Test Day, Rush Day
Ah, test days! As fun as they are, test days often feel like controlled chaos. Between the costs, limited time, disrupted sessions, and ever-present track traffic, there’s a lot to grapple with. Not to mention, simply getting your kit to the track and prepping your car can feel like a major victory. But sometimes, despite all your efforts, you end the day feeling rushed, frustrated, or even unsure if you’re any better off than when you started.
Clearly, repeating the same routine isn’t going to yield new outcomes. Here are two suggestions for planning a more successful test day.
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Two Test Day Templates
To address the testing challenge and help you put all this theory into practice, here are two different test day run plans you might want to consider. I’ve designed one for someone new to track driving and another for those with more experience.
The aim is to give you something you can immediately go away and try on your very next test day or practice day. And, whether you sign up to Master Your Tyres or not, I’d be very interested to know how you get on if you try either approach.
They have really worked for me and the drivers I’ve coached, and it would be fascinating to hear how they work for you too.
The Data to Capture
I’m assuming you are going to run 4x 20 minute sessions during the day. For every session discussed below, record:
- your tyre pressures before and after the session (in the same place in the pits).
- the ambient air temperature (just use an app on your phone),
- tyre temperatures (if you can),
- plus driver feedback*
*Click here for a free guide to get you going with driver feedback, if you’ve not done it much before.
Test Day 1: For the Beginner
Session 1: Dusting Off the Cobwebs
Your first 20-minute session aims to familiarise you with the track and car. To start off on the right foot, set all four cold tyre pressures to the same level, ideally at the lower end of your target hot range, such as 25 psi if your range is 25-30 psi. This ensures even grip and a good contact patch as you begin. While your tyre pressures and temperatures may diverge as you push harder, that’s expected. This initial setup aims to boost your confidence right from your first lap.
Session 2: Rinse and Repeat
Simply repeat session 1. The goal here is to get you, as a driver, more familiar with the track and to experience a consistent start and progression through the session. The aim is to improve your driving confidence. It is highly likely you’ll go faster this session, so if you do, well done! You can expect the hot tyre pressures to vary at the end. This is okay. Record everything as before.
Session 3: Tyre Pressure Sweep
Now that you’re comfortable driving, the next goal is to fine-tune grip, balance, and overall driving confidence. Start by heading out on the track for a 5-minute session to warm up your tyres. After that, return to the pits and equalise all your tyre pressures. The simplest way is to set them all to match the lowest measured pressure at that point.
Once adjusted, go back out for another 5-minute session. The idea is that your tyre pressures should remain relatively consistent upon your return to the pits. If that’s the case, you’re on the right track. Now lower your pressures by about 10%, while still adhering to the manufacturer’s guidelines, and give it another go on the track. Pay close attention to how the changes feel and document your impressions for each stage.
If you have extra time, consider another reduction step with the same step you used before. For instance, if you went from 30psi to 27psi previously, try going from 27psi to 24psi and note any differences. Go out again and see how that feels. You are now building a library of data and opinions. And by the way, it is okay if you feel no difference as a driver. You’re still getting used to this.
Session 4: The Full Run
By now, you should be comfortable with the track and the car, having done a number of laps. The focus of this session is to maintain a consistent hot tyre pressure all around, mimicking race conditions but with an emphasis on tyre data. Use the information you’ve gathered earlier to select a target hot pressure for all four tyres. To keep you from returning to the pits to check this, consider employing my scale factor method (details here).
As you go through the session, make sure to document any changes in how the car handles. This time, you’re likely to notice evolving balance throughout your laps. Be mindful of this and log how the car feels under different conditions.
Well done, you’ve now executed a proven test day plan, and learned a lot about your car’s handling, your driving style, and optimal tyre pressure settings.
But what if you’re a bit more experienced at running test days?… read on my friend.
Test Day 2: For the More Experienced (or Two-Day Tester)
Session 1: Initial Pressure Sweep
Your experience allows you to experiment with sweeping pressure changes from the outset of your day. Make sure you get the tyres really nice and hot for at least 5-7 minutes running on track before you make your first pressure step change in the pits. Try and get in at least two 10% drops if you can. Remember to record your driver feedback for each drop. I tend to do this while my friends are making the pressure changes so I don’t forget later on.
Session 2-3: Balance Pressure Sweeps
Here you have a choice. You can either refine the pressure sweep even more, either with more extreme pressures or a more refined sweep, working towards what an optimum might look like. Alternatively, you can try some balance sweeps.
This involves holding one end stable and sweeping the other axle. So, for example, you could run session two holding the rear pressures stable and sweeping the front. Then, the third session holding the front pressures and sweeping the rear.
Don’t worry if it’s awful; you’re experimenting. Record your feelings for each step. This can be a real eye-opener, so be careful, but its also lots of fun…
Session 4: Put Theory into Practice
In this session, put your newfound knowledge to the test. Assess whether the car handles better with uniform tyre pressures or if slight variations between the front and rear tyres provide superior control. By the end of this 20-minute session, you should have a comprehensive understanding of your preferred setup.
So go ahead, complete the session and relish in the satisfaction of how much you’ve learned. You’re now equipped with valuable insights into your car’s performance and your own driving preferences.
More than that you now have a powerful, yet simple, testing process you can use again and again…
Test Day Planning: Final Thoughts and Your Next Steps
Think of these test day plans as templates. Make them your own or try to simple follow them verbatim. Either wy, remember to have the confidence to experiment because:
Mastering your tyres is entirely possible with the right knowledge and tools. If you’re eager to dive deeper, the Master Your Tyres programme awaits you. For details on what this advanced course offers, see here.
If you’re not quite ready for that commitment, consider picking up my Track Tyre Tuning Guide, which covers key basics and complements the main course.
Whatever you choose, best of luck and let me know how you get on trying these test day plans for real.