Amateur Track Day at Utah Motorsports Campus

4 minutes, 54 seconds Read

By Rick Bairett

Utahans have a fantastic track available with a world-class road course and kart track alongside other venues and amenities. And, being just west of Salt Lake City, it’s easily accessible to most of the state’s population.

Still, track time is expensive so getting your car on track may not sound realistic. Well, I finally experienced my first amateur track day and got plenty of track time at bargain prices. I also drove away with a huge grin on my face. 

The Program

Public streets and highways are not tracks and don’t (and shouldn’t) scratch that itch to see what your car can really do. Fortunately, the monthly Amateur Track Day (ATD) provides a way to push our cars much nearer their limits. 

Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC) describes its ATD as a program “that allows enthusiasts to drive their street or race-prepared car at speed on our racetrack in a non-competitive environment, and Autocross on either West Paddock or Midway. Cars are released onto the track strategically, allowing you to drive at whatever speed your comfort level permits, to enjoy your car’s abilities and sharpen your skills.

ATD Autocross

Autocross is about navigating a relatively short closed circuit, laid out with cones, as fast as you can. The course typically includes slaloms, gates and hard turns. Several pro drivers started out in autocross, which really is a lot of fun. 

The UMC version is only $30 for a one hour and 50 minute session and normally includes timing equipment. Cars are released sequentially with good spacing, and drivers can jump back in line immediately for repeat runs. 

For the most part you can bring whatever you’ve got to drive. There were race cars, street cars, and even an antique Chevy pickup busting around the cones.

Because of overlap between autocross sessions and my racetrack session, I didn’t register for autocross. However, I got the chance to jump into the passenger seat of Lane Farka’s ridiculously-capable Porsche 911 GT3. Lane won a recent SCCA autocross event, so is quite capable himself. That ride was amazing—thanks Lane! I’m looking forward to getting my Miata onto the ATD autocross course next time. 

ATD Racetrack

I love all configurations of UMC’s road course and spending $75 to run it for 50 minutes is quite a bargain. The February ATD featured the 2.2 mile West Track. 

Track sessions are divided into Beginner and Advanced. Beginners can make single lap runs, repeatedly, but with no passing. Advanced drivers can stay out for as many laps as they wish, with designated passing zones on longer straights. For both groups, drivers are released onto the track with plenty of spacing. 

Pushing your limits is expected. However, UMC does warn that drivers who repeatedly exceed their limits—who don’t learn from repeated spinouts or track departures—may be black-flagged and their session terminated early for safety reasons. 

The Process

Signing up for ATD wasn’t complicated. From, I navigated to Get On Track, Amateur Track Days, and clicked Register Now. That took me to the related events on MotorsportReg. Clicking on my event led me through setting up a MotorsportReg account, reading the rules, and paying for a specific session. 

The rules do tell you that most street cars and track-prepped cars can participate. Convertibles need either manufacturer-certified rollover protection or an aftermarket roll bar. The self-tech inspection form has drivers verify their car is in good working order: lug nuts tightened, wheel bearings in good shape, brake lights working, and the like. 

I registered late Friday. When I arrived on Saturday, to check in at the UMC front office, they did not have me in their computer system. Fortunately I had printed out the receipt/confirmation so I was still promptly checked in for my session (I could have also shown the emailed confirmation). 

Drivers receive a wristband and windshield sticker to verify which session they are registered for and that the self-tech inspection was completed. 

I wasn’t super clear on the track entry procedure but it’s pretty straightforward. Drivers should follow the signs into the pit area, park to the right, and empty all items from their car that aren’t bolted down. Once your session starts, proceed down the left lane of the pit area to the track. You may be held briefly at the entry ramp until you can be sequenced in with good spacing. 

The Drive

The track experience itself is consistently amazing. It’s a good idea to take the first lap or two at a reasonable speed, to warm up the tires and (re)familiarize yourself with the layout. Then it’s game-on!

The wide smooth surface, a variety of turns and sweepers, a dogleg and some decent straightaways are a driver’s dream. You just can’t replicate that off-track. Even better, you’ve got a full 50 minutes to improve your line and your feel for both car and track. 

My little Miata is no powerhouse but it corners like it’s on rails, even with all-season tires. As I got deeper into my session I felt like I was just going faster and faster. I do have loads of room for improvement. Still, I kept getting more comfortable finding and driving at the limit—even getting the car to rotate slightly on tight turns. 

It’s almost as much fun to check out other cars, catch up with friends—thanks for your support Josh, and Matt for some great lead-follow instruction—and make some great new friends.

After a four-month track break, that sunny day in February was exactly what I needed to shake the winter blues. I know I’m ready to do it again.

© 2024, R Bairett

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