Posted: March 19, 2019 Read time: 12 Minutes
From my earliest memories, the noise of a sports car has excited me and driven my passion for driving. Sadly for us petrolheads, noise pollution has become a hot topic. For this reason, UK circuits operate strict noise management policies, which vary by circuit and often by day. If you are planning your first track day or trying out a new circuit, one of your first considerations should be how loud your car is.
Here at CAT Driver Training, we have attended more track days than we can count. When booking the day, one of the most common questions our customers ask is, what is this static noise test I keep hearing about and do I need to worry about it?
The answer, in short, is maybe. However, there are some key facts you need to be aware of to make sure you have no issues on the day. This guide will help to clear up any confusion, you can then focus on what really matters – enjoying your car on track! Make sure you also check out our interactive map, which lists the noise limits for all UK tracks.
Read through this guide at your leisure or skip to one of the sections below.
All race tracks have to adhere to their local council's environmental noise policy. Failure to manage noise levels can lead to complaints by residents, fines and even the threat of closure.
Councils work together with the track team and locals to strike a balance everyone is happy with. Tracks are required to record daily noise levels and report the cause of any anomalies. Some councils access a real-time feed, tracking drive-by decibel readings.
The majority of tracks follow the guidelines set by the Auto Cycle Union and Motorsport UK, the latter of whom states the following in their Common Regulations for Competitors documentation:
The reason for Silencing (SOUND CONTROL) is to reduce environmental impact and to keep Motor Sport running. Environmental Protection legislation has increased the pressure on activities generating noise and Local Authorities have the power to suppress any noise source deemed to be causing a nuisance.
Vehicle noise levels are measured using dB(A), a decibel reading that has been weighted to take into account the perceived loudness of a sound. The measurement is taken using a Decibel Meter, a gadget you can buy easily online to get an idea of what ballpark your car’s dB(A) reading is.
There is also a range of decibel meter smartphone apps, however, despite perhaps giving you an indication, you can’t rely on these readings 100% as track day readings will be impacted by various factors; surroundings, air pressure, air moisture and temperature can all affect what measurement is read.
To avoid disappointment, we recommend speaking with your track day organiser or even the circuit to seek advice based on your vehicle set-up. Some tracks will give you a free test prior to the track day.
Many track day organisers such as Motorsport Vision will give you a compulsory static test reading before you are allowed on track. This test usually follows the standard set by Motorsport UK guidelines.
A sound meter will be placed half a metre out and up from your car’s exhaust at a 45-degree angle, whilst your engine is running at three-quarters of your maximum revs.
As well as the Static Test, 11 out of the 19 UK tracks we have included in this guide also operate drive-by noise limits. Additional meters are positioned at various locations around the circuit to monitor noise levels at braking and acceleration points. It is worth noting that with varying drive by’s around the country, readings may be measured from different distances on each circuit, which is why you may notice a variation in the max levels permitted at different venues on our map below.
If your reading exceeds the decibel limit set by the circuit (see decibel limits for each circuit below) for either the static or drive-by tests, your car will fail. In the event of a fail some circuits will offer to help you out, however, in many cases, your car will not be allowed on track.
One unlucky Pistonheads member shared his experience:
My Caterham R400 often tipped the balance at 108dB; there is nothing more annoying than being black flagged before the warm up lap with nothing more than a £150 credit card slip to show for the day!
The majority of road cars using their original exhaust system will have no problem passing the noise test. However, some vehicles modified for high-performance may need to plan ahead before arriving to track. Silverstone track days generally have a higher level of 105dB as their policy. Track day organisers Gold Track, a frequent user of Silverstone, offer a higher proportion of days here. There are noisy days at other circuits, but these can be limited in number.
Please note that there is no guarantee any of these options will reduce your car noise enough to pass the decibel tests. The safest bet is always to check with your track day organiser in advance of your day.
We have created a map of all the main UK circuits that host Track Days. If you hover over the icons you will see the Static and Drive-by (where relevant) decibel limits for each track. If you think we have missed any circuits off, please let us know and we will update the map.
