Hey people, I did 2 separate practice sessions at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) earlier today in order to get acquainted with the track and work on my setup. The track is rather tricky, so I thought I’d share my experience of it, even if it’s limited at the moment. You can also find a ZIP file of my setup and replay of the lap at the end of the post.
A few words about setup before I begin though. The track has similarities with Riverside and you won’t go wrong if you pick up a setup from there and adapt it. The track is very heavy on the tires and brakes, so you need a stable front-end and well balanced car, to avoid sliding too much. Personally I had to run lower tire pressures than usual just to keep the middle layer of the tire closer to the temperature of the inner and outer layers.
Anyway, here’s a link for a map of the track that you can use for reference:
T1 Horseshoe – this is a rather complex corner. The braking zone is rather long and the initial part of the turn very tight, so if you miss your braking point even by a bit, be ready for a long trip in the grass field on the outside. I start braking just where the groove begins and even lift up the throttle a bit earlier, to balance the car as the weight shift forwards.
Try to turn in earlier than it feels right – this will allow you to prolong the braking distance a little bit and use more track width to your advantage. As you change down to 1st, keep decelerating past the first apex and aim to go towards the outside, but not too close to the edge of the track.
Apply the throttle smoothly as you keep turning right while the corner opens up and short-shift to 2nd gear before you get too much wheelspin. It’s important to time the gear shift properly so you don’t drop too much revs and lose the torque. It depends on your gear ratios of course.
It’s important to go to the right as you exit the corner, so you can line up properly for the entry of T2. Be careful with the rearend of the car as it tries to step out under acceleration and rather lift up a bit with a slight opposite lock than risk sliding too much and heat up the tires. In short – keep it neat and tidy.
T2 – this seems to have no name on the map or is part of the Nascar Bend, but I’ll treat it separately. You go through this left hander in just a second or so, but it’s very important to get the line right or you risk going off into the fence and meet the hay bales that await further ahead.
What makes this tricky is turning and braking at the same time. It’s like a slower and shorter version of T1 at Mexico, so treat it in the same way – turn in early (in 3rd gear in my case) and begin to lift up the throttle smoothly until you get a good control of the front end. Apply the brakes gently until the car settles then apply them harder and unwind the steering to go move to the outside part of the track. Change down to 2nd and delay changing down to 1st until the car is settled.
T3 NASCAR Bend – I like this turn, it’s neither too short or too long, so it requires a bit of throttle control and steering wheel application, including some opposite lock if necessary. Turn early as the car decelerates on entry and try to clip the grass with your left front wheel, but don’t overdo it as it can unsettle the car.
Apply half throttle at that moment and once the car is back on the tarmac and you face the exit of the corner, apply more throttle, but be smooth about it. Ideally you want the car to drift just a little bit, with just a tiny amount of opposite lock, and line up perfectly to the outside edge of the track.
T4 Left Hook – this corner is slower and longer than it appears as you approach it, so you need to brake on time and keep a tight line through it, because you want to line up well for the following nameless corner as well. Going wide here can lose you a lot of time.
Brake before you pass the 50 marker on the left and change back down to 1st gear. Brake very hard and in a straight line – don’t trail brake too much, but rather do it in a conventional manner. Turn in for a later apex than on the previous bend and only accelerate once you have the car settled and not sliding. Aim to take the middle of the road before the next corner.
T5-T6 – this section has no name, but it’s a very tricky one and I still can’t get it right all the time. The two right handers go over a crest which unsettles the car a lot, and the changing radius makes it difficult to time your moment to steer and accelerate.
Turn right and clip the apex of the first bit, and change to 2nd gear as you go pass the apex. Don’t unwind the steering too soon because while the corner opens up, it still continues a little further out of sight over the crest. You can safely apply full or almost full throttle when in 2nd gear because the revs would be low and not into optimal torque, but it depends on your gearing.
The 2nd bit can be very misleading. You approach it thinking there is a lot of track width to play with, but there’s really only a single proper line and if you get that wrong, you compromise the whole section which follows. See those haybales on the right behind the apex of the corner? Aim to turn into them! It requires quite an early turn-in, but you won’t go wrong by doing so. Make sure to lift up the throttle and keep it steady as you do that – no sudden movements!
There is a moment where the road goes off-camber and then on-camber again, just around the apex of the corner. It’s important to delay your acceleration and keep an even throttle over that spot, otherwise you may find yourself fighting the car or just spinning out of control. Aim to clip the grass on the inside, but not too much because it seems the undulation change becomes more severe there (it has to do with how GPL tracks deal with tight corners and altitude changes).
T7 Snake – nothing important for this section really and I don’t understand why they gave a name to this, but not to the previous corner which is much more troublesome. Just straightline the kinks going left and right here and you’ll be OK. What dictates your line through here is your exit from the previous corner, so focus on that.
T8 Climbing Esses – this a challenging, but very enjoyable part of the track, at least for myself. Ignore the default groove line before the corner here – it’s wrong! Stay on the right-hand side of the track and use the whole track width on the entrance to the first left hander. Take it flat out in 5th and keep your steering wheel turning left until you go over that hump at the apex.
Be careful with direction changes when you turn right, but keep it full throttle as you do that. Try to just brush the grass edge at the apex of the right hander.
Just as you turn left for the following kink, begin to brake hard but smooth. Change down to 4th and continue trail-braking as you turn right for the last of the esses. It’s very important to exit this corner on the right side of the track so you can line up well for the following turn.
