Safety and Insurance

How Often Are Cars Damaged At The Track?

[KS] I’ve run about eighty (yes, 80) track events, about 30 percent with TrackTime, about 60 percent with BMW CCA. Figure an average of 80 cars per event (it varies, mostly based on the length of the track, which determines how many cars can be on the track at a time).

I think I’ve seen two or three totaled cars in all that time (one of them being at NSXPO ’98). However, I’ve also seen an average of maybe one or two of those 80 cars at each event go off the track and hit something (a tire wall, a guard rail)  and get damaged. I’ve never seen anyone get hurt and I’ve never seen two cars touch each other.

There are no guarantees, of course, that it won’t happen to you. But I think the key thing to realize is that, when the  rules are followed at these events, 99 percent of the incidents involve one driver going beyond his or her limits, and do not involve other drivers.

So that means it’s your responsibility to go only as fast as you can handle, and if you can do that, the chances of anything happening will be minimal. Don’t go out there thinking you’re the next Mario Andretti ready to set the world on fire. Go out there to learn and have fun and be safe. Don’t start out driving at 110 percent of your ability. Start slowly and work up to your limits, instead of exceeding them. Get a feel for the car and what it will do. Don’t brake at the absolute last minute; give yourself plenty of extra room, and on each lap, take a way a little bit of that room. Same thing with cornering. That’s how you can make it a safe event and bring your car home in one piece.

If you’re not sure whether this is something you want to do – maybe you’re thinking about it but you just haven’t decided yet – consider going to the event as a spectator. Most places will let you attend as a spectator at no charge, and may even let you attend the drivers’ meeting and the classroom sessions (particularly if you don’t ask, and just kind of show up when and where everyone else does). That way you’ll understand what’s going on and be able to decide whether to attend a future event. You’ll also probably find that you will enjoy watching all the cars and drivers and what goes on  and asking folks any questions you might have.

Does My Insurance Cover Track Events?

Also see Ownership – Insurance for more information.

Of course you should check with your agent before attending any track events.  But here’s some general information.

[KS] Most insurance policies contain language that excludes "competition and   timed events". If it  is a driver education event, like an NSXCA or BWMCCA drivers school, most policies will cover damage incurred during the event.

I know several people who incurred minor damage to their cars and filed claims without specifying that the incident occurred on a track; please be aware that I am not suggesting or condoning any falsehoods in such circumstances, only relaying what I know. I am also familiar with two different people who managed to total cars at the track (same track, same turn even) and both insurance companies were aware of the circumstances.

Both insurance companies paid the entire claim. In one case, when the policy came up for renewal, the insurance company demanded a clause stating that the car would not be operated on a racetrack. In the other case, there had been some other citations and/or claims, and after the insurance company paid off, they cancelled the policy. But he went on to get insurance elsewhere, and led us all into Sterling, but that’s another story altogether.

[NM] Before my first event last year I called my agent to make sure I was covered. He researched it and told me I would be covered. When I hit the wall in July the claims officer told my agent they wouldn’t pay the claim. My agent quickly responded that he had researched this last year and determined that I would be covered. The claims officer then decided not to fight it and just honor the claim.

Some less customer service oriented companies may not answer these questions but you never know unless you try. The 5 minutes it took me to try, saved me countless hours when I hit the wall.

So far they haven’t dropped me or included any clauses regarding track events.

[FG – 2000/2/13] This came from the latest copy of the BMW Roundel: " Language that defines excluded coverage in a number of parts of the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Policy has been modified for 2000 to include the following (capitalized) words: "…operated in any prearranged or organized racing, speed, stunting or demolition contest OR ACTIVITY or in practice or preparation for any such contest OR ACTIVITY." Massachusetts residents who plan to participate in drivers schools might be advised to contact the Massachusetts Division of Insurance or their insurance agents for an interpretation of this change."

Be Careful; this is supposed to be FUN!

It seems like someone damages their NSX everytime there is a large NSX track event. Please don’t get overzealous and wreck your car trying to shave those last couple seconds off your lap time, especially when it’s not even a timed or competition event!

At the Track