Road Atlanta Corner by Corner
Let’s take a look at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – corner by corner – at the wheel of an Allen Berg Racing Schools Tatuus Monza open-wheeler.
After crossing the start/finish line, you head to Turn 1 – a corner like no other. Once you clip the apex, the uphill right-hander is slightly banked and is taken quite fast when done properly. Importantly, this corner is not all about entry speed but is about momentum. On exit, the track has a relatively steep uphill climb. So, with an open-wheel race car like the Tatuus Monza, carrying speed on the uphill is critical. On the corner entry, as it is a momentum corner, you will not need to use a lot of brakes. The amount of brake you will apply will be as required to get some weight onto the nose of the car to get it turned in. Understeer us not uncommon until you reach the compression at the apex. You can counteract that by holding the brakes a little longer into the corner, but make sure to trail off the closer you get to the apex. If you experience snap oversteer on exit, be careful not to over-correct, and more importantly, never lift completely lift off of the throttle as this puts all the weight of the car onto the front tires and can send you off the track. Instead, remain calm and slowly release the throttle with minimal counter steer input. Like most corners, you will use all the road on the exit, but make sure to bring the car back to the middle of the track to set up for Turn 2.
Turn 2 isn’t as much of a corner as it is a setup for Turn 3. What works best is to have the left-side tires flush and parallel with the entry curbing for Turn 3 on the left-hand side of your car. All of your rotation to set up for Turn 3 is going to want to be completed before you enter the brake zone so that you can have as little steering input under braking as possible. This also helps unload the car so you can use the maximum amount of grip available to you in the Landsail Apex King slick tires.
Turn 3 might be the hardest corner on the track because it is blind, it is a sharper corner than you’d think, and it is easy to get all wrong. As in Turn 2, you will want to have your left side tires flush with the entry curb, then get your steering wheel straight for the short light braking zone. You will be braking on a crest, so incorrect wheel input can send your car into a spin. Once you have your car slowed down enough to the point to make the apex, you will want to use some of the inside curbing available to you to decrease the radius of the corner. As it’s blind, the turn-in is very hard to judge, and you will have to pick up your own reference points as you get up to speed.
Turn 4 is an extended left-hand bend. Once you exit Turn 3, you will be on the edge of the track and will be turning left, straddling the curb as you enter The Esses.
The Esses are defined as the sweeping and fast “left-right-left” between Turns 4 and 5, but your “flow” that begins back in Turn 3 really dictates your speed through The Esses. The first part of The Esse will be a fast, flat-out downhill right-hand long, yet hard right. Exiting turn 4, you’ll find yourself keeping the car to the left-hand side of the track to set up for the first Esse. The turn-in point is just after you pass the left-hand entry curb (which is unusable), and like Turn 4, you straddle the right-hand side apex curbs. The second section of The Esses is more of a straight curb on your left-hand side, which is used as a reference marker to set up for Turn 5. Make sure to straddle the left-hand side of the curb and turn in when the curb ends. Get it right, and you’ll find the right side of the car flush with the right-hand side of the Turn 5 entry curb.
Turn 5 features an entry that is similar to the entry of Turn 3. You’re going to want to find yourself placing your car flush with the entry curbing on the right-hand side. This will open up the corner and increase the radius of your driving line. Also, similar to Turn 3, you’re going to want to brake in a straight line and initiate your turning once you’re off of the brakes to not cause any disruptions to the car. The Turn 5 exit curb is infamous for being extremely rough and bumpy, and many drivers have gotten into trouble here. Do not use the exit curb, as you will not gain enough time to justify the risks.
Turn 6 is a corner with a non-traditional theory. Traditional thinking says that the fast way around a racetrack is a slow entry and fast exit. Turn 6 is not like this. There is more time to be gained on entry rather than on exit, as the straightaway to Turn 7 is very short. You will want to have an early yet smooth brake release to carry as much speed as possible into the corner. Turn 6 is one of the most banked corners on the race track, with plenty of grips available to you. On exit of 6, you should be just rolling onto full throttle by the time you’re at the exit.
Turn 7 is the second hardest corner on the track behind Turn 3, yet it is the most important corner on the track. Turn 7 is the slowest point on the track and leads you onto the 1-mile-long back straightaway. Out of 6, brake in a straight line, and to maximize your exit, you will want to get an early hard application of throttle. Turn 7 is much tighter than it might look on entry, so you will have to turn it in later than you might expect. Trail braking helps in this corner, but make sure not to overslow your entry. Unwind the wheel and accelerate up through the gears.
Turns 8 + 9 are long lazy “bends” along the back straight and are taken flat out as you end heading downhill towards the 90-degree left-hander – Turn 10A.
Turn 10A should be one of your favorite corners on the track due to its simplicity. It is all about the challenging curbs and the angles in this corner. You’re going to want to brake in a straight line and slowly release as you get deeper into the brake zone. When you start your turn-in – nearing the end of the entry curbing – you will want to trail off of the brakes while adding some input in the wheel. This is to keep weight on the nose of the car. By the time you’re at the apex, you should be as parallel with the apex curbing as possible. For this, you will need to sacrifice some apex speed to make sure you can apply throttle before you start to turn in for 10B.
Turn 10B is the 2nd most important corner on the track as it leads onto the 2nd longest straightaway on the race track. When you have set up Turn 10A correctly, you will find yourself on the left-hand side of the track on entry and already on the throttle before you turn in. Although you have already set up for the entry, you will still want to make this a late apex corner to have as little steering input on the corner exit as possible.
Turn 11 is a slight right-hand kink – passing under the bridge – that leads to the infamous fast downhill of Turn 12. The apex is known to be at the exit side of the bridge, where a patch of grass sticks out from the right-hand side of the track. It is a blind entry, but you will want to turn in, aiming your car just past where the bridge ends. Pick an identifiable spot on the bridge to pass under. This puts your car in a perfect position to set up for Turn 12.
Turn 12 is a straightforward corner when done properly, and daunting if you get it wrong. It is critical that you are on the correct driving line as you come down the hill. Make sure to stay to the left to open up the entry as much as possible, and because it is a downhill corner with limited visibility, use the entry curbing on the left-hand side as your turn in reference. Turn in slowly when the curb ends. Do not use any of the apex curbings, as it will upset your car. Exhale as you cross the start/finish line, check your gauges, and apply what you learned on this last lap to your next – better – lap.
That’s Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – one of the most challenging, exhilarating, and enjoyable race tracks in the world – especially when at the wheel of an Allen Berg Racing Schools Tatuus Monza open-wheel formula car!