A Lap at Road Atlanta in an FST
by Robert Clark

 

Road Atlanta is one of the great road courses in North America. Situated to the northeast of Atlanta it makes the most of the natural terrain to produce a racetrack with significant elevation changes. At 2.54 miles with 12 turns, the course is smooth, fast and with numerous challenging corners and long straights. The FST Track record is 1:39.309

The start/finish line is at the start of the front straight leads which downhill into Turn 1. In an FST there is plenty of opportunity to execute a pass down the front straight from a good draft, but it requires some bravery as you will need to carry the extra speed into the first turn. Turn 1 is fast and sweeps uphill, you need to carry as much speed as possible up the hill so its a fine line on when to lift or not – in ideal conditions it is possible to take it flat (or close to) but most times there is a lift before the corner – then back to full throttle. Turn in is generally from the far left sweeping into a late apex, at speed you can let the car run out to the outside ripple strip but you need to get back to the right for Turn 2. Note the Pro Pit-exit is on your right after Turn 1 so watch for traffic as you move across for Turn 2.

Turn 2 is a gentle sweep right and is mostly about getting yourself set for the sharp right hand Turn 3. I try and late apex Turn 2 to keep me to the left of the track for the blind apex at Turn 3 - then brake and change down before flicking the steering wheel right for Turn 3. You can afford to take some of the inside ripple strip at Turn 3 but be careful - too much and it can fire you across the track and off the outside before the left hand Turn 4.

After 3 its hard on the throttle through 4 and build speed as you change up, then sweep downhill through the essess to turn 5. The aim is to straight line the essess as much as possible, but position the car so you’re on the right-hand side of the track approaching turn 5.

Turn 5 is a tricky corner – its uphill so you need to carry plenty of speed – if your car is handling well you can brake and stay in 4th for the run up the hill. I generally prefer however to brake and change down before Turn 5 and power out of the corner – I think this gives me more control and slightly better drive up the hill, but a personal preference. You can run wide out of Turn 5 and the ripple strip is large so getting the outside wheel up on it is okay. Be careful though - it runs out and if you too far right the transition back to the track can be rough. Keep your eyes peeled here, the track crests and then drops into a dip – cars that make a mess of 5 can end up hidden in the dip so keep a wary eye out on the Marshalls station on the exit of Turn 5.

Down the short straight to the right-hander at turn 6 you will either be in 4th or change back up near the top of the crest. The short straight does represent a passing opportunity down into Turn 6, but to be honest it’s a low percentage move – its likely to slow both you and the person you are passing into Turn 6, and with the long back straight one corner away they are just as likely to draft back past you down the straight. I think you better off to use Turn 6 and Turn 7 to get a good position for the draft. Turn 6 is generally a 4th gear corner, with brake and then sweep through – watch the understeer if you carry too much speed in.

Brake hard and shift down for sharp right hand Turn 7 and leave your turn in late. Turn 7 is critical to get a good run onto the long back straight and you arrive at it at speed so braking and turn in have to be spot on or your slow to the straight. The temptation in Turn 7 is to get to the throttle early to get the drive into the straight, but too early and you will find you self running out of track on the exit and compromising your straight line speed.

Lots of drafting opportunity down the back straight – technically its three straights connected by two Turns 8 & 9 – but they are a straight as far as an FST is concerned – take a breath here as things will get busy again soon.

Turn 9 is a gentle curve about 2/3rds the way down, around the curve you will arrive at the crest for the drop down to Turn 10A and 10B – you will be at max speed and at this point the track drops away, quickly increasing your speed into the Turn 10A braking area.

This is another good passing opportunity – if you have been passed on the draft down the straight its possible to pass back under braking at this point. Brake hard for Turn 10A and shift down – the corner looks intimidating as you drop down into it but watch you’re not braking too early, you need a good run through 10A&B to ensure a good run onto the front straight. Watch the ripple strips on the inside of 10A they are very rough and can easily unsettle the car and put you into a spin or slow your speed – coming out of the right hand 10B you can use the ripple strip and its hard on the throttle.

Next comes one of the best corners – certainly on this track, and on many I have driven, as you climb the short hill out of 10B you can see nothing ahead of you except the bridge as the track drops steeply away on the other side, to make matters more complicated it always curves right – all completely out of your sight. You need to position your car based on the 3 painted squares on the bridge – aim to pass under the middle one – to far left and you will find yourself in the support paddock pit lane. Keep the throttle hard down (and remember to breath) as you blast under the bridge and you pick up the track line aim to kiss the ripple strip on the left before sweeping right into the final corner Turn 12 and across the start finish line.

Ok now repeat 19 – times!