Tom’s Corner – Taming Road America!

tomscorner

Welcome to Road America in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin where I will take you through this 4.0-mile road racing course in a 1965 vintage 700 hp Corvette! I have driven this track many times over the years in different race cars and still to this day learn something new on the racing surface. All the information in this article is for dry track conditions only. If the track is wet, all bets are off! Imagine that you are driving this car and not me. You will be going faster on the straights but maybe a little slower in the corners. If all goes well, we should be able to do a complete circuit in this race car at 2 minutes 40 seconds!

When our session starts, we will depart the ‘false grid’ and into the hot pit lane and from there onto the race track. As you are going through the hit pit lane to the race track, hopefully you will notice a STOP and GO light on the fence at the end of the hot pit lane. If the light is RED…STOP! ~ If the light is GREEN, Go, BUT…please stay to the right until you are past the apex of turn one. Now do a parade lap around the race course and after turn 14, coming up the hill to the starter please stay on the left and let cars that may pass you pass on your right. You should be approaching 170 mph at this point and from turn 14 to turn one, you have covered 4405 feet. I would suggest going to the brake pedal at the #4 brake marker. Turn #1 is a right hander approaching downhill and is faster that it initially appears and many race drivers have ‘lost it’ there and gone into the gravel pit. Leaving turn #1 and going downhill on the left, and passing the flag station on your right, you will be approaching turn #3. This is 1561 feet from turn #1. Come down to this turn on the left side as you prepare for the right hand corner entrance and set up your apex accordingly. It should be a ‘late apex’ well past the middle of the bump strip on your right. This will lead you to the second fastest part of the track Coming out of turn #3, keep to the right of this slowly descending 3888 feet leading down to turn #5. You are going about 186 mph through this section. Watch for your brake markers here. This is the sharpest left hand turn on the race track. You should ‘late apex’ this turn as you head up to turn #6, which is a blind off camber left turn. Stay to the right side of the track when coming up the hill here. This section is 960 feet in length and you will use second and third gears to get to turn #6. Turn #7 is 788 feet going downhill with a slight kink to a section called ‘hurry downs’. Elevation change and 1322 feet to turn #8, you must stay to the right and very hard on the brakes in this 90 degree turn. You will be going about 90 mph approaching this turn.

The infamous ‘Carousel’ is 3383 feet in a slightly increasing radius and you will pick up speed considerably here as you approach ‘the ‘Kink’. Do not take ‘the Kink’ flat out! It has caused many crashes by driver who over-drive this portion of the track. From ‘the Kink’ to turn #12 is 2736 feet long and you will approach ‘Canada Corner’ at a very high rate of speed, about 190 mph! Watch your braking points here as you will need to down shift to first or second to get through this corner. Again, stay to the right side of the track and apex slightly sooner to get through properly. From turn #12 to turn #13, its uphill for 1140 feet and stay to the left. This section is called ‘Thunder Valley’. At corner #13 start your line to the right side as you approach turn #14 which is 1009 Feet. From here, you will start going back up hill to the start-finish line which is 1380 feet and wide open on the throttle! There are many elevation changes to this race course and that is what makes a favorite of race drivers. There are of course signs indicating braking points and rumble strips at the inside or outside of the apex’s and as you learn the course as I have, each time you drive here it will be a very memorable experience. To be able to tour this track at 2 minutes 40 seconds in my cousin’s vintage Corvette is just one of the highlights in all of my driving life.

Just think…172 mph…700 hp…arm restraints…ear plugs…safety harnesses… driving suit… helmet… roll bars…racing fuel…loud…hot and fast!!! This is what it’s all about!

There are many opportunities throughout the year to attend driving events at Road America,  for more information check out http://www.roadamerica.com/

I drove this Corvette road race car to 172 mph in 2005... Very loud,hot and fast !

I drove this Corvette road race car to 172 mph in 2005… Very loud,hot and fast !

 

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