Top 10 Tips for Track-Day Newcomers — Plus! The Ideal Track ‘n Back Wagon: 186MPH, 550HP Jaguar XFR-S SportBrake

By Special Contributor Chris May.


So: you have made the decision to take the plunge in to the world of HPDE (High Performance Driver Education).

2015 Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake GIF Dynamic Shots

You have forked over a good chunk of cash and fueled up your 2015 XFR-S Sportbrake  JAGUAR for her maiden journey into stardom and instant racing hero status.


Before you have dreams of becoming the next Lewis Hamilton or Randy Pobst here are some tips that will hopefully keep you:

— out of trouble

— hooked on track events like a fish to water.

2015 Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake GIF Studi Shots

Seriously, where can you drive at the limits or performance, safety, bravery and thrills… other than in a rental car?

Nowhere. This is performance paradise, so get excited!

But while tracks have no speed limits: there are many other hazards to your body, confidence and wallet.


Safety is always priority number 1 at any DE event no matter what organization you drive with.

Yes accidents can happen and they do unfortunately.  Hopefully though, if you follow some simple guidelines you will not only have a great time but you will also be able to bring your car home, shiny side up! and excited to come back for more.

So here are some basic and somewhat abbreviated tips I can share from my experience of starting as a newbie at DE’s… all the way up to a certified instructor.

  • Have Fun — Sounds simple, right?  But if you aren’t having fun, what is the point?

  • Make Friends.


  • Check Your Ego (and the Ego of Your Car) at the Door — not as simple as point #1 but it could be argued this is Rule #1.  Your ego can get in the way of all the points below and put your safety and the safety of fellow track-mates at risk.

  • Keep an Open Mind — Just because you set a record on “the Ring” in a GT-R last night on PS4 does not mean your Honda Civic will handle the same.  An open mind to instruction leads to a safe track environment as well as improving your driving resume.


  • Listen.

  • Ask a Lot of Questions — The best students are the one who ask a LOT of questions.  Not only does it show you are engaged in the event, it also makes you a better driver.  If you are not asking questions, you are not improving as a driver.  Remember, even elite athletes have instructors.


  • Your Instructor is as Hesitant as You Are — Let’s face it, you don’t know each other and you are about to strap yourself into a car together with the potential of some intense moments.

  • Observe in detail how he drives, lets others pass, passes, etc.

  • Listen Better. Understand the instructor is trying to feel you out as much as you are doing the same. Simply acknowledging this fact will get you on the same page.

  • Mentally record everything he says while on pilot laps with you. He knows this track. You do not.

  • Remember! You Have to Drive this Car Home and Possibly to Work Tomorrow –– not all of us are fortunate enough to have a 2nd car to play with.  Even if we do, it does not mean the car is disposable. Keep this in mind when you are running “hot” in to a corner.


  • Safety-Inspect Your Car — Obviously a professional inspection is the way to go if you don’t have an ASE title as part of your professional resume.  Yet, after you have had the inspection there is no better way to get to know your car than to look over fluids, etc yourself.


Ed note: The new XFR-S Shooting Brake would be a thrilling companion for even a seasoned track vet like Chris May! Though he has a strong lust for his own giant-killer Acura RSX at the moment, I think he might like the XFR-S a lot more.

Looking forward to your next articles, Chris!




Official Details below from Jaguar on the XFR-S SportBrake.




  • Jaguar’s 2015 Model Year XF range to be unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show 2014
  • From real-world efficiency to Autobahn-storming performance, Jaguar’s 2015 model year XF range caters to every sensibility, without compromising on the luxury, refinement and versatility expected of a Jaguar
  • The XFR-S Sportbrake is the first high-performance R-S branded sports estate car
    to be produced by Jaguar, with 550PS on tap and 1675 litres of rear load space
  • The XFR-S Sportbrake’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8 delivers 550PS and 680Nm of torque
  • New XFR-S Sportbrake priced at £82,495 in UK, with full 2015 MY XF range available to order from 01 April 2014

2015 Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake GIF Dynamic Shots


  • The XFR-S Sportbrake is the first high-performance sports estate car to be produced by Jaguar
  • The XFR-S Sportbrake builds on the already acclaimed XFR-S saloon – boasting the same power figures and levels of agility – with increased versatility and practicality
  • Its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 delivers 550PS of power and 680Nm of torque with the added benefit of 1675 litres of rear load space when the rear seats are folded flat
  • The XFR-S Sportbrake will sprint from zero to 60mph in 4.6 seconds (0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds) and on to an electronically limited top speed of 186mph (300km/h)
  • An eight-speed transmission with ‘Quickshift’ functionality enables optimal acceleration throughout the speed and rev ranges
  • The XFR-S Saloon’s chassis has been specifically retuned for the XFR-S Sportbrake
  • Active electronic differential and Dynamic Stability Control systems from the XFR-S Saloon enhance the XKR-S Sportbrake’s handling characteristics
  • Aerodynamic changes reduce lift compared to the standard Sportbrake and give the
    XFR-S Sportbrake an assertive appearance
  • 20-inch ‘Varuna’ forged alloy wheels – the same as those fitted to the XFR-S Saloon – are shod with bespoke tyres to maximise grip
  • Exclusive interior materials include carbon leather and contrasting highlight micro-piping and stitching

