Originally Posted by spertia
For those talking about taking one's car onto a track -- how does this actually work? Are there "public" tracks where you can pay to let loose with your personal vehicle, or are you actually racing, or what? I'm just curious, as I obviously know nothing about this.
Andre explained it already, but some other important details:
You are always classed with similarly skilled drivers and similar performing cars (you likely won't be up against Z06 'vette's in your Mazda3., and you won't be with highly skilled and experienced drivers if you are relatively new to the sport). This is important because it minimizes passing and increases safety.
Passing is usually highly regulated at the lower skilled class levels. You typically can only pass in designated areas (straights) and only after the pass has been initiated by the lead car (you point the trailing vehicle by and lift for a brief second to give the passing car a bit of an advantage to complete the pass quickly). Once you move up to higher skilled classes, passing rules are usually loosened, but still important and enforced when necessary.
Any well run event will include very large margins of safety wherever possible. This includes plentiful instructors, attentive corner workers who know how to use flags, and a strict corner captain running his crew. Classroom instruction is usually offered for the novices to go over the basics, and parade laps (low speed) are usually done to start the day off.
Events vary on how fast and experienced the participants are. You may think the Porsche club might have the fastest and most dedicated members around, but there will still be a full class of novices who drive around at regular street speeds. Some people just like the idea of track driving and the thrill have having no speed limits... they don't actually exercise their rights, but they still have fun.
Also, if you like cars, there is nothing better than spending a nice Saturday in the summer around a bunch of exotic and exciting cars with 60 other gearheads. Everyone is always very nice and accommodating as well as incredibly helpful to lesser experienced participants. It is not uncommon to get offered rides or instruction.
Oh, and it's very addictive (and a bit expensive)