A Fast Lap at Waterford Hills Road Course
By Jason Steeb
At 1.5 miles and 13 turns (8 official), Waterford is tight and twisty. Each corner flows into the other, and requires a certain amount of rhythm and patience from the driver, and predictable over steer from the car. It’s an intense lap and due to the confined space, much different than any other track on the schedule. I have hundreds of laps at this place, and still haven’t managed a perfect one. Nonetheless, here’s my best description of what it would look like if I could pull it off…
As you cross under the start finish line you should be heading back towards your left, and looking for the dip and strip of bumps at the entrance of turn 1. I get all of my braking and down shifting completed so I can get back on the throttle as I’m passing through the dip. I try to straddle the bumps, but many Waterford regulars get inside the bumps, and double apex Turn 1 and 2 (which is just a large 180 deg sweeper).
I carry as much speed as possible through T1, and use it to setup my apex for T2. I enter Turn 1 in the middle of the track and power down the hill into T2. In order to get the front of car settled and pointed in for the T2 apex, I almost always have to breathe the throttle during the uphill portion (entrance to T2). I try to apex T2 after the red and white curbing – maybe 10 feet (I shoot for the second length of unpainted curbing). By the way: If you get a good run out of the last turn, T1 is a great passing opportunity. You can run 2 abreast through T1/T2 no problem.
As you exit T2, watch out for the track to swing back to the right, and get your car positioned as far left as possible. The upcoming right-hander is called, “Bluff Bend.” It’s a very fast and very bumpy at the entrance. Breathe the throttle and turn in for a normal/late apex. Don’t let your momentum or the bumps cause the car to drift too far to the left, or you will not get a good entrance for turn 3.
Get the car settled and back over to the right as quickly as possible. Brake hard, check your mirror and turn-in late for T3. I like to drive my RF over the outer corner of the concrete, and apex during the last 5 feet of curbing. Again…you don’t want the car to drift too far on exit. Get your foot back in it 100%, but (smoothly) keep the car to the left. You can pass here, but it needs to be thought about and setup in T1/T2.
Take the right hander (up the hill) flat out. Normal apex. You can use the curbing on exit, but it gets pretty dicey the more you use it. Think Road America.
Hill top is actually considered Turn 4. I brake and turn in so my LF clips the outer corner of the concrete patch. Cross over the concrete and apex just after the curbing. When my car is right, I can get back into the throttle as soon as the front end points in. If not, I have to wait until the apex / crest of the hill. If you can beat your competition to the throttle here, you will pass them going into turn 6.
Let the car drift and clip the left apex coming down the hill - grab 4th gear. Keep the car on the left edge of the track. Keep your foot to the floor. Give a nod to God, and turn in for Big Bend (turn5) just before the lighter colored line of pavement crossing the track. Sometimes, I find it easier to see the bumps in the center of the corner. The idea is to straddle or get inside of those bumps, and then follow a natural arc to and from the apex. If everything is working, Big Bend should be flat.
Take a breath on the back straight.
I want to say I’m braking for Turn 6 at the 200 sign. Downshift to 3rd and aim for a normal apex. Don’t forget to check your mirrors. This is a very straightforward 90deg corner. It’s also a great place to pass, and a terrible place to drop your outside wheels.
I turn in and brake for paddock bend all at the same time – many folks double apex this 180deg sweeper. I end up entering the corner in the middle of the track, let it drift slightly and then accelerate and hold a constant arc once the front end bights. Apex way late, and keep the car pinched at the exit.
Get the car to the right side of the track and apex the first half of, “the esses,” Turn 7, near the middle of the curbing. Accelerating at turn-in and straightening the chicane as much as possible. This is not a good place to be side-by-side, but if you get a great run through paddock bend, this is a fun place for a surprise attack (and a good place for a mirror check).
The last turn is T8 (Swamp). It’s a double apex increasing radius corner. It is much faster than you think, but you have to get the entrance right. I like to start 2 or 3 feet from the right hand edge of the track, and swoop into the first apex. If you’ve done it right, you will be able to get back to full throttle just after turn in. Apex near the middle of the curbing. After apex 1, let the car drift all the way out to the dirt on the right, grab 4th gear, and sweep into the 2nd apex (curbing near the caution light).
Let the car drift out to the outer edge of the front straight, start setting up for T1, and do it all over again. Do not drop 2 wheels coming out onto the front straight. I have seen a number of cars spin back across the track, and into the front straight wall.
Setup notes… Understeer at Waterford is not your friend. Also, think bumpy. Get you car to absorb the bumps and rotate. If the car is hooked up, 13’s should be easy. If the weather is good – 12’s are consistent. If God is smiling, I think 11’s are doable.