Please note the limits provided in this map are for Track Days only, many circuits operate different limits for race days.
"I have had a reasonable degree of driving training over the years as am ex police officer and advanced police driver. I took the performance driver driver training to learn about track driving, and found it excellent. My instructor was Paul who was fantastic. The training built up during the day and I learnt so much about the capabilities of my own car and although I was nervous about using my own car realised afterwards it was the best thing for me to do. The instruction was extremely informative from an engineering perspective coupled with driving, friendly and tailored to your individual needs and abilities. At no time was I encouraged or pushed to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. It was extremely professional throughout. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone whatever your standard of driving."
"Truly exceptional In my experience, driving instruction has generally consisted of being repeatedly told that you are 'doing it wrong' accordingly to some unknown standard or principle that you had hoped to learn about by taking said instruction. Then there is Colin. It is not that common to find an individual who genuinely understands both people and engineering. It is incredibly rare to find one who can actively apply both to deliver a sustained behavioural change. Colin adapts his teaching style to the way you learn. For me, he lead with the WHY of the learning point, grounded in physics and engineering. We'd then put it in to practice, often doing several variants of an excercise to explore how the car reacts to differing inputs, providing valuable context for what good feels like and reinforcing the learning point. Each point built on the previous ones, layering up and coming together in to a whole, one far greater than the sum of it's parts. Subtle changes to huge effect. I was concerned on the day that the learnings would rapidly fade, but I have found that because Colin has taught me an understanding the lessons have persisted, even if I do still need some more practice (48 laps of the Silverstone GP circuit last Thursday definitely helped!). Add to this the fact that Colin is great company and an absolute pleasure to spend time with, and you have one of the most positive learning experiences I've ever known. Truly exceptional. I could not recommend more highly. Thank you!"
"Superb day with calm knowledgable and professional guidance from Paul. Thank you Paul. The course is so well structured consistently building ability and knowledge in complete safety. I fully recommend anyone wishing to increase their knowledge, confidence and experience to attend."
"Far better than any track day you can imagine! There is a massive difference between a typical driver experience or track day events and CAT driver training. The main difference is that you drive your own car to the full extent of it's capabilities, and your own, while being given expert one to one tuition by brilliant trainers Colin and Paul, who come from a Motorsport and auto engineering background. Their combined domain knowledge of engineering and competitive Motorsport allows them to explain the physics of why the car behaves as it does and how you can exploit the cars characteristics for maximum performance., in a safe fun environment. The frankly brilliant experience on the track is matched by the quality hospitality hosted by Jo, and classroom training, which prepares you for what you will experience on the next stage. These stages include such delights as the ring, where you will drive with no hands on the wheel at 100MPH, providing you with a clear understanding of the fact the car finds its own balance , and my personal favourite the alpine stage, with hairpins a plenty and 'character building' drops and rock faces. I have to admit to being slightly 'corner shy' before the training, however after some brilliant coaching from Collin urging me to 'stay on the gas, stay on the gas!' I am now far more confident and safe in the twisty stuff!"
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"Very structured training Paul was very clear and methodical in his coaching. The training technique was built up in various sections during the day and all came together like a jigsaw puzzle in the end for a great result."
"It's hard not to be enthusiastic about the lasting impact CAT Driver Training will have on your approach to driving. I spent a day with Paul exploring the potential of my new vehicle. The coaching is clear, methodical and structured to allow you to go on learning for a full day without overload. The training venue is superb and quiet enough (on the day I attended) to allow uninterrupted driving. Brilliant admin team too. Absolutely 5 Star!"
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"First class performance car training day. Many thanks to Paul & your great team for a really enjoyable training day at Millbrook on Friday. I learnt a lot more about the capabilities of my F430 and found many new limits! The attention to detail in the delivery of the training was exceptional. I would recommend this to anyone with a performance car who wants to fully understand and enjoy their vehicle."
