A Lap of Barber Motorsports Park on Continental Tires With Alex Gurney
With two wins at the 17-turn track, Alex Gurney knows his way around Barber Motorports Park as he and co-driver Jon Fogarty look to break through for their first win of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season this Saturday (SPEED, April 9, 2011).
“Barber is a really difficult track for the tires, for the car, for the driver, for everything.”
“After the start finish line, it goes slightly uphill and then the first corner is a little bit blind as you enter it, so you have to kind of have faith that you know what’s coming. Then, the road falls away really quickly as you enter turn one so you have to kind of decide beforehand where you’re going to turn in because if you decide after you’ve got there then you’re too late! It’s difficult setting the car up because of the quick change in the elevation and then the road falling away a little bit and then it immediately comes back at you again.
"Going into turn two is maybe the hardest one on the track usually -- so far for us, it tends to be loose on the entry so you really have to be careful on your inputs. You usually tend to understeer a lot and it’s really hard on the left front tire. It’s a very long sustained corner so that’s probably the corner that eats up the left front more than anything else. Every time we’ve been here in the past, the left front always ends up being a problem and it usually happens there. Getting on the power hard is not easy there. The way you do it can also affect the way the car handles. I’ve found sometimes you can actually make the car turn there by using the throttle, but it’s tricky because it’s really easy to mess up the corner - go wide or snap the car. So, a tough spot!
"Then you go up a rise to turn four. It’s not terribly difficult, but it’s also blind as you come over the top of that. Sometimes the car will go loose if you have too much wheel in it so you have to anticipate that. The brake zone for the hairpin - turn five I think we call it - it’s very slippery and very difficult to judge and again it’s off camber somewhat as you get down to the turn in. Again really difficult on the tires there too. You are going pretty slow, but it’s just eating up the right front the whole time. And then the exit is an incredibly difficult power down spot - this is the spot that ruins the rears and you know over the time of the race you have to make sure that you’ve got the car pointed straight. On new tires you can power down pretty early but as the tires wear it doesn’t want to accept power. It’s very bumpy along that next straight too.
"The next corner is the 7-8 combo.
"It’s kind of a mess the way you have to go in there because you have to use the curbs quite a bit so it’s really difficult for us, the drivers, to explain what’s happening there with the car because you feel like you’re just gathering it up the whole time and kind of scrapping your way through there because you use the curb on the right and the curb on the left so it’s pretty busy trying to gather it up before turn 8.
"In turn 8, car drops down sharply, a little bit like the Corkscrew but not quite as dramatic. Then you have to get the car to rotate and get on the power again - again a really difficult spot for the rear tires, especially as the race wears on.
"The chicane is very fast - for us, maybe you can do it flat - at least we have on occasion in the past but normally it’s just a breathe the throttle - really quick corner running fourth gear and shifting to fifth at the exit.
"It’s difficult to judge - a lot of people go off at the exit if you don’t get the transition just right. Then you head in to--I guess we call it turn 11 I think. Its another really difficult, high commitment corner. You want to roll in with a lot of speed and you want to brake really late but the road falls away and is sharply downhill before you get to the point where the car catches and starts heading back up the hill and over a rise again.
"It’s another really difficult hard spot on the tires as you come over that rise because we’re always trying to squeeze on the power and it doesn’t want to accept it. Then we have another very fast right hander - there is a lot of load in the car. The left front tends to just get destroyed there pretty quickly. It got a lot of workout from turn 2 and then again in I think it’s turn 13 - just brutal on it.
"It’s like a long sustained spot where you’re trying to hold down throttle and it’s just thrashing that left front. Turn 14 is a really difficult entry. The car always tends to go loose and you see a lot of guys gathering it up and missing a corner there. Again, you have to be careful with your inputs the way you turn in and the way you come off the brake is a big deal. Then the transition for the last corner which is a little more straight forward although again hard to get on the power at the exit and back on the front straight. It’s a really tricky track. Very hard on the tires, and very busy...