What Would Your Fantasy Track Look Like?

ideal-track-3Writing last September’s profile of motorcycle flat track racing renewed my long-dormant interest in TT racing, in which the typical oval track is tweaked into a sort of kidney shape that features at least one turn in each direction and a jump, but that opposite turn is typically rather subtle, almost vestigial.  That got me thinking about track design; how much “enhancement” would a basic oval track need to provide real right and left turns? At first I considered something very close to the traditional dirt oval, scaling down one end of the oval and reversing it within the outer track, with 180-degree curves between the inner and outer half-ovals, creating a simple “C” shape. But there was one big problem: no runoff areas.  On the inner track, bikes and riders sliding toward the outside of the turn could either slam into a wall or slide into the traffic on the opposite end of the course. I began to ask: how I could incorporate the whole gamut of turns — right and left, increasing and decreasing radii, wide sweepers, chicanes and tight hairpins —  within a minimal length (1/2 mile or so) and the fewest number of turns? I wanted a “teaching track,” with well-defined, predictable turns that would be easy for student drivers to classify and study. That question blossomed over several months into a full-fledged circuit design exercise. I can’t be the only one here who has attempted to sketch out his dream circuit. The first design I sketched out was still not too far removed from a basic oval. I was quite happy with it until I identified a requirement I hadn’t considered: the aerial view of my dream circuit couldn’t look like a geoglyph of male genitalia. So it was back to the drawing board. I tweaked that design, while also deciding that it should be properly paved, not dirt, so I could run karts on it. ideal-track-2But this ended up being a pretty wide-open design for its size. The whole back of the track from 2A to the entrance to 5 had only minor bends and could generate some serious speed going right into a tight, 180-degree turn: not a good recipe for less experienced, less savvy drivers. I decided I should put in some sharper turns and keep the straights short, keeping driver mortality in check while allowing drivers without a surplus of horsepower to still explore the limits of their ride. And since I was paving the track, I should widen it to make it car friendly. My third and final revision is what’s shown in the lede image. If you look at that design, all the curve sections have a constant radius, but some sections are strung together in the same direction so that the overall curve tights or widens. Those radii are precisely 90′, 120′ or  360′. The idea is that the track is easy to understand and assimilate: no hard-to-feel, optically confusing, off-camber, downhill spookies.  Other than the front straight, which is slightly over a 10th mile, the rest of the lap is spent with the steering wheel going one way or the other. I envision this as a track more challenging than a simple oval, while still being able to be economically built on nearly any good-sized piece of rural property. What about you? What sort of race course would you design, if you could?

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