Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Happy 60th, Road America

I love this course.  It is so bloody fast.  Watching CART race at Road America in the '80's and '90's was a peak experience.  Bob Varsha recently called Road America "America's Nurburgring."  A better comparison was made in the '80's and '90's by drivers who had raced on both sides of the Atlantic.  They said it reminded them of Spa-Francorchamps.

Most of the bends are fast.  In the CART days, the key to a fast lap was to be able to take The Kink flat out.  It's a testimony to the speed those cars were carrying that today's ALMS GT racers, the most advanced street car-based racers, with plenty of aero, must lift or even tap the brakes to get through The Kink at a much slower entry speed.  Turns 3, 5, 8, and 12 (Canada Corner) are slow.  Here are some pictures taken at Turn 5 over the decades.

This picture was taken in 1963, but it could have been in '55, the inaugural year.

Phil Hill in Turn 5 on his victory lap in 1957.  He also won the inaugural race in 1955.  Ferrari 315 S.

Mario Andretti in Turn 5 in his Game, Set, Match year of 1987: pole position, led all laps, won.  This was my own first
visit to Road America, and it was a great spectating experience.  You could walk most of the course and be close to the
cars in most corners and on the middle straight.  I could easily be in the crowd in this picture.  At the time, CART cars
braked from about 185 m.p.h. to take Turn 5 at about 40-45 m.p.h.

Turn 5 today, at a recent NASCAR race.  The spectating is OK from the grandstand, which didn't exist in 1987, but it's
"...meh..." at best from the grass.  Note the Jersey Barriers and high catch fence.  Probably the best viewing areas at
Road America today are at Canada Corner (Turn 12), the Carousel, and the outside of the Carousel looking toward
The Kink.

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