The American Le Mans Series will compete in the Road America 500 presented by the Chicago Tribune at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Aug. 22-24. In this first-person narrative, ACEMCO Ferrari driver Terry Borcheller of Phoenix, Az., describes how he drives a lap of the 4-mile circuit.
-by Terry Borcheller
Going into turn one, you want to brake late but brief, so you can pick up the throttle early and carry a lot of momentum through to the exit and turn two. You've got a short downhill straight leading you into turn three. Use your braking references so you don't overdrive the downhill braking zone. A turn-in reference is helpful to keep you from early apexing, a typical problem in this corner. You've got a long straight afterwards, so being on the gas and flat-out early helps to get your top speeds.
Going into turn five, again the braking zone is downhill. There is also a slight curve to the right side of the race track (turn four), so in straight-line braking, watch out for dropping a wheel on the outside of the entry. The braking references are a huge key to not making a mistake on the approach. Make a clean apex but don't get too greedy with the exit. You can run out pretty wide, but the alligator teeth bite back.
This sets you up for a short straight, but it's almost straight up. Early to the power helps a lot in climbing the hill. Turn six, the left-hander at the top of the hill, can be very difficult to get right consistently. The braking zone is uphill and you have to brake at the right time. This helps to slow the car quickly, but there are some obstacles - the bridge, no number boards for a reference and the hill crests at the top, unsettling the car. If the brakes are not applied at the right time with the right pressure, you'll likely miss your apex. Carrying the correct speed through, consistently, is tough.
The next task is getting the car back to the left side of the race track with the weight off the right side of the car. If turn seven is done correctly, you won't need much - if any - braking, maybe just a lift or left-foot brake. You can get away with using a little extra at the exit. This really gives you a fast exit and run down the next straight. Turn eight is also deceptive because of the downhill braking; use your braking references. Patience with the turn-in will help achieve a proper apex. This is important because you're headed under the walkover bridge and into the Carousel (turns nine and 10).
Having the car set up correctly will enable you to be wide open very early here. Hold the car to mid-track and be very slow with your steering input. Patience pays on the way to the apex. Your run through the Carousel sets you onto a fast exit, using all the track and down a short straight toward turn 11 and the Kink. The Kink is flat out - oh, wait a minute. That's what I've always told anyone who asked, but is it true? Cars with a lot of downforce and/or a driver who doesn't own the race car he's in can do it. For everyone else, there's usually a lift or even a slight touch on the brake. Whichever approach you choose, do it early so you can be back to full throttle asap. Be very careful with an early turn-in and/or early apex - it could give you a bad headache. If you decide to just "try it" flat, double-check the data afterwards before you boast, and definitely use all the curb at the apex and exit.
At the limits, the Kink is a rush every lap. This takes you through the beautiful forests of Wisconsin and into turn 12, Canada Corner. Use your braking references - you'll need them. You see some of your highest speeds entering this corner. Out of Canada Corner, up the hill through turn 13, under the drive-over bridge and into turn 13A. This corner requires precision with your angle at the apex and a knowledge of how much track you have available at the exit. You're committing to go flat-out all the way through before you ever see the exit.
Going into the final corner, turn 14, you don't want to get it wrong. You've just worked so hard on that fastest lap and this turn could definitely change the outcome. There is a strange angle to the entry, but you really need to create a straight line to do your hard braking. A lot of momentum, early on the gas and early full throttle will help get you up a very steep front straight and back to the start/finish line.
Road America is a great race track, very wide and smooth, with a lot of opportunities for passing. It always has excellent racing, terrific fans and wonderful scenery.