2015 Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake GIF Studi Shots


The dynamic characteristics of the XFR-S Sportbrake were informed by the engineering development of both the XKR-S and the F-TYPE, the result being an incredibly agile, responsive and involving car. For the XFR-S Saloon both front and rear suspension systems were uprated and carefully tuned over tens of thousands of miles at Jaguar’s testing centre at the legendary Nürburgring, the high-speed bowl at Nardo in Italy and the engineers’ favourite roads around the Gaydon Research and Development centre and in north Wales.

The main challenge in the development of the XFR-S Sportbrake was to manage the extra rear mass of the car while retaining the sharp turn-in and response of its saloon cousin. In order to achieve this, Jaguar engineers tuned the XFR-S Sportbrake’s rear active suspension to cope with the extra weight of the car’s increased rear mass, with the dampers and springs adjusted to match the mass distribution of the car. The anti-roll bars have been changed and the rear axle has been modified, while the rear brakes have been tuned to work in conjunction with the car’s ABS system.

Overall lateral suspension stiffness has been increased by 30 per cent front and rear, with front and rear spring rates increased by the same amount.

2015 Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake GIF details

As on the XFR-S Saloon, the front suspension knuckles have been revised in line with those found on the XKR-S to achieve the increased camber and castor stiffness which, along with new wheel bearings, optimise steering and handling precision. The steering system has additionally benefited from the fitment of the valving developed for the F-TYPE.

The rear subframe has enabled revisions to suspension geometry which, allied to stiffer bushes – new rear knuckles and working in tandem with the stiffer springs – increase stability and response over standard XF Sportbrake models.

In order to achieve the maximum benefit from the suspension revisions, the XFR-S Sportbrake has lightweight, forged 20-inch ‘Varuna’ alloy wheels. These are half an inch wider at the front and an inch wider at the rear in comparison to the wheels found on the XFR but their construction means there is no weight penalty to be paid.

The tyres, developed in conjunction with Pirelli exclusively for the XFR-S Sportbrake, are 10mm wider all round, being 265/35 and 295/30 front/rear. The difference between the wheel rim and tyre width increases has the effect of pre-loading the sidewall to improve handling and steering response without adversely affecting refinement.

Working in harmony with the uprated suspension, wheels and tyres are revised electronic programmes controlling the Adaptive Dynamics, active electronic differential and Dynamic Stability Control systems.

Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics system actively controls vertical body movement, roll and pitch rates through the use of continuously variable dampers. The system monitors driver inputs and the road conditions, adjusting damper rates in response up to 500 times a second to optimise stability and agility. The driver’s selection of Dynamic Mode offers enhanced body control through moving the damping rates to the firmer end of the available range.

The Jaguar active electronic differential – which can apply full locking torque almost instantaneously when necessary – has been recalibrated in order to exploit the greater grip offered by the wider rear tyres, the more precisely controlled suspension and the engine output. Working in parallel with the differential, the ‘Trac DSC’ setting of the Dynamic Stability Control system now offers the enthusiastic driver more opportunity to explore the outer edges of the handling envelope while nevertheless providing a discreet safety net.

Providing equal levels of confidence is Jaguar’s High Performance Braking System, which offers an unmatched combination of power, stability and fine modulation. The 380mm front and 376mm rear discs are internally ventilated for assured repeated stopping power and on XFR-S benefit from additional cooling provided by under-body air channelling.

The XFR-S Sportbrake is fitted as standard with a 825W, 18-speaker system from British audio experts Meridian. Recognised by audiophiles as a leader in audio reproduction and fidelity, the system uses digital signal processing to create a sound field that is second to none. The system features Meridian’s proprietary Trifield System that places every occupant at the centre of their own perfectly focused surround-sound arena.

2015 Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake GIF Studi Shots

XFR-S Sportbrake Technical specification* (mfr)

Engine 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol
Capacity (cc) 5000
Bore/Stroke (mm) 92.5/93
Peak Power (PS@rpm) 550@6500
Peak Power (kW@rpm) 405@6500
Peak Torque
(lb/ft @rpm)
Peak Torque (Nm@rpm) 680@2500-5500
Transmission Eight-speed ‘Quickshift’ automatic
0-60mph (secs) 4.6
0-100km/h (secs) 4.8
Top Speed (mph | km/h) 186 | 300 (electronically limited)
Combined Economy
(EU mpg | l/100km)
22.2 | 12.7
CO2 Emissions (g/km) 297