Nearly 3 years ago we sat down with James Marcellana and Gino Manley of JZilla Track Days to find out more about what made them one of the fastest growing track day operators in southeast. In the years since, JZilla has continued to grow to new heights. In some ways, they’ve become known as “Atlanta’s hometown track day operator”.
JZilla’s popularity isn’t because they are the only option, there are a number of great track day options in Atlanta. In fact, we are on record saying that there may be no better time to get on track due to the abundance of choice.
JZilla strength has been it’s ability to continue to innovate and stay grounded, all while growing. They’ve maintained themselves as a fixture of the Atlanta community, and even grown beyond it.
For 2023 we had the opportunity to revisit a JZilla event to learn about what’s changed, what hasn’t, and bring a fresh review of what it’s like attending one of JZilla’s track day events.
What To Know Before Going to JZilla Track Day
JZilla track days operate a mature, but simple approach compared other large operators. While some have begun requiring a membership fees, JZilla does not. Also, while JZilla is open to everyone, including those with no track experience, they do review registration. Being one of the most popular track day operators affords them the opportunity to ensure drivers will be respectful and safe.
JZilla track day events tend to sell out so we don’t recommend waiting until the last minute if you are considering them. In fact, JZilla has regulars who buy blocks of slots and even sometimes buy slots for the entire year in advance so getting registered early is highly recommended.
However, don’t let the popularity or registration review process keep you from attending one of their events. JZilla’s approachable format works great for drivers who are new to track days. Plus, JZilla’s focus is on safety and ensuring drivers are in the right experience group makes them an ideal choice for first timers. JZilla prides themselves on their low incident rate, something they are keen to continue.
JZilla operates a variety of events at tracks throughout the southeast and beyond. The majority of their events are track days and HPDEs at Road Atlanta, Atlanta Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Park. However, they also have an annual track day in Charlotte running the famous Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Additionally, they also operate time trail events and car control clinics, which will appeal to more advanced drivers.
Not sure the difference between all of the types of track events? You wouldn’t be alone, but don’t worry we’ve got a handy guide that explains the difference between HPDE, track day, car control clinic and time trial.
Driver Groups at JZilla
Like most track day events and operators, JZilla organizers drivers into run groups which are determined by experience level. JZilla uses colors to organize the run groups, but they generally follow the standard 4 groups you’ll find at most track day events.
“Green” (Novice Instructed) – drivers who need or want or need direct instruction. These are usually first time drivers on track or those who haven’t been in a while that need close and direct feedback.
“Blue” (Novice Solo/Independent) – drivers who have been on track before, but maybe it’s been a while and they want a more relaxed environment or those who have a lot of general driving experience but have not driven on track before. Drivers in this group will generally be freed up throughout the day. But JZilla instructors will often follow these drivers even as they go out independently and provide proactive feedback between run groups.
“Yellow” (Intermediate) – drivers in this group have likely driven multiple track days before and/or had experience driving this specific track. Education in this group focuses on safety and refinement. While instructors may ride along, in many instances the drivers are following and providing feedback between run groups.
“Red” (Advanced) – Drivers in this group are highly advanced and most drive regularly with JZilla events. While there is no specific lap time set, drivers in this group are expected to be on pace and align themselves based lap speeds in the group to minimize disruption to other drivers.
On Track Experience
The on track experience at most track days don’t vary a lot, at least not until you get into the little details and differences. JZilla’s events also follow the typical formula of the day being broken up into run groups based on the experience level. Each group goes out for a period of time, when their time ends a checkered flag is thrown and as the next group prepares to head out.
One area JZilla track days does differ is the involvement of the instructors. They are often highly engaged, even after groups have set off to run on their own. Instructors will generally follow run groups or proactive identify drivers that could use coaching. The coaching cans focus something as simple as the basics, like safe operation, to how to improve their line – all the way to making suggestions on when drivers should be breaking in zone or turning in at different times to improve their lap times.
Instructors help the drivers organize cars, usually based on the capabilities of the vehicle and the drivers. Faster cars go first. This cuts down on the need for passing, but also helps ensure the faster cars are not impeded. There is also the safety benefit of slower drivers not feeling “pushed” by faster cars.
First Time Track Day Experience
For first timers getting on track it’s often as simple as registering and showing up. Every track event has a minimum tech inspection qualification. Still, if your car is in good running order with reasonable remaining brake and tire life, chances are you are ready to get on track.
The basic safety gear needed to join any track day are:
- All drivers will need a SA rated helmet, 2015 or 2020
- Long pants
- Closed toe shoes
- Shirt with sleeves
If you do not own your own helmet, rentals are available at most tracks (some free). Note that rentals are generally first come, first serve. On those hot summer days, you’ll definitely want to remember the long pants rule.
