By on February 16, 2018

I’ve never met filmmaker Spike Lee, and somehow I doubt the two of us would be friends if we did meet. Yet I’ve admired his work since seeing “She’s Gotta Have It” almost 30 years ago. More specifically, I’ve always admired the way Lee holds all of his characters to account for their actions, regardless of their color. In a business that treated African-Americans as alternately evil or magical, Lee gave them the freedom to be real people: flawed, damaged, inspirational.

His fifth film, Jungle Fever, has been politely ignored for the last couple of decades, largely because it asks questions that are no longer permissible to ask in our single-opinion modern media culture. At the time, however, it was intended to be a bold statement both of Lee’s status as a greenlight director and his willingness to use that status to put the audience in some deliberately uncomfortable situations. Part of that statement included having Stevie Wonder write an entire album’s worth of original music to serve as the soundtrack.

That album, too, has vanished into the Orwellian ether, partially because of the cringe-inducing title track, but mostly because the music didn’t meet the standards set by Stevie in the Seventies. There’s one exception: the ballad “Make Sure You’re Sure.” Joshua Redman was the first jazz musician to hop on the train, but he wasn’t the last.

Which brings us to today’s question: When it comes to a trackday, how sure do you want to be?

Chris writes,

I bought a 2007 Boxster with 153k miles for a really sweet price from the original owner and I am happy with it. I’ll put about 5,000 miles/year on it which most PCA members would consider daily driver kind of mileage. Considering all the Porsche horror stories I have heard; this has been a surprisingly trouble free ownership experience so far. I recently purchased new tires (and TPMS sensors – ugh). This weekend I’ll change the brake pads (Textar yellow box) and replace the rear rotors which are original and at the end of their service life. The front rotors had been replaced by the previous owner a few years back and have about 50 percent service life remaining.

Yesterday I signed up for a driver’s education event put on by the local PCA chapter. Other than the Ford ST Octane Academy, I’ve never done a track event before. My question is what do I need to get ready for the event?

Do I need to use special brake pads?

I don’t have a helmet but I’m under the impression that the club will let you rent/borrow a helmet for the weekend.

I’m assuming that HDPE track insurance is strongly recommended?

Anything else I should be aware of?

I’ll start by offering a link to one of my previous articles about trackday preparation. With that said, I have some Boxster-specific advice.

You can get Zimmerman stainless steel rotors and Pagid Orange brake pads for an ’07 Boxster for a total cost of under a grand. The pads should be swapped on at the track. The rotors can stay on all the time. Don’t waste money on OEM Porsche pads or rotors. It’s easy to get a whole season’s worth of driving out of the Pagids, particularly if you’re not driving at the proverbial limit all the time.

When in doubt, buy your own helmet. Loaner/rental helmets can have hidden damage and they may not fit properly. The nice people at Impact sell American-made full-face helmets for under five hundred bucks.

Now to the most interesting issue: trackday insurance. I’ve never bothered to buy it and I typically don’t suggest that my students buy it. To begin with, it’s remarkably expensive. A 2007 non-S Boxster can’t be worth any more than $10k, but it might cost $400 or $500 a weekend for a policy with a deductible of $1,000 or higher. Nor should a novice driving student ever be in a situation where he would total a car. Crashing cars at a track is something that shouldn’t happen unless you’re in an actual race or you are looking for the last half-a-second’s worth of lap time. If you pay attention to your instructor, and if you operate your vehicle with both care and caution, you shouldn’t ever get close to a contact incident.

Are there exceptions to the above? Sure, and most of them involve high-power daily drivers which have a significant loan outstanding. If you just bought a new Shelby GT350 and you’re still in hock to the bank for $50k, then by all means consider the insurance. But a 2007 Boxster is fundamentally a throwaway car. It’s not worth insuring. Take the money and put it in a jar instead. At some point, after a few years’ worth of track time, you’ll have enough money to buy a Corvette.

If Chris really wants trackday insurance, I won’t dissuade him any further — but in that case, he should thoroughly investigate the company providing the insurance. Ask them all the hard, embarrassing questions. When do I get paid? How does my car get taken to the body shop from track? What if I hit another driver? What if I injure my instructor? These are all questions that should be answered before the crash. Like the man says — make sure you’re sure.

