I was mowing the lawn yesterday and while winding my way around the twists and curves of our admittedly convoluted yard layout, I began daydreaming about how well certain portions and corners would work on a track for cars, or even go-karts. And as I continued to daydream, I began to plan and connect dots out of thin air. Because what else is there to do on a riding lawnmower when you're all out of beer?
And as such, I present the Desu Autodromo Internazionale!
It's got elevation changes, terrain differences, long fast bits for the power cars and sharp twisty bits for those with handling prowess, along with everything in between. Certain portions are beautiful scenic, while others are a little challenging to really appreciate the landscape. Chock full of counter-intuitive apexes and sneaky braking zones, this is a track that must be learned to be tamed- raw talent might get you around it, but you won't be quick about it.
Just picture it laid out with some spray paint striped curbs and marker cones, along with a pit area and some basic folding-chair grandstands. Got it? Now picture some overpowered knobby-tired go-karts sliding around, dirt, gravel, and grass clipping being flung up behind them as they oversteer through every single corner, with the utmost graceful fury. Karts like...this one:
Or, if you'd rather be professional about it, scale it up a bit to say...the size of Infineon Raceway. And replace the go-karts with real cars, proper grand-stands, and a pit area to make your grandpa regain potency at the mere sight of all the garage tools.
As for the track itself, I've mapped it and laid out a basic numerical legend, which I'll detail below. I know some of you may be a bit confused by the layout, but I'll explain. According to our lease agreement, we get full control and responsibility of the large field that slopes upward from our home up to the main road. This field is flat near the tree-line, but has a steep upward slope as you head towards the road. We share the gravel driveway with a pair of old hippy neighbors in a mobile home who would probably love to see go-karts go zipping by. In areas where the track cuts through tree-covered areas, you'll have to trust me that I've mapped around the trunks and that there's room underneath the tree canopy for the karts to pass underneath. Trust me, those trees are huge- two thirds of our house is obscured by them.
Anyhoo, onto the corner markers themselves:
0) Pit Lane. The dark gray line in the infield is the main pit lane, though other, smaller infield tracks are available, but not shown.
1) The Castro. Not really a corner, but instead the main not-quite-straight. Runs parallel to the pit lane, houses the start/finish line, and is comprised entirely of gravel over red hard-packed dirt. Running the normal direction, it has a slight downward slope, but even still it's not the fast section of track. It is, however, one of the dustiest, second only to...
2) Pit Exit/Oppo Corner. A wide, blind left-hander over gravel. Coming off The Castro, most drivers will be carrying a lot of speed into this corner, meaning that when they get onto the brakes, they have three choices: tidy but excruciatingly slow, understeer wide, or flick in and add a liberal dab of opposite lock to drift through the corner, slinging gravel and dust as they go. Most drivers choose the third option and the spectators couldn't be happier.
3) Desu's Folly. Named as a reference to the famed Ceausescu's Folly, also known as the Transfagarasan Highway, this brutal pair of hairpin switchbacks will test both the driver's skill and the handling limits of any car. Coming off a long, sweeping right-hander, the turn suddenly tightens into a double-apex right hairpin that tightens again before switching to a false-apex left hairpin that opens wide. Come in too hot and you'll find yourself understeering into the weeds. Come in slow but get impatient with the throttle and you'll just get dizzy as you spin out of control. Patience and flow are key through this pair of twin hairpins.
4) The Clencher. Make it through Desu's Folly correctly and you'll find yourself in the perfect position to accelerate flat-out through this sharp left-hand corner as you climb through the revs- if you've got the guts and accuracy to hit that late apex without lifting. Many a seat has been stained brown around this deceptively fast corner and even those who get it right won't deny clenching a little as they round it.
5) Houston. As in "Houston, we have a problem". Congratulations, you made it through The Clencher without lifting. Too bad you were too busy patting yourself on the back to notice the early braking zone at the end of this high-speed sweeping right-hander as it suddenly jukes left just as you exit it. Along with being sneaky and off-camber, it's also the lowest part of the track, meaning that even a tiny bit of precipitation will quickly have you questioning your choice of tires. The trees in this particular part of the track have a noticeable lack of bark on their lower trunks for some reason.
