Racetracks are not a friendly place for your car’s appearance. Rocks are thrown by sticky tires. Brake dust from your pads makes streaks down the sides of your car (and in your lungs). Your car is covered with dirt when you go off track. And of course there are many broken bits laying around from your competitors mistakes. So how do you protect your own car at a track event?
We’ve observed a trend in track events over the past several years: tape, and plenty of it. That raises a question – how much is enough? How much is too much? And how much is absurdity? Lets talk absurdity.
[Disclaimer: we've driven hard and well in these events for 35 years, and instructed for 20. When we've found just a bit of time when we're not in a car instructing (up to 3 groups per event), driving (instructor group, plus amongst cleared students to see how they are doing), or adjusting our own car (usually sacrificed for time with our students), we have sometimes managed to find just a few moments to notice a few of the absurdities and foibles of HPDE events.]
We’ll start this discussion with a couple of Chevrolet Corvettes. Our first example is the Z06 in the big image above. There must be half a roll of painters tape on this ‘vette. No amount of track debris would get thru this stuff. Just to be fair, note than a pair of OEM Z06 fenders cost about $4300 USD.
[Disclaimer #2: again to be fair, when we started in this hobby, Corvettes were pretty worthless on track with their skinny tires and lousy handling... however after Chevrolet got serious with the C4, and after fans discovered that fact in the C5 timeframe, Corvettes have come to dominate these events in cost-effectiveness... of those few owners who take their 'vettes on track. More should!]
A psychologist would probably attribute these Corvette examples to the unique psyche of your typical Corvette owner… but not being a Corvette owner ourselves - yet (too young, too much hair on our head, no Rick James cassettes... ok, enough of the vette jokes...), we can only make this supposition.
Being a computer geek, we’d equate the lack of symmetry in this next example to a poorly patched operating system: any number of attacks will get thru these defenses.
And then there is the question of color. Surely lime green doesn’t make the car go faster, as yellow tape on the side mirrors and rear spoiler is known to do for that Civic that your Mom gave you.
Clear tape is a little more livable… and we’re sure you can imagine the screech when this stuff gets pulled off. Kind of like when stock C5s go thru their tiny little brake pads. And, BTW, how the heck do you get all this tape off? We suspect the owners discovered that awful reality post-event since we have seen very few of these owners ever return to the track again.
We’re not sure we see the point of this one – except maybe posing. Only the outside edges of the headlamps would be protected... maybe the owner thinks the headlights might bounce out and land safely (OEM C6 headlamps cost $1200 each). And he probably missed making the fake Grand Sport stripes on the side that you see everywhere these days... everywhere being 99% non-Grand Sports (there's a lot of money to be made from fake GS stripes on eBay in case you need to fund your race car budget for this year's summer season!). Please leave the Grand Sport stripes for real Grand Sports.
Here’s a nicely symmetrical tape job… note the car has protection but the passenger does not (no helmet!). How’d they get out on the track?
Another clear example. Perhaps the bright yellow and the chrome wheels (aftermarket fake Z06 - and heavy!) are part of how this tom struts. Either he is trying to impress a potential mating partner... or what? We have, BTW, seen numerous chromed and powder-coated wheels snap their spokes when done incorrectly. That'll wreck your wheels and your car.
And speaking of predators, note this Lotus Elise. Notice the color coordination. Very proper, in the British sense.
Archaeologists will dig up this Honda S2000 in a thousand years and find an intact leading edge on the lower bumper (rare for S2000s!). But unfortunately, given the excellent aero characteristics of an S2000, most of the rock hits will take place half-way up the hood and smack into the windshield. So this does little to protect the car.
And it isn’t always tape. Here’s a vinyl bra put on for protection. Seriously, tech inspection should have required the removal of this. These flop around and tend to come off - right in the middle of the track.
We’re not sure of the purpose of the tape on the lower spoiler… perhaps the driver is planning to go off the track for a ride thru the dirt and rocks?
And then there is tape just to look cool. These yellow stripes serve no other purpose… unless they are some sort of retro throw-back to historical Corvette driver identification?
This Mazdaspeed3 uses tape sparingly. And conveniently the same tape roll can be used to make the numbers.... or was perhaps used up that way.
Here’s some more bright color contrast – or else the driver was going for the official colors of Spoon from Japan? Note the CR front spoiler (on a non-CR)… somewhere underneath all that tape.
Finally, lets look at the Buffy end of the spectrum. They’re not immune either (although it’s usually M badges stuck on non-M models and M colors taped into the grill). Apparently though, in this typical case, the rest of the beemer has been heavily and thoroughly waxed. Which provides more protection in the end than any amount of tape. And certainly less damage when you have to remove the paint for the drive home.
We’re of the position that lots of tape is pointless. Track events are hard on your car, and that’s the point of it. If you’re out having a Sunday cruise in one of these events, you aren’t driving well enough and you haven't learned anything. Spend the money on the right HPDE school (research them first, look for references, go to a school that teaches all brands of cars so that you don't get stuck with, for example, the "911" line when you don't have a 911). Also spend the money on preparing the car for the event and on getting a highly detailed inspection ahead of the event (required by the most professional groups). And only then spend the remaining money on a good wax job (and especially on windshield coatings so that you can see where you’re going despite the dirt, oil, and brake dust).
Finally, if you do have to use tape, put it over your license plates so that your insurance company doesn’t find out what you’re doing with "their" car on the weekends!
And if instead you do use the above examples to tape up your car, you are now qualified to go "flat out":
(And many many thanks to our favorite Texas racetrack – Texas World Speedway – we miss you, and may you R.I.P.)