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30 Comments on “Ask Jack: To Insure or Not to Insure?...”

  • avatar

    “As the hard questions” is a good general rule of thumb for life itself. Or alternatively as Jack is saying as well “Be sure you’re sure.”

  • avatar

    The Aaron Copland score in He Got Game is fantastic. The film itself is pretty good too, if overlong.

  • avatar

    I’ve always declined track day insurance as well, even with a newer, more valuable car.

    I was recently quoted almost $400 for a $75k agreed value policy with a $7500(!) deductible. Since that was 3x the price of the HDPE itself, I declined and adjusted my driving style accordingly.

  • avatar

    Spike Lee is a victim vulture and a poverty pimp, an opportunist who should hold himself as accountable as he does his characters. He’s lucky no one was seriously injured or killed as a result of his George Zimmerman fiasco in which he posted the incorrect address of Zimmerman’s parents. His intent was strictly malicious and ugly.

  • avatar

    Change the brake fluid to high temp racing fluid as the stock stuff is normally not up to the task. If during your session the brakes feel even slightly funny or soft bring it back the garage ASAP. Brake fade is a real thing and its scary. I run a mixed use pad (EBC Yellows or Hawk HPS+) but I would inquire with your local PCA guys as to what they recommend. Race pads are designed to grip once up to temp so driving on the street with them is boarder line dangerous. Plus they squeal and dust like crazy which is why people recommend swapping pads at the track. Rotors are rotors… you don’t need “race” versions. In fact stay away from drilled rotors as the holes tend to weaken them. As you learn more you’ll like want to upgrade your tires. Grip makes all the difference in the world.

    I too have never purchased track insurance for two reasons: 1) I drive within my limits (IE: 8/10ths of what the car could do?) and 2) my ’03 Z ain’t worth it as $500 is half my tire budget for a year. I have seen several crashes during various track days. In EVERY case it was a single car “off”, thus the driver has nobody to blame but himself. This is not to say that another car can’t hit you (or vise versa) but I’ve yet to see in my limited (4 years) experience.

    My brother just got a Boxster (2015 GTS) and he can’t wait to get in on track. For the last 4 years he has been running a modified Golf R (APR stage 2, compound R tires, full suspension, exhaust, etc) that is ridiculously quick for a four door hatchback. However after one quick session in someone’s Porsche he commented that was in a totally different league. So he immediately seeked out a used one as his next toy. He had ‘Vette years ago so fast cars are nothing new to him.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the DOT 4 brake fluid. ATE Super Orange is our current pick and works fine – others swear by Motul Green. On a 10-year-old car, you should also replace the soft rubber brake lines with DOT-rated stainless steel lines. Good insurance against failure of the lines and also makes for a firmer / easier to modulate brake pedal.

  • avatar

    I used to race a $60k car and I finally realized after seeing horror situations, I couldn’t afford to destroy it, so I couldn’t afford to race it.

    I replaced it with a $12k car I could afford to lose.

    But if you can’t afford a 12k car, I sold a Fiero Formula for $900. Can you afford to lose that?

    I would always turn the insurance down because if you can’t afford to lose what you have, you shouldn’t track it. By the time you pay $400 three times you can afford a nice alternative car. Honda CRXs, Civics, Fieros, MR2s and others are great track day cars!

    And if you don’t know if you’ll like it or not, start with AUTOCROSS. Risk level is about 0.01%, and my understanding is most insurance COVERS issues in autocross because its not considered racing.

    This is my approach.

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agree. When I raced in SCCA I categorized every penny I put into racing as gone. Anything I got back from selling stuff afterwards was pure bonus cash.

    • 0 avatar

      My rule has always been, “don’t put it on the track unless you’re prepared to bring it home in a box.” That was in the context of motorcycles, but it applies to just about anything.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with everything except your final assertion about Autocross being covered.

      I am pretty sure Jack covered this in his prep articles but most insurance red lines “competitive driving” in any form from coverage.

