Road Atlanta Racetrack: Courage on Every Turn

Unless you can experience it yourself, you’ll never understand how truly difficult and challenging the racetrack at Road Atlanta really is. It combines a lot of elevation change coupled with twelve tricky turns and has a very long back straightaway that only ends after you crest a blind hill and plunge seemingly straight down into slow speed left turn.

It has another blind hill at the Suzuki Bridge, and then seemingly out of nowhere turn-12 appears entirely too close to the wall. You have to have the utmost respect for those who race there because it must take just the right combination of bravery and skill to go really fast and not hit the wall.

But we digress: Road Atlanta is a racetrack that demands that a driver make no mistakes. It’s a fact that the drivers who can keep their focus and hit their marks on every lap are usually the ones who end up at the front.

In an age when many racetracks have become faceless and artificial, Road Atlanta retains its character as one of America’s most daunting circuits. It literally demands courage at every turn:

Think you’re tough enough? Then strap yourself in and let’s go for a test-drive:

The entry to this sweeping, fast, right hand turn is flat, but as you enter it, the turn has some banking and starts to climb uphill. With that in mind and the fact that it is an increasing radius turn, you can carry a bit more entry speed than you initially think.

Turn 2: At the exit of turn 1, drift back to the right side of the track. You will see a painted yellow stripe going up the hill that marks the exit of the pro pits. Put your right tires on or just over this stripe and start turning slightly left just after the stripe ends. This will give you a nice straight line to brake in as you approach turn 3.

Turn 3: This right hand corner is a fairly long downhill run that lasts until the entry of turn 5. Most cars will use a medium amount of braking to get to the proper entry speed for the turn. As always, curbing – no matter how smooth – can upset the car and cause an embarrassing, painful, and/or expensive crash, so use discretion and common sense if you decide to use any curb whatsoever.

Turn 4: This turn begins right after the end of turn 3, it is a flat (not banked), downhill, left hand corner that most cars are fairly wide open through.

Turn 5: At first glance, some may think this turn is another right hand turn, but it is not. Road Atlanta can be split into two halves, but it is rarely if ever run like that during most weekend driving events, and it is never raced in that configuration.

Turn 6: With the straight leading into this turn, all cars will do some braking for this corner, despite its banking.

Turn 7: This is the most important corner on the track. Negotiating this corner properly will allow you to make many passes down the long straightaway that follows and lower your lap-time considerably.

Turns 8 & 9: These two turns are both mild bends in the back straightaway that require no special attention. After the second flag station on your right the track will start to tilt downhill, and at this point you should make your way to the right edge of the track to prepare for braking and entry into the next turn complex.

Turns 10A & 10B: These corners will require the most attention to braking points. There are several markers on each side of the track and dashed painted lines on the track itself starting around 300 yards before the entry to the corner.

Turn 11: In the middle of this corner are the pit entries.

Turn 12: This is a very fast sweeping turn that leads onto the front straightaway. There is not much room for error should you go off so be cautious as you work up to speed. A slightly late apex point is recommended, and curbing use here is not. They are both fairly smooth, and some racers do use them, but they are tall. That combined with the speeds that can be carried here can cause things to get ugly, should the car get upset by them. At the exit of this corner, just above you, is the start stand and pedestrian cross over bridge, and ahead of you is the front straight and Turn 1.

Looks easy enough on paper. But just wait until you’re behind the wheel. In fact, it’s probably better that you remain in the stands.

Gates open at 7:00am on the first day of the event and remain open for 24 hours throughout the weekend. Children age 12 and under admitted free when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. Children over 12 years are required to purchase tickets at full gate price. Be sure to visit the playground located next to the Jim Fitzgerald Memorial Park.

Parking is free for most events. These are designated areas at the main entrance for spectator parking. Infield parking is available for a fee for all events.