6) The Whale Tale. Porsche's love this quartet of corners. Ok, not really. They hate it. They also claim to hate the 'ironic nature' of the name. The home of the mid-corner lift, this random mishmash of corners is essentially ripped straight out of an autocross track layout, replete with haphazardly arranged apexes, and are known to catch many a driver off guard after coming off the high-speed pair of corners preceding them. The Whale Tale is all about car and throttle control and maneuverability. Power means little here, instead ceding to how quick can you work the pedals and spin that wheel.
7) The Hole Shot. The most scenic portion of the track, this small straight away cuts through a grove of ancient cedar trees, branches overhead creating a natural tunnel, while the carpet of loam and needles muffles all sound around you. After the sound and tire-smoking fury of the Whale Tale, this peaceful avenue can be both relaxing and startling in its contrast. Those who managed to keep their line exiting the Whale Tale will find themselves rapidly gaining speed as they cut through this idealic copse, but don't let the dappled sunlight and smell of evergreen lull you into a false sense of security, because up next comes…
8) The Kink. Just how smooth can you drive? Just how composed a driver are you? You're about to find out. As you round an easy right and exit The Hole Shot, you'll find yourself both blinded by the re-emergence of sunlight while also confronted with a sudden and severe left-hander with a definite kink. Ease off the throttle, a dab of brakes to maintain grip on the front tires, ease back on the throttle and stay as smooth as you can and you just might make it through in one piece.
9) Rope-A-Trope. Named as an homage for the Sci-Fi movie cliché of using the gravity of a massive object to 'slingshot' around the other side, this corner is aptly named. The late apex here is considerably higher in elevation than both of the entrance and exit of the corner, as well as benefiting from a liberal helping of natural banking. Stay aggressive without losing control, hit that apex, and you'll find yourself rocketing downhill faster than you'd ever expect, perfect for approaching...
10) The Follow-Through. Ever watch Top Gear? Remember the part of their test track with the same name? Yeah, same basic concept: don't lift. Coming out of the Rope-A-Trope, you're going to be going fast. Seriously fast. Stay smooth through the long dip, hug the inside of the kink, and keep your eyes peeled for the uphill braking zone and you'll be just fine. And if you do screw up? Well, at least you'll be careening out of control towards Pit Lane, right?
11) Pit Entrance/The High Road: A high-speed steep uphill easy left that transitions into a last-minute braking zone leading into the sweeping right-hander over an off-camber crest will put you both at the entrance of pit lane and on the only real straight bit of the track, which also happens to be the highest part of the track, elevation-wise. Simple, right? Even if you get it right, your stomach is going to hate you for it. No matter what, The High Road is a magnificent view and an ideal spot for a drag race, assuming you didn't forget to brake coming up to the top of the ridge. If you did forget to brake, well...you might suddenly discover that tires don't really work so well when you're airborne. Though the photographers that frequent this section of track would have you believe otherwise.
12) The Handbrake Hotel ("Handbrake" for short). Gigi Galli would love this one. Just picture this: you're going along The High Road, the straightaway that's higher than any other part of the track, gaining more and more speed, and suddenly the track just...disappears. Doesn't that sound fun?! No? Well then, you'd better keep a sharp eye out for your braking zone then. Coming off the straight-away, The Handbrake Hotel is a right-hand hairpin that not only appears out of nowhere, but also involves a sudden and severe drop in elevation from entrance to exit, as well as a bumpy transition from brown soil and grass to gravel and red hard-pack. Elevation changes and terrain transitions make this hairpin one of the most challenging out there and will have even the most stoic of drivers kissing their handbrake, assuming they successfully make it through without Orlove'ing their ride.
So, fellow Jalops, what do you think?
Also, what about your own properties? Do any of you think your homestead's perimeter has potential to be a great track layout? If so, I encourage you to post your own layouts and tell us what you feel makes your lawn a great inspiration for a track design.