

Step 1: Oil

Wanting to maintain a modest level of street comfort, we opted not to go wild with the track prep. Instead, we focused on handling upgrades plus a few items to ensure consistency.

We’re bold enough to admit that when it comes to our daily driver, we often go with whatever motor oil is on sale. But with our eyes set on the track, we needed something better. At the same time, we knew a full race oil wasn’t the right choice for a number of reasons, so we turned to Red Line Synthetic Oil for the answer.

“Red Line Race Oils are specifically designed with additional anti-wear, ZDDP, for rigors of high speed, heat, and total abuse on the track. It is, however, not recommended for street use due to its higher levels of ZDDP and lower levels of dispersants and detergents,” explains Kyle Neal, Director of Business Development at Red Line Synthetic Oil. But to that end, Red Line has an answer: “Red Line High Performance Series is a product specially designed to work in both street and racing conditions,” Neal says. “It contains detergents and dispersants for extended drain intervals, with sufficient anti-wear protection for both high lift and flat tappet cams and lifters.”

Image by Jessica Isley

What sets Red Line High Performance apart from other motor oils for your road-going car is the base stock. “Red Line continues to only use PAO/ester-based oil versus hydro-treated, hydro-cracked mineral oils, or Group III base oils,” Neal notes. “This base oil is primarily used to reduce cost, but also requires more additives to perform similar to a PAO/ester base oil. Red Line still believes you start with the best and make it better – that is why our High-Performance Series still uses PAO/ester base oils throughout the entire series.”

For our project, we utilized Red Line’s High Performance 5W30, then swapped the factory manual transmission fluid with Red Line MTL GL-4 gear oil.

Step 2: Brakes

A big part in a trouble-free track experience is having reliable brakes, but what works for sprint or endurance racing isn’t necessarily the go-to option for Track Events. “If you’re going on the OEM tires, and assuming you’re on [at least] a good summer performance 300 treadwear tire, a good semi-metallic pad will suffice,” says Edwin Mangune of Hawk Performance. “But it really depends on the vehicle. On a small, lightweight four-cylinder car, they will work well for a while — until the driver starts going faster.”

As your experience and comfort level on the track grows, you may find the need for further brake pad upgrades. “I just had this experience with a friend who bought a Civic Type R,” Mangune tells us. “He was on the OEM pads, which held up on his first track day event, and then at this second event at the same track he started to experience brake fade. Not enough to kill his track day, but enough to where the pedal was soft, and he had to back off. We went to the Hawk Performance HPS 5.0 and he had zero problems.”

Similarly, as you begin to modify your car in an attempt to achieve quicker lap times, you’ll put more demand on the brakes, which may necessitate a pad change. “My friend then went up to a 200 treadwear tire on his Type R, and then he started overheating the HPS 5.0,” says Mangune. “The stickier, grippier tires allow him to corner harder, accelerate harder, and get on the brakes harder. So, then we went to the Hawk HP+ on the front with HPS 5.0 on the rear, and so far, he loves it.”

The lower temperature range performance pads make a great choice for SCCA Track Events because they don’t require a lot of heat to work effectively, which also makes them a reasonable choice for your commute, too. “The HP+ is our entry-level race pad, but it’s gentle enough on the rotors that it can be used on the street on a daily basis,” says Mangune. “What’s important is it comes on strong when the pad is stone cold – you have immediate stopping power, where as a race pad has to be warmed up for it to work.”

As is the case with any brake change, proper prep is essential for ideal results, and that includes both the bedding of the pads and rotor prep during the pad change. “Sand the rotor with 80-100-grit sandpaper,” Mangune explains. “It’s quick – it’s not like you’re trying to remove paint off the fender. Then start the bed-in process. With any of our pads, we want to slowly get them up to operating temperature and then get that pad transfer layer on to the rotor.

While you’re working on the brakes, don’t ignore the fluid. The fluid on our 2009 model car hadn’t been flushed on a regular basis. For this, utilize a brake fluid with a high dry boiling point.

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