Time trial events typically consist of two practice sessions in the morning, similar to the ones in HPDEs. Instead of having additional practice sessions in the afternoon, drivers go out on the track for timed runs. During these timed runs, only a few cars are out on the track at once (often only two or three depending upon the length of the track), and are spaced far apart from each other. Each driver races against the clock; time trials are not wheel-to-wheel racing events. Normally you will get one practice lap to warm the tires and brakes up, then two or three timed laps, and finally one cool-down lap. For the competition’s purpose, only the fastest of your timed laps will count. At the end of the day, you will be able to compare your best lap time to other drivers in your vehicle’s class. As with autocross and Club Racing, cars are broken into several different classes based on the vehicle’s perceived performance potential.
People have different opinions regarding timed events. On one hand it introduces you to competition rules and the elements of a timed “race.” When participating in HPDEs, it is strictly a learning environment and there is no formal competition. Time trials allow you to compete against fellow competitors to see who can turn the fastest lap times, without the risks of wheel-to-wheel racing. On the other hand, some people believe (including myself) that if your ultimate goal is to participate in wheel-to-wheel racing, you should focus on obtaining as much seat time as possible. Typically in HPDEs, you will receive a greater amount of seat time and more instruction than you will in a timed event for about the same price. If your goal is to race competitively wheel-to-wheel, my recommendation is to focus on events that will provide you the maximum amount of seat time and fun! If your budget allows you to do both HPDEs and timed events (if they are held on different days), then do both.
Although you are often allowed to time your laps at HPDEs, it is typically discouraged. When people time their laps they will tend to push harder than if not being timed. Many times this causes people to drive beyond their current abilities and put themselves and others in danger. Another reason why you may not want to time your laps is the tendency to become overly concerned with the times, which in turn can ruin some of the event’s fun. Related to this is the fact that often timing yourself can have a limiting effect. What do I mean by this? Let’s say that you hear a 1:09 lap is a blistering time. You go out and do a 1:08 – wow! Sure, that may be a good lap time, but did you do a perfect lap? Focusing on results (lap times) can easily become a limitation. Maybe if you did a perfect lap, you could have a 1:06 lap time or even better. For these reasons, I strongly recommend that you don’t begin timing your laps during the first few HPDEs in which you participate. Focus on learning the proper lines, then building your speeds up gradually.