As the cold weather continues across much of the country, some of us are already starting to get that “track itch” again. Whether you’re dreaming of warmer weather to get back behind the wheel or want to experience a race track for the very first time, it’s never too early to start planning for a day at the track.
While it’s never cheap to get behind the wheel at a race track, the following options are some of the least expensive ways to put in some hot laps. In honor of that “track itch,” here are three cheap ways you can drive on a race track.
1. Drive Your Own Car
The “cheapest way to play” has to be Track Night in America, a traveling track day series put on by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).
For $170 per day for members, you can take your daily driver, weekend weapon, or track toy on a race track. For that price, you might think you’d be treated to some of the worst race tracks around the country, but it is quite the opposite. Track Night in America comes to iconic tracks such as Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Lime Rock Park, and Road Atlanta.
You might even get lucky and find an upcoming event that is trying to fill spots at a discounted rate. Even without a discount, Track Night in America is about the cheapest option you can find from the start.
I should mention that there are some additional costs should you want to take the “drive your own car” route. The above fee is just to get your vehicle on track. You really should also purchase track-day insurance. Your normal road-going insurance is not going to cover you should anything happen on a race track. Depending on your vehicle’s value, track-day insurance can cost you $100 or more.
Additionally, all tracks require a Snell-rated helmet, which will set you back $200 to $1000+ depending on your personal taste and the helmet quality.
Most importantly, don’t forget the inevitable wear and tear on your vehicle. A day or two at the track can severely cut usage intervals on tires, brake pads, and rotors. Maintenance costs can add up quickly once you get hooked on track days.
2. Drive an Exotic Car
Though the low initial cost of Track Night in America may be appealing, the added costs of track-day insurance and car maintenance may put you off. So why not forgo all that and pay a bit more to drive your dream car around a track?
If the chance to drive an exotic car sounds up your alley, Xtreme Xperience is one great option for a track day experience on a budget. Much like Track Night in America, Xtreme Xperience will generally travel to a track close to your home.
Odds are you’re within a 2-3 hour drive of a track. Unless you live in some of the more remote Northwest regions of the United States. Xtreme Xperience jumps around the country to many tracks allowing you to get behind the wheel of a supercar.
Some of the vehicles in Xtreme Xperience’s fleet include a Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4, McLaren 570S, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Mercedes AMG GT R, and a good old Chevrolet Corvette C8. Prices range from $199 to $399, depending on your choice of vehicle. You get to take three laps around the track in one of these dream machines. And the best part is you don’t have to worry about any of that expensive maintenance or consumables.
When taking your laps, you’ll be joined by a driving instructor from Xtreme Xperience. Often these instructors are ex- or current IMSA drivers. If you’re thinking that a ride-along instructor isn’t going to let you get anywhere near 100 mph, you would be wrong. You can go as fast as your skills allow.
3. Drive OEM Performance Cars
A few OEM brands offer track experiences where you can pay a fee to get behind the wheel of their performance fleet. Audi, Mercedes Benz, and BMW are just a few brands offering such an experience.
I personally have not participated in an Audi, Mercedes Benz, or other OEM track event — except I have driven at a BMW event. BMW offers a traveling track day — BMW M Track Days.
While not as widespread as Track Night in America or Xtreme Xperience, BMW M Track Days does travel around the United States to a few well-known race tracks, including Circuit of the Americas and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event also gives you a chance to drive on some exclusive country club tracks, for example, Monticello Motor Club and The Thermal Club.
Entry now starts at $500. Of all the other OEM programs I have seen, the BMW one is still the cheapest. Other events start at $1,000 and go up from there.
So you cough up $500 or more to BMW, and what do you get? Well, you get to play with pretty much every car from BMW that has an M badge.
I last attended in 2019, where I drove a BMW M2 as fast as I could through an autocross course, did some drag racing in a BMW M4 convertible, BMW M850i, BMW X3 M Competition, and BMW X4 M Competition, and did lead/follow laps in both the BMW M4 and the BMW M5 on the Monticello Motor Club road course.
You even get to experience a ride-along with an instructor (usually an ex- or current IMSA driver) shredding rubber for your entertainment for a hot lap.
Stop Dreaming, Start Driving
All-in-all, if you are willing to try something new, as these three cheap ways to drive on a race track prove, getting behind the wheel for some hot laps is not too expensive. You can take your daily driver out on track or even check off a bucket list item and take a few laps in a Ferrari or Lamborghini.