      Admittedly I know of two people who claimed their autocross damage was due to street driving and got away with insurance fraud, but if we are being strictly on the nose, if you say your damage was during a time trial racing event (which autocross is, even if it is limited to reasonable speeds) don’t expect your insurance to pay out.

      They may compromise but most policies have a trap door that is opened the instant competition or non-specifically public road driving is involved. Much like how trail driving or activity park driving is excluded from most policies.

      AFAIK your policy is yours and you know it best, but it would only be through the claim being made as happening in “A parking lot” without disclosing the autocross would it be approved.

      And lets not try to debate the morality/legality of insurance fraud through exclusion.

  • avatar

    In this town it would be nice if we could get people to insure their daily drivers. Come to think of it, the city is essentially one big “track”. Apparently the new kick is to stand on the accelerator and turn left in front of oncoming traffic when the light turns green, it happens all the time lately.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s called a “Pittsburgh left” for obvious reasons, but it happens everywhere in both Boston and DC. Lately I’ve been seeing them from time to time in Seattle. The real risk is to pedestrians in the crosswalk, who often have a leading pedestrian interval so they end up right in the lane when the Pittsburgh-lefter comes barreling through.

  • avatar

    I can definitely attest to the durability of Zimmermann rotors – I had all four corners of my Volvo 850 outfitted with ’em and they lasted 70,000 miles – and so did the Akebono pads.

    I’m not nice to my brakes, either.

    Never, ever, ever borrow a helmet – get your own, I don’t care what it costs.

  • avatar

    This post made me look at used Boxters in this price range. They are a little more expensive than an equivalent Miata, but they are also more powerful

    • 0 avatar

      I believe this is prime vintage for IMS (intermedia shaft) and RMS (rear main seal) problems. Some say Porsche had both those problems licked by then, but others aren’t so sure. What is for sure is that if you lose either one (on the track or on the road) you will be buying yourself another car.

    • 0 avatar

      I went through this decision before I bought my ’99 Miata in 2011. Yes, a Boxster isn’t that much more expensive than a clean, equivalent year Miata, but this is the case for a reason. A Boxster has something like 7 hydraulic servos powering the soft top – Jack covered this agony at some point in the past. A Miata has a steel frame, a couple of springs and some cables. There’s very little that can go wrong, and a near-OEM-equivalent soft top can be put on in your driveway in under a day for about $500. That’s just one example.

      Price out consumables and you’ll find that track-capable street tires can be had on an NA or NB Miata’s 15″ wheels for under $300 per set. I did HPDE-worthy brakes for well under $300. If you lunch an engine – unlikely in a Miata because they’re dirt simple and will run 300k miles – you can get a good used one for $1,000 or less. Try that with a Boxster.

      Any maintenance or repair task is going to be miles easier and cheaper to perform on a Miata than a Boxster. I haven’t driven a 986 Boxster, but I don’t doubt that it’s in a different performance league than a Miata. As in most things, you have to pay to play, be it in purchase price or after-purchase maintenance. It’s also often been said that although a Miata is slower than many/most cars, it’s more fun to drive.

  • avatar

    Honestly, a Miata is the better track car. It’s more durable under track use, and even though it’s lower-power on paper, it has a flatter torque band. It also has a short wheelbase and narrow width that give it an advantage in transitional response. For example, when running Thunderhill in the long configuration, an NA Spec Miata is generally faster through the very technical complex from 3W from 10W than a Spec Boxster.

    Boxsters are also super annoying to work on, as Jack Baruth has detailed in other columns. There are plenty of things that you can fix between run sessions on a Miata that would put you in the paddock the whole day on a Boxster.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I sold a Boxster to buy an MX5 Cup and an MX5 Club, so I’m a true believer.

      With that said… Spec Boxster is a choked up class with crummy drivers. Spec Miata at thunderhill is a bunch of $30k cars driven by SCCA shoes.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    $1k for Porsche pads and rotors, yikes. That’s about double what Hawk pads and Centric cryo rotors will run ya from Tire rack for my S2000.

  • avatar

    Does your regular insurance cover “driving experience” events? If it does, then add the comprehensive and collision to your policy and enjoy the insurance all year round.

