How dangerous/safe are track days and autocross? Are there any stats?

udihamudi65

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Hi everyone,
I recently had my first track day and it was really fun. Scary at first I admit but as the laps accumulated I felt more confident and at the end it was a very nice experience. I would very much want to do it again but then it hit me, cars driving fast together, near the edge of their capabilities, things can happen. And I have kids, It's not only a risk for me. Of course there are plenty of anecdotal experiences but they don't necessarily represent the full reality of things. I tried looking for accident or injury statistics to try and make a more sensible decision, but couldn't find any. Of course armature race tracking is less dangerous than competitive race driving such as NASCAR. But how does it compare to say driving on a regular road? Are there any stats on this issue?

 

AlphaDigital

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Hi everyone,
I recently had my first track day and it was really fun. Scary at first I admit but as the laps accumulated I felt more confident and at the end it was a very nice experience. I would very much want to do it again but then it hit me, cars driving fast together, near the edge of their capabilities, things can happen. And I have kids, It's not only a risk for me. Of course there are plenty of anecdotal experiences but they don't necessarily represent the full reality of things. I tried looking for accident or injury statistics to try and make a more sensible decision, but couldn't find any. Of course armature race tracking is less dangerous than competitive race driving such as NASCAR. But how does it compare to say driving on a regular road? Are there any stats on this issue?
I dont know about stats and im no expert so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but in most cases I would feel better about driving in a controlled environment with a bunch of people who are there for the same reason as I am, to have fun and learn.

I think the dangerousness of the event kind of depends on the event itself and the class youre in.

In many cases, novice classes are well run by instructors with participants that are just as scared as you are when it comes to crashing into anything. I would feel better about this than driving down a busy highway in rush hour with a bunch of assclowns on their phones trying to get home to make dinner.

For competitive events like Gridlife where its a time attack series, I think the risk increases with whatever class youre in, but its counterbalanced by the fact that a lot of these guys are also very experienced. You can count on the fact that theyre great drivers, respected, and experienced and less likely to crash, but when they do crash it can be pretty catastrophic because I Feel like theyre at the limit.

At the end of the day, you can really only be responsible for yourself, if someone else is going to hit you its going to happen, but its the inherent risk you run regardless of whether or not youre at the track or on a regular road. For everything else, theres track day insurance/regular insurance.


For autocross, I have yet to see anyone crash into someone else. The only incidents ive seen are people who are reckless and crashing into poles or other obstacles but never a person or another car. I think youre pretty safe in this type of event.
 

SlowAP2

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You wont find any stats really on this. Just stay within your limits at track events and mind your surroundings and you should be fine. Mechanical failures happen and cannot be avoided. I had a car on car contact in a TT event when my hoosiers corded mid session and whiped the car hard under braking while someone was passing. Other driver didn't care and we moved on from it.

Buy track insurance if you are that worried and run with clubs that have great insurance coverage for participants (SCCA/NASA). I've seen guys in the race groups airlifted at events. Most HPDE incidents are too slow to really cause people much harm but again, roll bar, seat, harness, head restraint are also a great idea for safety at any level.

I've seen car on person and car on car at autox on top of multiple car on object (done this one too). saw a video 2-3 weeks ago of a car on car through a poorly placed/timed crossover. Shit can happen anywhere. Just be mindful of the course and the layouts. If you see something you dont feel safe about, bring it to a safety stewart or the event chair and it should be addressed or give a solid reason to why it is that way.
 

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Drive at a level you're comfortable with(6/10ths), fast but not Fast. Most tracks you can do 50ish mph thru corners. then practice braking, L/R turn-in, and power out at that level. When you can do that SMOOTHLY, then begin stepping up the pace. My first time on track was scary, the Corkscrew is no joke. So I took my time and worked on the previously mentioned stuff. I am looking forward to tracking my FC1, but it's been a while since I've tracked anything so I'll take it easy to start just like I did many, many moons ago.
 

Chris_19Si

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In my experience on the track, my car was very controlled and much easier to manage than when I'm doing autocross. Everything seems slower on the big track with more time to deal with each corner and traffic. As a novice, with point to pass and other restrictions, the traffic is also manageable. I was told to run in the intermediate class after my first novice run because the instructor thought I was fast enough to move up, and I was comfortable. I run a stage 2 ethanol tune and have suspension and brakes with good tires. The power level I have keeps everything well within control, and at no time did I feel uncomfortable. I would imagine, if I were trying to be competitive, the risk would certainly go up, but for novice and intermediate classes, it should be safe enough with our lightly modified cars. I was only hitting 120mph down the back straight, which isn't anything different than many of the highway pulls I've done. Leaning into the turns and powering out is much more fun than just the straight speed, which I'm already used to. I would spend more time researching your next mod and track events than trying to find statistics that might prevent you from having fairly safe fun. Depending on your power level, be warned about putting too much stress on 4th gear. I stripped all the teeth on my 4th gear a few days after my last track event. I have another transmission already and upgrading my old one to handle more stress. If you are mostly stock, shouldn't be a problem. Our cars do great in autocross, but lack a bit of power on the longer tracks, still lots of fun, but I wish I could add more power and still hold onto some reliability. We'll see what happens once I put my treated gears back in.
 

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To throw some info in for autocross. Assuming the organizer has properly designed the course, the event should be EXTREAMLY safe. Location has the potential to allow for damage to cars is the course is setup poorly, however being a single driver on course at a time, and the lower speeds of autocross it's almost unheard of to have any bodily injuries.

That said this is assuming a well setup course. Because autocross is not a dedicated course and has thousands of laps of data showing where danger spots are, always use your judgement and just go easy through sections that are close to anything/one.
 

Chris_19Si

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I was describing more about car control when I compared the big track to autocross. Our cars just don't make enough power to abruptly lose control on a big track, but they do just fine getting out of sorts on the small tracks. I found the big track to be more relaxing in comparison, and you get to improve on each lap. I like both types of courses, but would enjoy stretching my legs on the bigger tracks if I could afford to be out there more. Safety was never a problem in either setting for me, and the 3 years I have been doing this. I thought more about safety during the drive to the track than actually racing.
 

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I never got into track driving partly because of the necessary budget (set of tires, brakes, checking/bleeding/replacing fluids, etc) but mostly because of how big things can go wrong. I couldn’t afford to lose my daily driver.

Autocross, IMO, is more exciting while being safer. But, repeating what others say, the safety also depends on whether the course is designed correctly. SCCA regs for course design and safety are pretty good, and I think some courses I’ve seen in vids here would’ve failed inspection.

Go watch your region’s events first, and if you don’t feel comfortable, then don’t drive with them. But if they seem safe — the corners are well-flagged, the sound shack stops everything when needed, drivers never get close to obstacles, course workers chase cones and do it safely, etc — then give it a shot.

 

 
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