I’ve only ever driven this track once before a couple of years ago in the oAo league, so it took some time to remember it in details and figure out the reference points for braking and turn-in. Another thing I remembered was that back in that race I retired from the lead with a screen freeze, but hopefully it’s not going to happen again.
The Onboard Lap Video
Track and Setup
What makes the track twice as difficult than its layout suggests is all those bumps and altitude changes in places where you’re either accelerating or braking while turning-in, and sometimes those changes happen multiple times through a single corner. This asks for constant corrections with the steering wheel and pedals, and it prevents you from pushing to the very limit because it’s a rather big gamble to do that.
I had difficulties coming up with a setup solution for the McLaren. The bumps meant I had to run stiffer bumps and rebounds, but this always makes the car so nervous, so I settled for a medium solution. At least the tires and wheel cambers were an easy thing to do, and I could achieve almost equal temperatures on all 4 tires, as well as reach near-optimal temperature and avoid overheating.
It’s very important to set the differential properly, because there are many situations over a single lap where you may have to lift up and step on the brake again because of those irregularities of the surface which unsettle the car. This and also the toe, but of course that changes from car to car.
The gearbox was perhaps the area I spent most time on today, for it was really tricky to set the McLaren’s 5 gears to match all the corners on the track, given the narrow torque range. I think the end-result is rather good, but it would be problematic in the race as it overrevs many times in different places. Short-shifting and lifting-up more than usual would be necessary to make sure the engine lasts during the race.
Here’s a ZIP file with the replay of the lap and the setup that I used:
Here’s a map for the track that you can use as a reference:
Estrada de Queluz (aka the s/f straight) – The beginning of the lap goes over 2 big crests which overrev the engine and that makes it necessary to either lift up for a moment when you go over them, or have your gear changes match the moment when the car gets lighter. Try not to turn too suddenly or too much down here, because it can lose you speed and it also unsettles the car as the suspension absorbs the altitude changes.
T1 Clover Leaf (Part 1) – What a nice name for a corner! I wonder why some corners have english names even if it’s a Portuguese track, but anyway – the corner isn’t so nice! There is a very nasty elevation change in the braking zone of the first part of the corner which is a 90 degree left hander, and the car always bottoms out badly, even if you raise up the suspension (which reminds me that it might be necessary to do that for the race).
Brake just before the darker groove begins and try to turn just slightly to the left at the moment the car bottoms out – it helps you set the car into a drift and carry more speed into the corner without going wide. Change down to 3rd initially and then to 2nd before you reach the flat white curb at the apex. Whether you go over the curb or not does not matter much, but what you should focus on is exiting the corner in the middle of the track and with your foot on the throttle, just for a moment or two.
T1 Clover Leaf (Part 2) – Because the corner tightens up on the exit, you want to go a bit wider on the entry and then close back in for a late apex before the exit. Brake as you cross over that big white strip and change down to 1st gear (at least in the McLaren) and decelerate gradually, going just next to the white line on the inside. There are a couple of bumps over this corner, so it’s very important to be smooth with the throttle and steering, and keep a constant speed until it’s time to accelerate out of the corner.
Due to some banked edge on the outside of the corner exit, you need to time your acceleration properly to avoid running wide. There is one bigger bump past the apex of the corner which you can use to judge when it’s time to unleash the engine – do it just after you go over that bump and short-shift into 2nd if you must.
Auto-Estrada da Costa do Estoril – a long and bumpy straight, with one particularly big bump near the end which would probably require a slight lift-up in the race, but nothing special otherwise. I found it impossible to time any gear-shifts to match any of the bumps.
T2 – A nameless 3-turn chicane, a very important part of the track and a place where you can gain A LOT of time if you get it right, but to get it right requires taking big risks. Brake down and turn to the right at the same time, just as you go past the beginning of the haybale wall on the left. Depending on your car and gear ratios, you can either stay in top gear or change down a gear – I go down to 4th in the Macca.
The undulations here make it very difficult ot keep the car under control all the time – it tends to step in and out of shape, so you need to be as smooth on the throttle as possible. Braking should be soft and gentle, just enough to scrub some speed off and guide the frontend to follow the line. The line itself should aim to position you on the most right side after the fast right-hander – this will allow you to carry a lot of speed in the next left turn which is the most cruical and dangerous part of the whole area.
There is a dark groove which begins just as you exit the fast right – slow down more decisively here and change down a gear, and turn-in very very early into the left-hander, almost as if you want to hit the haybales on the inside. If you do it right, the car would drift while it decelerates, and once it points towards the apex with the haybales, you should apply throttle to straighten it out while keeping your steering wheel turned left. Don’t apply full throttle yet though – wait until the car goes past the apex and you see the road open up ahead of you.
Once you’re back on the throttle, just be smooth over the next flat out right-hander, especially over the big crests which compress the suspension quite seriously and can unsettle the car if you’re not going in a straight enough line.