"An amazing day. If you drive you should go to CAT. If you have a performance car you MUST go to CAT. A day with CAT will transform your driving, you it be safer on the road in any situation and it will be the biggest performance upgrade your car will ever get. I learned so much in one day without any pressure, effort or stress. Colin's coaching is world class, he makes it simple / interesting to understand and easy to absorb / remember. The whole day and and everything leading up to it are well organised by the team. They REALLY care that you have a great day and TOTALLY deliver. You owe it to yourself to go."
"Absolutely Brilliant! The best advice I can give: believe every one of the glowing reviews on CAT! I approached CAT because I wanted to feel more comfortable with my newly-purchased BMW, the first rear-wheel drive car to be used for every-day driving after decades of FWD cars. I wanted to find out what the car's capabilities are, what it would feel like in extreme conditions, understand what it was telling me at the limits and, generally to get advice on my own technique. I wasn't a novice, having done plenty of track days and laps of the Nordschleife but I just knew that there's always plenty more to learn... A day's Performance Driver session met every one of my targets, and then more! Paul was a patient, logical and technical instructor who took time to explain what would happen in each manoeuvre and then fully debriefed that stage so that I not only knew what the car was doing but also understood what effect on the car my own actions were having. The proof of the pudding was in the final stage - setting consistent timed laps of the handling circuit. I'd worried a little about this all day as I'd have described my driving as enthusiastic but perhaps not consistent. The results were close to unbelievable to me! By remembering all that Paul had demonstrated and explained to me I surpassed my wildest dreams. Fantastic! As a result of this day, I now have more belief in my ability to read what my car's saying to me which brings confidence and relaxation. The car and I are now a team, rather than me just sitting there making it go down the road. I can highly recommend the whole CAT experience. Professional, friendly, patient, technical when required and not afraid to challenge when necessary. Oh, and the lunch is good too! I wish I could afford to go back every month..."
"Achieve your driving goals here! Can't ask for more than that! The entire experience was a positive and pleasant one. Everyone I met at CAT Driver Training contributed positively to the day, regardless of the role, so thank you to Jo, Lynne and of course, Colin! CAT have existing programmes for teaching anyone the fundamentals and advanced techniques of how to drive fast, but Colin can identify really quickly what you can and cannot do, and is quick to understand how to best use your time. I went in with my own unique set of requirements which slightly 'broke' the programme, but it was no problem at all and the most impressive thing was that I achieved my goals by the end of the day! I wanted to understand my car, be able to find and drive at the grip limit, and also understand how to be a faster and better driver. A lot to fit into a day, but Colin managed it in the most efficient way possible, and we achieved them all! Colin has great insights into vehicle dynamics, as well as the human machine behind the wheel. He understands why we sometimes don't function as optimally as we would like! His ability to listen to you, translate your input and isolate what is not working with your current technique helps focus the day on exactly what needs attention. This focus, along with Colin's 'feeling' of how the package of car and driver is behaving, makes him uniquely qualified to provide great direction and input to help you become the best driver possible. A lot of people talk about it, but very few can translate the inputs to a specific process for you to follow as a driver. The process is all about starting with foundations and building on them. It doesn't always seem to make sense, but trust the system - it all comes together in the end! The time is not cheap, but it will help you achieve your goals, so how do you put a price on that!? Thank you CAT Driver Training!!
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"Reminding how to drive fast A day with Colin on a 'One to One' basis is almost essential for anyone who lives on a small rock in the middle of the English Channel or lives in a city. We don't drive fast and don't get the opportunity to drive fast unless we are on a track. Colin spent the day reminding me how much fun it was to have 'fast feet' and to make the Tyres 'squeak' as they reach the sticky limit. I think I lost about 7kg in weight during the day as I was worked so hard but oh what a day. Thoroughly recommended to anyone who had a petrol head. Best bit was the 'Alpine Loop' at the end of the day. Full gas on the exit with all four squeaking. 👍😃"
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