Our 2003 Civic EP3 may seem like a strange choice of a track car to some. But, there was some reason behind the choice.
We've heard the jokes. Civics are lawnmowers with lawn mower engines, they don't make power, Civics are "wrong wheel drive." We know that Civics aren't the most popular cars in the world that kids put posters of on their walls.
Sadly, in the real world, Ferraris are a little out of reach for most people (though we do absolutely love them and would happily drive them!) so we have to look at realistic cars with realistic, grounded expectations. So, considering our expectations are to just make a simple, safe, reliable track car that does the trick to get us seat time, well, why? What drew us to the Civic?
Civics are simple. Not much in a Civic is an unnecessary feature. Their engines are relatively trustworthy and well-built, with factories that put together the engines with regimental structure and tolerances meant to make the cars run for hundreds of thousands of kilometres.
The car and its parts are all some of the least expensive options in the world. Spare engines for $500? Yes please. Axles for $80? Transmissions for $600? Relatively small tire sizes? Yes please to all of them! Our full race car transformation for the Civic might cost less than $15,000 total, which is an incredible feat, considering that I'm factoring in the previous two years of track days and time attack expenditures into that, too. All new control arms, brake calipers, coilovers, wheels, tires, sway bar, petrol, oil changes; everything. You'd be hard pressed to find a better deal anywhere.
The Civic EP3, with as much as we've removed from it, will barely weigh anything. We're talking ~2300 pounds with engine, gearbox, exhaust, and so on, and maybe ~2400-2500 pounds with cage. Even without much power, the power-to-weight ratio will keep it sporty. This does not even mention the idea of brake and handling performance, efficiency, and just general sportiness, agility, and feeling. Lightweight cars are some of the best fun to drive.
There is a plethora of aftermarket parts available for the EP3 Civic platform, and indeed all Civic platforms. If you want racing parts, you'll get racing parts.
It's not as hard as you may think to get started with track days in Ontario. Use this as a starter reference guide.
I don't want to write too much as an introduction. I'll just say that these instructions are meant to be as minimalist and introductory as possible. Track days in Ontario are an easy way to get on track in your own personal car, whether it's a race car or not. This list is very cost-effective and is meant to put safety first.
Step 1: Grab a helmet
These days, almost all lapping groups require helmets. If a lapping group will allow you on track without even a helmet, ask yourself how seriously they take their safety. It's essential to have a good helmet.
In 2022, there are only two grades of helmets that we would really recommend, though more meet our minimum requirements. SA2015 and SA2020 helmets are the minimum specifications of helmets we would ever suggest for most people. These helmets will be transferrable from track day group to track day group, and will meet the minimum requirements of every track and car. It's that simple.
You may check out Google and search for SA2015 or SA2020 helmets, and find one that suits your intentions better.
Step 2: Tupperware Tub of Tools
This one's really straight-forward. Bring an extra spare wheel and tire, an extra bottle of brake fluid, an extra jug of coolant and motor oil, a set of wrenches, a torque wrench with impact socket of your lug nut size, some zip ties, and 3/8" drive sockets. Chances are, you won't need them, but it's nice to have. Trust us, having the right tools will make the rare occasion when things don't go well and you have a mechanical malfunction easier.
Step 3: prepare the car
Seriously, we mean this: you only need fresh oil, higher temperature brake pads, and to give your car a few breaks here and there. The enemy of your car at the track is brake, oil, and coolant temperature. If you want your car to not break down, get the really good engine oil, Hawk HP+ brake pads, Motul RBF600 brake fluid, and so on for example. It doesn't have to be those brands; they're just the brands I've used in my race car previously, so, in that way, you can have a general idea of what you're looking at in terms of price and so on.
Optionally, you can put additional oil and transmission coolers, additional brake ducting, grippy tires, and so on, though those things are not necessary.
Step 4: Give Your Car an Inspection
I like to go over the whole car the weekend before the track day. Look for anything loose. Tighten everything down. Look at tire tread wear and brake pad thickness. If everything looks good, you're all set to pack the car up with the items from steps 1 and 2, and then sign up.
Step 5: Register and Attend
The last step is to find a track day group that you think values your safety and the safety of your car. Find the group that's right for you. It might even be us. Our unique-in-Ontario system of having five run groups divided entirely by driver skill makes for a welcoming, friendly, and easy-going start to your adventure. Our blue run group is almost entirely people who are new to track days, just like most of the people reading this list.
Almost all track day groups in Ontario will start the day with a driver's meeting, which briefs drivers on the passing rules, conditions, flag rules, and other supplemental rules that you will need to know to stay safe. The best track day groups in Ontario will have at minimum 3 flag marshals for the full day, and an EMS crew (though EMS crews are rarely ever needed). We typically have three or four flag marshals per day at Falcon Autosport events. Our main track, Grand Bend Motorplex, certainly has good sight lines and we think that 3 or 4 flag marshals is the right number.
Even when cars haven't crashed and things have been good, these things are still vital for safety. We have seen a few drivers becoming a bit "seasick" from the speeds at other, non-Falcon Autosport events and EMS are always happy to help those drivers and passengers to help retain fluids, as well as keeping an eye on people for symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, helping to keep things safe. It doesn't hurt to have them.
The same goes for flag marshals. The one time a rogue deer, fox, raccoon or dog gets on the track, the extra sets of eyes on the track will help, even if everyone keeps their cars under control. Not to mention, debris, sudden downpours of rain, and whatever else could happen. The bottom line is, you get your money's worth from track days that are well organized.
Step 6: Enjoy
Falcon Autosport authors are a team of track day organizers and motorsports enthusiasts in general. Drew drives a 2003 Honda Civic EP3 with 17 previous owners and 320,000+ km.