RACE: SCCA Valvoline Runoffs: What turn number? A Mid-Ohio primer

As the Valvoline Runoffs® invade Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for its ninth visit to the scenic road circuit, it's time to address a common question: What is that turn number? The answer is not as easy as you would expect, because there are many...

As the Valvoline Runoffs® invade Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for its ninth visit to the scenic road circuit, it's time to address a common question: What is that turn number? The answer is not as easy as you would expect, because there are many numbering systems in use, and many more that have been employed over the 40 years of racing at the hilly circuit. Here's a little primer for those who might have trouble deciphering the code.

Mid-Ohio has two courses, a 2.4-mile "club" course and a 2.258-mile "pro" course that straight-lines a chicane used in the longer circuit. The turns are numbered differently for the two courses and there is a third (I'll call it "historical") numbering system that is used by the course workers at the track. In addition, there are names attached to some areas of the track, some official, some not.

I will tour the track with you using a couple of the numbering systems - if you have a track map handy (or have a good mental picture of the course,) you might have an easier time following along. I'll stay away from the "pro" turn numbers, and use the "club" and "historical" terms. Just to add a bit of confusion, the Runoffs® will switch to using the "pro" circuit for the 2003 edition - it's too soon to know what numbering system will be used then. Just remember, when discussing a turn with someone, it helps to know which number scheme they are using.

As you leave pit road, you turn left inside of turn 1 - the same number on all systems, but don't get comfortable - and head up the short straight towards "The Keyhole." This complex of turns includes turns 2 and 3 on the historical network, and just turn 2 on the "club" and "pro" course diagrams, as here is where the pro circuit bypasses the chicane (historical "2").

Next is Mid-Ohio's long back straight, which features a kink about halfway down - where the starter's flagstand is. CART races are started here, but the finish line is at the traditional place on the pit straight. This is called turn 5 on the historical list and turn 3 on the club course.

At the end of this straight is the "Esses", a steeply irregular series of three turns - right-left-right - that is so challenging, it is often named "Madness". The traditional numbering calls this series of turns seven, eight and nine, while on the club course it is 4, 5, & 6.

Exiting the Esses there is a slight left bend as the road climbs and passes under a pedestrian bridge - this turn is unnumbered in the historical scheme, but is called seven on Mid-Ohio's club circuit map. As the cars get light cresting the hill, the driver sees the workers at the right-hand turn 10, but turn in for turn 8 (are you still following along?) Immediately afterward is turn 11 (a.k.a. turn 9), a tight, difficult right that leads into "Thunder Valley."

At the bottom of the valley is the black-flag signaling station, known as thirteen by the workers, at the apex of a fast right turn called turn 10 on the club course. Coming up out of the valley, next is an off-camber left turn, numbered 11 or 14.

After a short, humped straight, major braking is required for the 180-degree "Carousel" turn, which rotates flaggers into the ground at station 15, but the many of the drivers know as 12 (I think - although I think many of them just point to a track map and say: "that turn there.")

Finally, the drivers must negotiate a left-handed kink on the exit of the right-hand Carousel before entering the pit straight for the run up to turn 1. That kink is called 13 on the club map but is also known as sixteen.

Got it?

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