Track Day at Road America Part 2 – On Track

Track Day at Road America heading into Turn Seven. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Track Day at Road America heading into Turn Seven. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Turk’s Tracks
A Few Loose Lug Nuts from Pit Row

by Gene Turk

Check out Part 1 as Gene arrives and prepares for time on track.

The loud speaker announces that it is time for novice group to report to your cars. You will form up single file and be lead out to the track by one of Road America’s C7 Corvettes. Road America uses the lead/follow training method and you will spend the next 25 minutes following the lead Corvette. He will set the pace, no passing allowed.

By now, it is close to my second favorite time of the day – lunch time. Lunch is from 12 to 12:55 p.m. After lunch, the intermediate and advance groups get to use the track again. By 2 p.m., it is lead/follow time for the novice groups. From 3 to 3:55 p.m., it is back for more class room time for the novice folks.

It is now 4 p.m and everything has gone well for you as a novice. Your car is running well and you have gained some understanding on how to drive your car on a road course. You have now been cleared to drive on the track without the instructor. This is what you have been waiting for, so let’s take a hot lap around Road America.

You are now on your pace lap, tire temps are coming up, and the gauges are looking good. You come off of turn 14 and head uphill to the flag stand. You are on the main straight on a south heading. With a quick glance at the flag man to your left, you see the green flag is out and you are on the gas. The track levels off now and you quickly approach the brake zone for turn #1. On the brakes hard and you are into a hard right hand turn. You accelerate out of the turn and head down hill on a short straight. You are now heading west, but it’s on the brakes quickly as you enter another hard right hand turn, turn three. A quick glance to the left is the Corvette Corral and gate #4. You are hard on the gas with some quick up shifts.

You are now heading north and are on one of the fastest parts of the track. This section is called Moraine Sweep and has a slight right hand kink. Here is an excellent spot to pass. Speeds are in the 140 MPH plus range here. Turn #5 is coming up and is a sharp left turn. It’s time to get on the brakes hard, and take a quick glance at the gauges. You are now on a short uphill straight and heading west. Turn #6 is another 90 degree left turn. You are through the turn and are now on a section called the Hurry Downs. You have a slight right hand kink and another chance to do some passing. You need to brake hard as you enter a left hand turn #8. Another short straight and you are now at a critical section of the track- a 180 degree right hand turn called the Carousel.

Dive down to the apex of the curve and hold the car close to the line. Choose the right gear where your car is in the sweet spot of its torque curve, and you can rocket out of the turn on to a short straight section and put some distance between you and the car on your tail. A quick right hand through “the kink” and back to full throttle as you enter the Kettle Bottoms section, which is another good place to pass. You are hard on the brakes as turn #12 comes up quickly. A sharp right turn and you are in Thunder Valley. Turn #13 is a short left hand turn, but here the elevation drops off quickly as you head east. Brake hard for the right hand turn #14. Go through the turn and you are back on to the main straight and you are back hard on the gas. You have just gone a little over 4 miles . Now, do it all over again for the next 25 minutes. If your lap times are around 2.25 to 2.50 minutes, your average speed will be just north of 100 MPH.

It is now approaching 6 p.m. and the day is coming to an end. So in review, what should you expect? When on the track, expect the unexpected. Can a car spin out? Yes is does happen. Can there be a mechanical failure? A few years ago, a Porsche had an engine literally explode on the track. This caused a red flag while fluids and engine bits were cleaned up. Another driver informed me that a Ferrari had a brake failure at 158 MPH at the end of the main straight. He went off the track and ended up in the catch fence. Luckily, no injuries. Again, the goal is to be able to drive the car home. All in all, this truly was a memory-making day and a unique opportunity for any racing fan.

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