    I have a 2008 Cayman S and have full comprehensive and collision. Since it’s my only vehicle, I think the risk of vandalism etc is higher than what the insurance company expects. It’s garaged when at home, but I’m not home every night. The collision and comp with $500 deductible is something like $800/year over the top of liability.

  • avatar

    I don’t think insurance will cover a blown motor which is a big boxeter risk.

    As others have said if you can’t afford to ball it up and throw it away don’t go to the track.

    However for some people who track their loved car 2-3x per year I can see the point of insurance.

    If you really get into it between all the consumable and track costs let alone trailer truck etc an extra 5-8k per year I insurance is going to burn money otherwise better spent on tires or pads or wheels or gearbox or or or.

    Point is going to the track is really expensive if you do it seriously and within a few years the insurance + deductible cost will exceed your purchase or rebuild cost, in the meantime paying insurance burns money better spent on the car on track to go faster safer etc.

    But yeah if it’s your special weekend or daily car and it’s seldom
    On track insurance makes sense. But then regular insurance covers student learning events from what I have seen?

  • avatar
    Hamilton Guy

    Regarding insurance coverage for a track day or Autocross, read your policy carefully. For example the standard Ontario Auto Policy contains this exclusion: you are not covered…If you use or permit the automobile to be used in a race or speed test, or for illegal activity;

    Autocross has been interpreted as a speed test by some insurers in Ontario.

  • avatar

    Its a throw away car – no point in expensive insurance. Since money is obviously an issue, a Miata would be a much better buy, and cheaper to run. Whatever the budget, nothing is better than a properly prepared race car and even a cheap race car is better than dang near any street car on the track.

  • avatar

    Get a kart.

    It’s got a bigger performance envelope than a car, you can be racing wheel-to-wheel in three weeks from scratch, and if you wad it up, you’re out … one paycheck.

  • avatar

    As one of the directors of NECC Motorsports (, I sometimes receive similar inquiries about track day insurance.

    The policies I have seen cover collision damage on your own car. They are not a general liability policies and will not cover damage you may do to other drivers’ cars. And they will not protect you against any claims other drivers may bring against you. So, if you injure or kill somebody at the track, you’re out of luck.

    Also, I don’t know of any regular car insurance policy that will protect you once you enter the premises of a race track. I’ve even looked into umbrella policies and they all have the same exclusion.

    As one of the other commenters mentioned, read your insurance policies carefully. Assume nothing.

    Do you need track day insurance? It’s up to you. NECC does HPDE’s (including time trials) and I am happy to say that, in our 44 years of existence, we’ve never had a serious injury at the track and only a few collisions – all but one involving just a single car. I believe that’s due to our rigid enforcement of our rules for cars and drivers.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Jungle Fever, huh?
    Imagine the Boxster is your only car, and you bend it at the trackday, and have to explain it to your dad played by Frank Vincent.

  • avatar

    I was quoted $200 for my Cobra replica at Road America and Blackhawk Farms. This company was recommended by the people from Road America so I assumed it was a decent company. I ended up not having the chance to get up there so I can’t say how good they are and I don’t even remember the name. I know several that run in that club use them for insurance though.

  • avatar

    Part of why I love tracking motorcycles. My bike is worth about the $3K I paid for it. If I could not afford to eat that I wouldn’t go. Crashes are rare, and generally painless and due to operator error. And even more beautifully, for about half the cost of a car track day policy, I can just rent a new bike for the track. Imagine paying $200 to have the sports car of your choice for a whole track day! Nuts.

    Obviously the likelihood of things going pear shaped for me physically are higher, but what’s life without risk? I haven’t used a condom since the towers fell and I’m clean as a whistle. Calculated risk is manageable.

  • avatar

    I spent $200 to insure my brand new (3-week old) Scion FR-S before tracking it.

    I crashed it on the second day with the PCA in the rain. Insurance covered everything. Money well spent.

    Don’t go on track with a car you’re not willing to set on fire, push over a cliff, and walk away from.

    I no longer drive my own cars on track (fortunately other people are stupid enough to let me, and sometimes even pay me, to drive their cars).

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