CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: A lap with Hunter-Reay

A Lap Around Paradise with 2003 Winner Ryan Hunter-Reay This will be my first time returning to a track as a defending Champ Car race winner and it's something I have been looking forward to for nearly 365 days. Here's a rundown of a lap around...

A Lap Around Paradise with 2003 Winner Ryan Hunter-Reay

This will be my first time returning to a track as a defending Champ Car race winner and it's something I have been looking forward to for nearly 365 days. Here's a rundown of a lap around my favorite street circuit, Surfer's Paradise. There's no other racetrack quite like it. Where else can someone surf one day and race a car at 200 mph only a hundred yards away the next?

Accelerating down the front straight you climb to around 190 mph, working through the gears. The straight is never actually straight; you're always slightly turning right from the first corner. Once the first turn is in sight, everything seems extremely narrow for 19 cars to attempt to negotiate the same piece of track at the same time. Which is why the starts at Surfer's are so much fun to watch, and real nail biters for the teams on the pit wall.

Turn one is the beginning of a long succession of chicanes with significant curbing. Approaching the corner you do your best to get the car good for the hard braking zone. From top gear, you work down the gears and then its a couple swift hits of the apex curbing at roughly 55mph and then its back to full throttle as soon as you can put the power down, which is an interesting exercise because you're really never sure of the rear of the car once it launches off the curbing.

As you exit the turn one/two chicane you accelerate up the gears before having to shift rapidly back down to the lower gears again for the three/four chicane, which is much like the first just a bit slower. This chicane also demands an aggressive driving style to attack the curbs properly.

Once you exit the three/four chicane it's up only one gear then right back down to 3rd for a right/left chicane that leads onto another straight.

Again it's back up through the gearbox to 170 mph. Turn seven is a pretty straightforward 90-degree left-hander taken at around 40mph. Then you power up before going down for another 90 degree left, which is somewhat tricky due to the off camber exit. This makes getting the power down a test of the driver's patience. Because of this power down issue and the long straight it leads onto this area of the track creates a good passing opportunity into the turn nine/ten chicane.

Approaching the nine/ten chicane you will be at the second fastest part of the track. This section I really enjoy because of the fact that turn nine is somewhat banked, which gives some stability. Turn ten is a bit slower and has a large curb that you have to be careful of.

Next up is the famous Festival Curves, by far the most "on edge" section of racetrack you will encounter. The risk is huge, but when you get this section of track right it is the most rewarding feeling, and impossible to describe with words. You approach the left/right/left/right double chicane at maximum speed. From inside the cockpit it comes at you so fast and if you hit it wrong, the car will hit the curbing wrong and launch--.. ending your day.

Next up is turn 13 and 14, which are both 90 degree left-handers typical to street racing with minimum speeds around 50-60mph.

As you exit turn 14 you must set up for another switch back to the right. Once again it's tough to get the power down here as the track is crowned and the rear of the car wants to drift to the wall. This leads up to the last section of the lap.

Last is turn 16 and 17. Sixteen is a very tight right hander that leads up to the long increasing radius turn 17. This corner is a lot of fun when the rear of the car is settled, but if its not you're in for a heck of a ride. Most importantly it leads onto the longest stretch of the racetrack so the exit speed here is a very high priority.

Then it's back up the straight where I have some of my best memories in racing. I remember coming out of that last corner in dry/wet conditions on the very last lap of last year's race. I was filled with emotion and had chills up my back all the way down the straight. Hopefully I'll feel that again next weekend and become the first ever double Surfer's Paradise winner.

-hc-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay