Video: The Tricks To Road America With Patrick Long

Road America is not for the faint of heart. Fast bends, heavy braking zones, long straights, areas without much runoff, and blind entries test the driver and keep them permanently on their toes.

Road America is very quick, too, and to capitalize on those high speeds, it’s important to have enough guts to brake late without carrying too much speed into the apex. Hitting every apex curb allows the driver to unwind the steering that much earlier and exit with a few additional miles an hour, which are easily multiplied down the long straights. Road America, in short, is a track which rewards the “slow in, fast out” approach.

As Patrick Long, the only Porsche factory driver from the U.S., shows us, there’s a certain respect you have to have for this intimidating circuit. Building up to a quick pace without writing the car off requires a driver knows their reference points and works towards them in gradual increments.

Photo credit: Will Pittenger

For instance, getting the car stopped at the end of the front straight comes down to identifying the access road; the formal braking markers aren’t easy to see since there’s an uphill charge into this section. It rewards the careful drivers, though, because if a driver carries too much into the quick-but-straightforward Turn 1, they can find themselves contending a little oversteer over the rumble strips, which are adversely cambered and drag the car away from the circuit.

Turn 5 is another challenging bend. It’s downhill, very tight, and immensely quick considering the preceding straight is a top-gear affair. Even the best get caught out occasionally; the corner does tend to trick drivers into outbraking themselves. It’s also a great place for overtaking, or setting up a pass. Again, getting a good exit is critical here.

Like Turn 1, the exit curbs at Turn 8 will “loosen the rear of the car and give an oversteer effect,” Long notes. It pays to be conservative on the exit and maintain traction after the apex, instead of running gobs of speed in. As so many of the corners here lead onto longer, straighter sections, the exits need to take precedence, and therefore the apex curbs need to be hit consistently so the throttle can be buried early in the corner and that acceleration can compound quickly. There seems to be a theme developing here.

To keep the platform settled and remain on the power as long as possible, Long advises the driver makes an early and relaxed direction change on the way into the daunting Turn 11, also known euphemistically as The Kink. It’s an incredibly fast corner which offers the careless driver no room to correct a big wobble, so the car needs to remain composed. Therefore, once that direction change is made, hopefully the driver is headed directly towards the apex and can crack that throttle open so slightly—and progressively—to keep the platform straight and settled.

Photo credit: Patricklong.com

Again, the last corner, Turn 14, is typical of the situation a driver faces at Road America. As it precedes a very long straight—which is steeply uphill—getting a neat and tidy exit is all-important. “If you lose two tenths at the exit of the corner, those two tenths are going to multiply all the way up the hill,” Long warns. Words to live by.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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