I advise you to stay in 4th here, even if it means dropping the revs under optimal torque. It just makes it easier to control and you can apply full throttle safely to bring the car to the right if it starts drifting too wide. Be careful with clipping the grass at the apex as I’ve noticed the frontend tends to suddenly wash away sometimes when you do that.
T9 South Bend – I really enjoy this corner. It’s a medium speed, sharp 45 degree or so turn over a crest, and you can attack it very aggressively if you had a good exit off the esses and have lined up on the right side of the track. Brake along the groove on the surface and change down to 3rd gear. I used to take it in 2nd, but 3rd and lower revs really works much better as it allows you to floor the throttle very early without worries.
Aim to clip the grassy edge at the apex as much as possible, but without cutting with all 4 wheels. Not so much as for being illegal, but because you’ll get a bad line on the exit and risk going off the track.
Once you’re past the apex, step hard on the throttle and let the engine pick up the revs as you line up the car on the outside of the track and aim for the uphill that follows.
T10 Oak Tree – I’m not sure if these are two corners or a single double-apex one, but let’s treat it as the latter. The first part of the corner is crucial for your line through the second part and eventually your speed onto the long straight that follows, so do your best to use the whole track width.
Brake well before the 200 sign on the left and change down to 1st gear. Turn towards the left edge of those haybales on the inside and keep decelerating and drifting slightly as you reach the apex. Don’t slow down too much, because what you want is to keep drifting and go towards the outside edge of the track before the 2nd part of the corner.
The 2nd part is not visible at this moment as it’s still beyond the crest, so you would need a good deal of practice to memorize how the track goes in your mind and just do it without relying too much on your sight of the road, but on your revs, track position and the surrounding objects. Accelerate for a moment before braking for the 2nd part of the corner.
There is a huge change of camber here, but it’s inconsistent. It cambers-in on turn in, goes flat just past the apex and then goes slightly off-camber for a bit on the exit. Turn into it carefully, without upsetting the car too much and don’t ride over the grass on the inside too much either. What you want to focus on is a smooth and as early as possible application of throttle, and a use of all the track width on the exit.
As you can see on my lap, I lost it for a moment there because I didn’t properly time my acceleration with the undulation changes. It’s not difficult to catch the car at such low speed, but you just lose speed (and thus time) for the long straight that follows.
Back Straight – uhm, first time I see a track that has a name for its backstraight and what a name! Anyone need tips for this part of the lap? 😀
T11 Roller Coaster – I assume the corner includes the left-right-left combination, so I’ll treat it as one. This is a very difficult part of the track because there are a lot of camber changes and all of the happen as you either brake or accelerate, and steering the car at the same time. It’s hard to keep the lines you intend here, so just do your best and make sure to not overdo it – you will lose less time if you just go a bit slower than slide around like crazy and go off-line and/or delay your acceleration.
Brake just when the grooved line begins and change down to 3rd gear for the first fast left. Keep braking and going left, and stay left on the exit of that turn, because you need to line up well for the slow right that follows. What’s tricky here is the sudden left camber at the apex which can suddenly launch your car to the left, so make sure you unwind the steering just enough when you hit that part and also be ready to apply some momentary blips of throttle or ease off the brakes just to settle the car (or both, as I do!).
Just after you’ve done the above, the road suddenly changes camber completely to the right and you need to turn in early so you can go over the crown at the middle of the road and into the bowl shaped slow right-hander. Brake hard as you do that and change down to 1st gear. Make sure to brake on time and grab a very tight line through this right corner – you definitely don’t want to run wide here or use the whole track width on the exit, because you’ll compromise your acceleration and your line for the following corner too much, losing heaps of time.
Accelerate hard downhill and turn left while changing up to 2nd gear. Lift up for a moment or so – not entirely, but just enough to keep the car going at an even speed or slightly accelerating. Once you go past that pole on the outside on the right, step on it and use the whole track width on the exit. Change up to 3rd before the next corner and stay right.
T12 Hog Pen – another complex of turns which I’ll treat as one. It’s important to get a proper line through the first left as that defines how you take the 2 remaining turns of the lap. Turn into it as you go flat out in 3rd gear, but lift-up and apply the brakes carefully after that. Once you scrub off a bit of speed, let the car roll with some throttle on for balance and aim for a late apex so you can line up parallel with the track edge on the left before the drop downhill.
Brake hard and change into 2nd gear as you go over the crest and turn right, aiming to clip the grass at the edge of the apex there. You really need to brake on time for this corner, otherwise it’s almost guaranteed you’ll go off on the exit. Let the car decelerate into and past the apex, and drift wide to the left, but apply some throttle just so you can pick up the revs a bit and make it easier to accelerate once the car settles.
Don’t floor it just yet here, because the next corner, although a shallow one, goes beyond the crest before it the road goes straight, so it’s easy to go wide and into the grass.
Aim for the middle of the track where the road is most at camber and step completely on the throttle just as you pass that little kink with the pole on the right, changing up to 3rd as you fill in the revs.
Front Straight – complete the lap and turn in early for the right-hand sweeper after the s/f line, keeping the inside line until you see the track straighten up. Try not to scrub the tires here by keeping a smooth line so you don’t lose too much speed. Maybe this should’ve been counted as T1, hmm…