Tech Inspection Form Example
In addition to the tech inspection form example above, we suggest focusing on these items which are typically important during most track day tech inspections:
- All lug nuts on all wheels (usually no exceptions)
- Battery tied down
- Nothing loose on the interior
- Nothing leaks (no oil, coolant, etc)
We also highly recommend avoiding a track day until your vehicle is fixed if you have any of these issues:
- Doesn’t shift well
- Has problems with overheating
- Has improper alignment/tire wear
- Any issues with the braking system
- Any non functioning portion of your safety system (seat belts, seat, etc)
Track days can be pretty hard on your car, certainly more than an autocross, drag racing or spirited mountain drive. Still, you don’t need brand new tires or brakes to run a track day – just ensure your car is in good working order.
- We generally recommend about 50% tire life left
- We generally recommend about at least 50% brake life left
- Good alignment/no tire wear issues
The amount of tire life needed really depends on the tire. A very aggressive tire is going to wear more quickly than a sporty all season. So consider these rules of thumb, particularly if you are new, and not hard and fast rules.
Arrive And Drive Partners
If you don’t have a track ready car, or are visiting from out of the Atlanta area, and option to consider is to “arrive and drive”. Increasingly popular in both the track day and racing scene’s, arrive and drive’s give you the opportunity to drive on track like you own a car without the hassle of actually owning the car.
One of JZilla’s arrive and drive partners include Balls Out, AOA Racing and Open Throttle to provide arrive and drive cars.
Arrive and Drives require pre-registration with both the event and the arrive and drive company. Despite the name, it does not mean you can show up and rent the day of the event.
JZilla Community and Track Side Experience
One area where JZilla stands out from a number of other track day operators is the track side experience. At just about any track or racing event you’ll spend at least as much time track side as you will on track. For JZilla, this is an opportunity to focus on community and driver comfort.
Track Side Lounge Or Suite
At each JZilla event there is always a track side lounge area. At some events, like Atlanta Motorsports Park, this is a relatively casual space of popup tents and chairs. It includes access to premium coffee (either via food truck or provided by JZilla themselves), snacks and shade.
At Road Atlanta though, the experience steps up a bit. JZilla has a luxury suite which is available to any registered member of the track day event, no matter the type of vehicle, experience level or even if it’s your first JZilla track day. This full on luxury lounge is a great place to unwind and take in the other run groups. And unlike other track day operators, there is no additional fee or membership required to take advantage this benefit.
Track Side Support
JZilla’s strong community means when a driver has a mechanical or technical problem, there is often people around willing to pitch in support. In the event the problem is more substantial, JZilla always has at least one shop available to provide track side mechanical support. Their goal is to provide support to help drivers address minor mechanical issues to help ensure drivers get to stay on track. Professional track side support generally has a nominal fee depending on the issue.
Sponsors and Vendors
JZilla also has a number of vendors and sponsors at their events. JZilla prides itself on the consistency of the experience. You won’t find anyone pushing blinds or timeshares, JZilla’s ensures all of their sponsors, vendors and partners have consistent experiences and are related to their overall mission.
Track Side Tailgating
In addition to the JZilla provided track side experiences, a number of regulars setup their own track side popup tents and tailgate style the event. We find this pretty typical, but you can tell there are a number of JZilla regulars who all know each other and frequently hang track side together. In terms of regulars and community it’s one of the strongest events we’ve seen.
More Than Just Track Day and HPDE Events
JZilla refers to itself as an automotive experience company. That’s because while they may be best known for their track days, they are not simply a track day company. For years now they’ve offered a variety of events including arrive and drive events in Europe, to driving events paired with Spa visits. They also have a strong following into the realm of advanced driver education, including car control clinics.
If you are not familiar, car control clinics are focused on helping drivers learn advanced driving techniques and the limits of their cars, not just simply turning lap times. These events are VERY different from traditional track days. They are hands on in terms of education and generally for more advanced drivers. Still, you don’t need to be an “Advanced” level HPDE/Track Day driver to benefit. The ability to learn techniques and car control is useful at almost any level.
JZilla Upcoming Schedule 2023
Below is a list of JZilla events during the 2023 season featuring time attacks, HPDEs and track days.
JZilla Under The Lights – July 15th – Charlotte Motor Speedway
JZilla Track Day: Preheat Petit – Monday September 16th & 17th – Road Atlanta
JZilla Track Day: Exofest – Sunday October 15th – Atlanta Motorsports Park
JZilla Track Day: Friendsgiving – November 20th – Barber Motorsports Park
JZilla Track Day: Treat Yourself – Sunday December 10th – Atlanta Motorsports Park