RISI'S INSIDE TRACK WITH RICK MAYER: ROAD AMERICA
The track: The 4.048-mile Road America track is about a 2:07 lap time for GT2 cars. The mainly smooth track has some small bumps through the centers of some of the corners. The track is a more traditional European layout compared to most of the stateside tracks we run. This circuit is mainly a series of single corners without tricky or technical combinations, with useable curbs which can reduce lap time; setup dependent of course.
This is the highest speed (stateside) track we'll go to. We'll see 160mph (260kph) three times a lap. The longer track will help separate the LMPs from the GT2s; this should preclude some yellows, reduce traffic and reduce the LMPs' urge to attempt high-risk passes, the opposite of Lime Rock. The LMPs still come around every eight laps or so but the time between will be longer.
Setup: Long straights mean relatively low downforce to maximize top speed; you don't want to lose position on the straights. This track is typically an under-steer track, especially the long Carousel. We'll adjust the spring balance and anti-roll bars to help this. This track prefers a stiffer platform but the curbing requires a softer car, you need to find the balance here. Dampers will come into play; you need to get through the mid- corner bumps without compromising the platform, and remove enough high speed damping to suit running the curbing.
This track isn't hard on brakes, but the long straights cool the front tires so you have to be careful of brake lockups and flat spotting tires in the braking zones. With the lap time being long here (2:07) you don't get many laps in a one-hour practice session; you need to hone in on the setup quickly.
The Race: Both Jaime (Melo) and Mika (Salo) were here last year, and most of the top GT2 drivers have raced here. The Panoz could show speed here as its HP and the long straights will help its lap time and of course the Ferrari verses Porsche battle will continue to heat up. The four-hour race format doesn't change the setup or general race strategy except for the driver rotation; do you make one or two driver changes? The race should be just short of four stints (three stops), if it's all green. Full-course yellows are short here, two to three laps, with a yellow lap being four minutes. History shows few full course cautions in the past races, so you can't plan on race cautions to pit; you take them when they come. We'll see how this all plays out come Saturday.