Estrada do Alvito – this curving flat out section of the track goes over a series of crests and your line is important to avoid scrubbing off too much speed. Keep on the left side initially and use your gear-changes to switch direction to the inside – the dive of the nose as you lift-up for the gear shift makes it easier to do that without straining the tires and applying too much steering.
The road keeps going up until one final crest, then it descends down before the next corner – start braking just after you go over that crest, just when that pole on the right goes out of your view. Position the car as much to the right as possible as you go over the crest, so you can straighten out the braking line next, going towards the outside as you slow down and change gears.
T3 Lake Hairpin – this is a very tricky corner, not only because it tightens up all the time, but also because it has multiple undulation changes over its length. I take this one in 2nd gear, but it can probably be taken in 3rd with a 6speed gearbox car.
Keep the outside line you took under braking initially and beging to close-in towards the inside as you decelerate all the time. Begin to accelerate before you reach a very late apex as the road goes uphill. There’s one particularly big bump there which makes it necessary to delay stepping onto the throttle completely – just keep a level-foot throttle until you go past the bump, then floor it. This corner usually requires many corrections with the steering wheel – try to avoid any abrupt pedal work while you’re doing those.
Estrada dos Montes Claros – Why do they name the straights is beyond me, but there’s one thing to mention about this one – it has a jump which forces you to lift up for a moment. The point where the car goes in the air is earlier than it appears, so either change up a gear right there or lift up, then floor it down the crest.
T4 – Another nameless corner, but one of my favorites. Brake down and change a gear as the car settles down after the jump, just past the beginning of the dark groove. Get off the brake gradually as you turn-in early and aim to clip the dirt edge on the inside, and apply throttle just as you reach the apex. It’s important to reach the right side of the track before the next corner, so don’t go wide on the exit, but keep in the middle of the road as you drift to the right.
T5 Riding School – The dark groove for T5’s braking zone begins just before a crest, and it’s necessary to apply the brakes before the car goes over it. Slow down heavily and change gear as you turn-in early to put the car into a drift. The car would tend to go wide all the time here, so it’s important to slow down on time and go towards the haybales on the inside. Keep decelerating all the way up to the apex and a little bit beyond it, then gradually apply throttle to continue the drift, sacrificing the exit so you can go quickly to the left before the next turn.
T6 – No name for this one either. You should position your car as much to the left as possible before the corner, even cutting the over the white line a bit sometimes, but be careful not to clip the soft walls there. Where to turn-in for the corner exactly, I don’t know. You can see I went wide on my lap and that’s not the best line through the corner. What you want to do is go over grey strip on the inside and lift up somewhat, to let the car decelerate and turn in, before you apply throttle and accelerate hard as you keep turning right. Once again, it’s necessary to sacrifice your exit somewhat so you can position the car properly before the next turn.
T7 Windmill Bend – Brake just past the point where the dark groove begins and change down a gear, then turn left very early to let the car drift – just like you did in the left-hander of T2 chicane, except this one is done at a lower speed. Aim to go over the grey strip at the apex and almost clip the haybales on the inside. If you turned-in too early, apply some throttle to straighten the car, but if you’re too late instead, lift-up and pray that those haybales on the outside won’t suck you in! Once you’ve reached the apex, step hard back on the throttle.
T8 – a nice fast sweeping bend which goes downhill and tightens up a little on the exit. You can enter it flat out, but as soon as you do that lift up a bit to stop the acceleation and stabilize the car. Once the car is almost over the grass on the inside, re-apply full throttle gradually while keeping the steering turned firmly to the left – the downhill slope of the road creates a lot of understeer here. Use the full width of the track on the exit, but be quick to return to the left before the braking zone of the final double right-hander.
Estrada dos Marcos – not worth mentioning at all!
T9 Pit Hairpin – I really like this double turn! It requires balancing between precision and aggression, but it’s also forgiving if you get it wrong, so you can experiment safely with different approaches even during the race.
Begin your braking as you reach that big blue billboard on the left and change down to 2nd gear. Turn early into the corner, as if you want to cut across the grass strip on the inside – the car drifts wide excessively here due to a bump on the road, so you need to keep decelerating all the way until you’re past the early apex.
Accelerate hard just as your pitboard zooms-in on you and aim to place the car parallel with the track edge on the left at the little straight before the final right-hander. Don’t turn into the corner until you go over another bump or it may send the car into a slide.
The best line through that final right-hander is with a late apex, but that is a bit difficult to manage on every lap due to the way the camber of the road changes a few times. Smooth throttle and steering is key here, and any correction should be done mostly with the steering wheel without any sudden throttle/brake application. You can safely use some of the grass on the exit of the corner, but try not to over do it or the car may snap into a spin towards the pitlane.
Phew, that was a long and technical one, hope you can take something away from it!