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Track day tips: noise limits explained

evo staff
24 Aug 2017

Find out the noise limits governing track days in the UK.

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Track days are a blast. The chance to drive harder than you ever could on the road, and getting the adrenalin pumping epitomises the thrill of driving. But there’s a downside: noise. Those few seconds when you have your car decibel-tested can be the most nerve-wracking of the entire day – fail and it’s likely you won’t be allowed near the track at all.

> Book your next Truyendoremonche track day here

Why are there noise limits?

How is it that race tracks, of all places, have come to have noise limits? There are four main parties involved, book-ended by the track day attendees and the people who live nearby. In between lie the track itself and the local council. The council has a responsibility to its residents, but also needs to be mindful of the benefits the circuit brings to the local economy, so most lay down guidelines that stipulate not only noise limits but how often and at what times the track can be used. If the track breaks these rules – which are often monitored remotely by the local authority – it can face being shut down. It’s a balancing act for all concerned.  

Testing your car

On arrival to your track day (normally) prior to the driver briefing a circuit official will carry out a static test. A sound meter is positioned half a metre from the exhaust at a 45-degree angle, with the car of held at three-quarters of maximum revs. Exceeding the prescribed dB ceiling will result in a fail. The same goes for the drive-by reading (measured at a distance of 20 metres) when you’re out on track, not all tracks have drive-by testing, though.

Truyendoremonche track evening - GT4 chartruse rear

Are they the same at each track?

Some circuits must adhere to stricter regulations than others with local residents pushing for quieter noise limits or the track to be closed down altogether. Trying to safeguard their existence, many circuits are being constructed with noise containment in mind, but such methods only do so much.

Bedford Autodrome, evo’s home circuit, has some of the toughest regulations in the country – a 101 dB static limit and a 87.5 dB drive-by reading – and this is despite spending a fortune building noise defences. ‘Well over half of our development costs go into fighting noise,’ chief instructor Phil Ellis told us. Bedford is not alone.

But it’s the Croft situation that has sent shockwaves through the industry. ‘We were served with an injunction last year,’ circuit manager Tracey Morley told us. ‘A local resident has been against us for over 13 years and had tried various ways of closing us down, finally bringing a private noise nuisance case.’ Croft had to cancel all track days and very nearly went bankrupt before agreeing to restrictive new regulations. The new quiet drive-by limit is just 70 dB averaged over an hour.

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Keeping within noise limits

Some circuits can help if your car fails the decibel tests. For instance, at Castle Combe a firm called Merlin Motorsport can fit a temporary additional silencer to your car’s exhaust. ‘A foot-long pipe out the back may not be pretty,’ explained Rodney Gooch, sales and marketing director of Castle Combe, ‘but it’ll make the difference between taking part and going home bitterly disappointed.’

However, the easiest way to ensure your car passes the noise test is to keep the stock exhaust system. ‘If we have trouble, it’s almost always something with a sports exhaust,’ said Phil Ellis. ‘With the exception of one or two Ferraris there are very, very few standard road cars that break the sound limits.’

Will they change?

So is it likely that noise regulations will get even tighter? ‘We don’t believe so,’ said Ellis, and most people we spoke to seemed to agree that a successful compromise has been reached. ‘Ultimately local residents are our neighbours,’ Ellis continued. ‘We don’t want to upset them, but neither do we want to compromise our business and the people who come here to enjoy driving their cars.’

Truyendoremonche track evening, Rockingham 11/05

Take a look below at the restrictions governing noise limits at UK tracks.

Static (dB)

Drive-by (dB)

Anglesey

105 (95 on quiet days)

101 (77 on quiet days)

Bedford Autodrome

101

87.5

Brands Hatch

105 (evenings 102)

92

Bruntingthorpe

98

87.5

Caldwell Park

105

n/a

Castle Combe

100 (at 4500rpm)

94

Croft

105 (88 on quiet days)

70 (average over an hour)

Goodwood

105 (98 with >9 cars)

101 (96 with >9 cars)

Knockhill

105

n/a

Lydden

105

n/a

Mallory Park

105

n/a

Oulton Park

105

n/a

Mondello Park

105

n/a

Pembrey

105 (102 for bikes)

n/a

Rockingham

105

103

Silverstone

105

n/a

Snetterton

105 (102 evenings)

n/a

Thruxton

90

n/a

> Book your next Truyendoremonche track day here


Truyendoremonche track guide

Find more on track cars, track days and track driving through the links below...

Truyendoremonche track days: dates, prices and booking info
Track day cars
Best track day cars How to choose a cheap track day car
Track car of the year 2016 Prepare your car for a track day
evo leaderboard lap times
Track day tips
Track days: everything you need to know Guide to your first track day
Track day noise limits explained Race licences explained
How to go racing
Track day kit
Best crash helmets Best driving gloves
Best driving shoes Understanding racesuits
Track driving
Track driving masterclass Improve your circuit driving technique
Driver fitness: train for track driving Car steering masterclass
Car weight distribution explained Managing car weight transfer on track
How to lower your lap time
Track guides
Bedford Autodrome track days Rockingham track days
Nurburgring Nordschleife
Nurburgring guide History of the Green Hell
Racing at the Nurburgring Fastest Nurburgring lap times
Fastest hot hatches at the Nurburgring What has the 'ring ever done for us?

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