CHAMPCAR/CART: Lou Gigliotti: A lap of Cleveland

Motorsport.com has asked drivers from the SCCA SPEED World Challenge and the American Le Mans Series to give our readers an insight of some of the 2005 venues that they will compete on. The Burke Lakefront Airport 2.106-mile temporary circuit on Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio is an actual operating airport, the cars race on runways and taxi ways.

Lou Gigliotti.
Photo by John Thawley.
Lou Gigliotti is one driver who has raced on the wide-open tricky course, the former SCCA Club racer has vast experience in a variety of series including the former Super Vee series, IMSA and Trans-Am.

In 2004, the Texan returned to World Challenge competition. The three-time World Challenge champion accepted our request and in his own words, describes a lap around the 10-turn fast circuit.

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A lap around: Cleveland, Burke Lakefront Airport race course
By: Lou Gigliotti

This track is not much more than a high speed autocross. Flat wide turns that cross back and forth between runways. It is a very bumpy track that can test your shock knowledge. It doesn't have the character of a Watkins Glen or Road America but it is a good race track as temporary tracks go.

Cleveland has no hills, valleys or blind turns -- Just blind drivers going into turn one at the start of almost every race that is held there.

Turn 1

Turn one is a tight hairpin with room for only one or two cars at the apex. The problem is that the entry to this corner is from a very wide runway that can be 6 or more cars wide. As the cars funnel down to the apex the problems come into play.

There will always be one brave soul who will dive bomb down the inside lane and "T Bone" the field.

Ok, so aside from the start and restarts going into turn one it is a typical hairpin that is a decreasing radius leading on to a fast sweeper which is really a straight away. The sweeper is actually Turn 2 a right hand It is a flat out run through turn 2 for the set up for the next corner. So turn 2 is nothing more than a right hand bend leading from the "Taxi way" onto the next runway.

Turn 3

This turn is a tight right hand 90 that leads no where but to turn 4. It is a quick right hand turn that requires the driver to focus more on his set up for the exit out of turn 4 than ultimate speed into turn 3. Turn 3 requires discipline to not over drive it because that would hurt the exit of 4. Even with this in mind this can be a very fast corner due to the wide entry. It also offers some passing opportunities.

Turn 4

As I mentioned above the key to turn 4 is the set up from turn 3. Early throttle application out of 4 will help the run down this short straight. The grass at track out can catch a driver off guard. It is close enough where if the driver apexes too early out of 4 he can run out of road.

Turn 5

Turn 5 is a fast and very bumpy left hand turn that again is nothing more than a connection between two runways. The bumps can cause a car to leave the intended line and can cause the car to be out of position. Again the driver must consider this corner a lead in to turn 6 rather than trying to carry max speed through this corner.

Turn 6

Once you are over the major bump in turn 6 you can concentrate on carrying speed through this right hand corner to the next corner. This is a heavy acceleration section that will carry speed all the way past the turn in for turn 7. The car will go wide out of 6 to the edge of the track and carry 90% of your speed just past the turn in for the right hand turn 7.

Turn 7

This is a very fast lead in for the next right hand turn and it is not much of a corner since it again just crosses runways. The key to this turn is to carry speed but not too much for the turn in for the right hand lead in for turn 8. A driver can make up some time here but must be careful to not over cook the brake point for turn 8. this is a common mistake and causes many off course incidents.

Turn 8

The key words for turn 8 are "Concrete Wall". The wall on the out side of 8 usually has the banners scraped off from cars rubbing the wall. It is essential to get the best run on to the straight away and using all the road is the key. That is to say that you want to use all of the road but not the wall. You are not going fast enough unless you rub the banner from time to time without rubbing your car against the concrete. Good trick if you can pull it off.

This straight away has a "Shift" in it. You must move to the middle of the straight because the pit entrance is also part of this straight and the pit wall is coming at you very fast. This narrows the straight to just 2 lanes. It also reduces the passing zone width at the entry of the right/left turn 9/10 zig zag coming up.

Turn 9/10

This is a quick right left switch back that is much faster than it looks. It requires a line that will carry speed onto the final start finish straight. It also will set up any pass into turn 1 so exit speed is essential. This turn also has been a place for cars to crash into each other. There is not enough room for 2 cars to pass through these corners so many times cars come together with less than desirable results. Turn 9 requires a late apex to carry speed out of 10 on to the pit straight. An early apex can result in dropping the left side wheels off in the grass. There are usually tires laid down to keep cars from using the grass on a regular basis. It is also deep here so expect some damage if you drop off at this apex.

The exit here has the biggest bump on the track. It can make a car "Fly". The fast cars will be the ones that control the landing with speed and also keep from going in the grass on the exit of 10.

Things to look out for at Cleveland

Runway lights: They were made to guide airplanes not drive over with race cars. Even though they remove the worst parts of the runway lights they leave enough to cause damage to a nose or splitter. They also have deep drainage areas that will destroy a car that leaves the racing surface. If a car misses turn 1 and heads for the grass, you will be lucky if you avoid the low spot which can damage the car much more than anyone would expect. Keep it between the green parts and you will be okay.

Rain:  Parts of the runway have been grooved to dissipate the water
for the planes.  But the area around turns 7,8,9 & 10 are very slippery.

In general, Cleveland is a flat airport track with crowns in the runways that can affect traction. It is also very bumpy with hidden traps off track that can damage a car and ruin your day. It has wide entries that funnel down to narrow turns.

Should be fun.

Thanks
Lou Gigliotti
LG Motorsports - www.lgmotorsports.com