Turn 8 (The Sweeper)
Turn 8 is a very fast corner with entry speeds in excess of 150mph and apex speeds of over 140mph. While fast with almost no banking, this corner is full throttle on entry in any car. The long apex of T8 has a series of bumps that can be very unsettling, and with no reference points, it can be very intimidating corner.
Turn-in early to get to the right side of the road under full throttle and depending on the car, balance, and grip, ease out of the throttle as much as necessary to keep the car on the right side of the road. In lower powered cars, this turn is flat. Since there are no reference points, it’s important to hug the right side of the road. The road straightens briefly between T8 and T9 and this is my reference point to track out to the left side of the road to set up for T9.
Turn 9 (“Turn 9”)
The infamous Turn 9… It is regarded as one of the ‘ballsy-est’ corners in North America for a reason. This corner has seen more than its share of epic disasters, some of which ending in fatalities. This is definitely a corner that should be approached with respect and small increases of speed when approaching the limit.
Looking at the corner objectively: Turn 9 is a decreasing radius right-hander with an on-camber/banked dip at the apex that flattens out at track-out. The approach of T9 is very fast but the apex speeds are far lower than the apex speeds of T8. For lower powered cars that are flat through T8, only a slight brush of the brakes is needed on entry of T9. For higher powered cars that approach T9 can be over 140mph, a good 40mph or more needs to be scrubbed off before the entry, requiring a significant amount of braking. In both cases, the ideal line is to find the largest radius through the corner. This is achieved by riding the outside edge of the track and turning in from there to get down to the apex of T9.
A lot of time can be had on the entry of T9; but with more entry speed, the risk of not getting the car turned and not being able to make the corner becomes greater. Increasing entry speed should be approached very slowly. It is easy to creep down to the right side of the road, leaving a big cushion of real-estate off to the left because it’s more comfortable. While comfortable, it’s not fast. Hug the outside edge of the road and don’t tighten your line and until you can see the dip at the apex itself. Once you can see the dip and apex, get down to it and squeeze to full throttle. This will ensure a good, late apex, and will allow you to ‘release’ the car to track-out with a lower risk of dropping tires on exit.
**Make sure to either be rolling-on the throttle or full throttle through the apex/dip in the road. This will keep weight on the rear of the car and make the front of the car less responsive and stable when you hit the compression. Never lift off the throttle or coast through a dip like this. Coasting into a compression like this can give the front of the car too much grip and cause the unloaded rear to loose grip and cause the car to hook-spin to the inside. The apex of T9 is very similar in this regard to T6 at Laguna Seca. Both of which see this mistake happen time and time again. Keep the weight on the rear at the compression and you’ll be fine.
Tip of the day: To reiterate what I said for Turn 6, and this is true for any corner. If you are going to drop tires or go 4-wheels off the track on exit, straighten the wheel and ride it out. Ease the car back on to the track slowly further down the road. Off-roading your car isn’t the end of the world, but if you panic and try jerking the car back onto the road, it can and often leads to hook-spins which can put you sideways on the opposite side of the road with a greater potential for rolling. It is much safer to go off the road straight than it is sideways. Following this advice can help reduce the chance a problem like this will happen at any track in any corner. Always stay calm and collected and you will be much safer out there.
That completes a lap at Willow Springs International Raceway. Staying calm, relaxed, and focused are key elements in dropping lap time, by learning more about both your car’s handling and your own driving style. Keep hitting up track days, Time Attacks, and any seat time you can get to practice your craft. I hope to see you at the track!