Turn 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 (esses)
After tracking out over the left hand curb exiting the esses, it is important to late-apex (hit the back side) of every corner through the esses. There is a nice rhythm to the esses when done right. Although hitting the curbs with an early apex and running all over them might not be slower, I don’t find it necessary in any car. The last turn in the esses (left hand Turn 20) is very quick and it’s important to have hit your marks and late apexes on all prior corners otherwise the exit of 20 can come up on you fast. When done right, this corner is flat, fast, but not too hairy. If you find yourself lifting at exit or about to drop tires, you turned in too early for 20, and probably apexed the previous corners too early as well.
*The most common error for this corner is apexing it and the prior corners too early. Like Turn 13/Lost Hill, many cars go off here with a bad result, hook-spinning and crashing into the inside wall on the left, sometimes even writing off the entire car. This can be avoided by executing the line well and slowly building up the speed without compromising the line. If you find yourself in a situation where you are going to drop tires off on the exit of Turn 20, or any corner for that matter, ride it out. Keep the steering wheel straight since it is perfectly fine to drive with two tires in the dirt and slowly bring the car back onto the track once the car is back under control. Panicing when you drop tires and trying to immediately jerk it back on to the track is a major reason cars hook-spin to the opposite side of the track, and this can be easily avoided by staying calm and riding it out.
Turn 21 (Sunset)
Sunset is banked/on-camber and is one of the most important corners on the track because it leads onto one of the longest straights. Like Turn 2, it is important to not hustle the car into this corner with too much entry speed, but make sure to focus on getting a good exit. Use the curbing on the right as a brake reference point, get the car slowed down and trail off the brakes down to a slightly late apex. Pick up power right before the apex and squeeze to full throttle through the apex to track out and use the exit curbing onto the front straight.
That completes a lap at Buttonwillow. As you master these basics and the line, slight changes (a few feet different here and there) and keeping the tire at its limit the entire time is the next step when searching for the last few seconds or tenths. 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!
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