By Fred Pack, PCA DE instructor
Drive Straight Off !
I was recently at a Driver Ed event at the New Jersey Motorsports Park Lightning track. During a novice session, I saw a car go into Turn 1, complete the turn but then spinout, and crash into the tire wall barrier on the inside of Turn 1’s exit. (Fortunately, the driver suffered no injury.)
Why did the car spin off the track and crash into the inside barrier?
Turn 1 at Lightning is a less-than-90º right turn at the end of a long straight which goes uphill as the turn approaches. The road then goes slightly downhill just after the apex. Since you can’t see over the crest at the apex it is difficult to know where the track-out is. Additionally, the change from uphill to downhill unsettles the balance of the car and reduces the grip with the road. The result of these influences is that cars often are aiming wide at the track-out. This causes some drivers to get off the gas which transfers weight to the front, turn the wheel to the right to hold the car on the track, and perhaps even get on the brakes. These factors cause the car to go into TTO oversteer and as the rear comes around the nose aims for the inside of the turn and the car shoots off the track nose first into the tire wall. (This is an all too frequent occurrence at Lightning’s Turn 1.)
What should the driver do to avoid this problem?
Turns often have considerable run-off room at their exits. Rather than fight the car to stay on the track, let the car go off the pavement onto the grass – after all, by that point in the turn there is very little cornering momentum left. Gently let the car slow down on the grass and re-enter the track when it is safe to do so. (Usually a corner worker will give you a signal.)