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Driving Calabogie

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Driving Calabogie Motorsports Park

by Bob Rouleau

Having just spent the weekend there I’m recording my impressions of the new track as well as some hints on how to drive it.  Rennsport Instructors were the first to officially lay rubber on this brand new facility.

 

The Area

Calabogie is located in a country resort setting. Getting there from Montreal or Ottawa is easy. As a reference, it took us at two and a half hours from the west end of Montreal.

Lakes, cottages, golf courses, and a ski hill are the main features. Lake Calabogie is very large and fishing is popular. The area is beautiful and unspoiled.  Services are limited and if you need food and/or beverages like beer and wine, you better get them on the way.

Gas – The Stinson Gas station located at the intersection of Hwy 508 and 511 (which is the route to the track) is 7 kilometers from the entrance to Calabogie Motorsports Park. Munford’s  General store is attached to the gas station and has a surprising variety of merchandise. They also serve coffee and light meals.

Lodging: there are nice hotel rooms and condos in the area as well as numerous motels. Use a search engine with the key-word “Calabogie” to find a place to stay.  I’m not sure there are enough to handle a big event though.  Prices are more reasonable than Tremblant.

The Track

In a word, wow!  It is a fantastic playground for motorsports fans. The  staff are friendly and very helpful. Calabogie is longer than Le Circuit, and has more elevation changes, blind corners and linked turns. There are 22 (perhaps 23 – according to the Calabogie Web site) corners as opposed to 15 at Tremblant. With a bewildering array of turns it is very intimidating at first.  Reading the description that follows will help deal with its complexity.

The track surface has been polished and has some unusual characteristics. R compound tires stick like super-glue. Street tires, or at least my worn Michelin Pilot Sport 2s did not have much grip at all. Even more astonishing is the fact that R compounds worked pretty well on a wet track.  How much grip is there? So much that Pilot Sport Cup and Toyo RA1 R compounds squeal like street tires. Amazing! In the wet the track is slippery due no doubt to the polished surface.

Noise Regulations

Before going on track, your car will have to pass a sound level check. Once done the data is recorded and you won’t have to pass the test again for 10 months providing no mods have been made to the car. Sound pressure levels are measured 5 meters back from the center of the rear at a height of 1 meter. The engine must be turning at 2/3rd of red line. Stock 996 GT3s were about 94.4 decibels. A further reading is taken at the front of the car.  The limit is around 102 dB and should pose no problems unless you have a really loud car
– open exhausts will not pass.

Tires and Brakes

Watch your tire wear. Perhaps because of a lack of experience with the brand new track, several instructors prematurely wore the left side tires. In two cases down to the cord! This was not universal, but it is not unusual to abuse tires when learning a new layout. The same goes for brakes. With so many turns, it’s possible that pads and rotors don’t get enough time to cool off.  Calabogie exercises the brakes quite hard.

Water Accumulation

The track has excellent drainage. In spite of heavy rain, there were very few puddles and as soon as the rain let up a little it drained completely.  Areas to note, at the turn in point to Jacques a stream  runs diagonally from right to left. No puddle but the stream is deep enough in a downpour to upset the car.  The Apex of Big Rock had a small but deep puddle which I was told was due to a blocked drain.

The straights had some water accumulation which did upset a speeding car but were not significant enough to be a hazard to a car travelling (correctly) in a straight line. All in all, a very well constructed track. Kudos to the designer and contractors.

Amenities

Not much yet. No water, or electricity. Race Control is operated out of a well furnished trailer.  Portable toilets are provided – very fancy portable units I might add.  I heard no complaints from the fairer sex which is always a good test. The access road and paddock are fully paved. Bravol! As of October 1st there were a few curbs missing here and there which will be corrected soon.

Corner by Corner Description and Usable Lines

First let me say that the proper line at Calabogie will be the topic of discussion for a long time to come. What follows is a usable and safe line through the various corners.  Further experimentation will no doubt change things, but this will help get around the track safely.

Kink – the first corner you meet as you come down the front straight.  It is a fast, downhill left hander. Depending on your speed, light to moderate braking is required. Be careful not to turn in early, you will run out of road and face a daunting tire wall.  Be wary of cars entering the track on your left, pit out merges with the line into Kink.

Pit Out – Comes out on the left side of the track. Stay left past the end of the blend line and look in your mirrors. As you exit the pit lane you can’t see traffic due to the tall concrete pit wall. The exit of kink takes you to the right, bring the car back to the left for the straight line down hill braking zone for Jacques.

Jacques – at the bottom of a fairly steep hill. Braking is done parallel to and very close to a concrete wall.  How close will depend on your courage.  Jacques is a roughly 90 degree right hander which is easily negotiated in 3rd gear. The exit of Jacques takes you up-hill to the turn-in point of Gilles.  Probably named for the Villeneuve brothers, you can help remember the names by thinking of the rhyme “Jack and Jill ran up the hill”.

Gilles – is a blind right hander. Third gear works fine here. You cannot see the apex from the approach.  If you wait until you can see it, you will have turned in too late. On your first laps, I advise doing exactly that until you have established some reference points of your own. Gilles is a late apex to set you up for Easy.

Easy – as you exit Gilles you should be parallel and close to the curbing on your right. Look left early for the apex of Easy. There is a tendency to be late here, if you turn in a little too late, no harm is done since the track is 40 feet wide. Done correctly, a little earlier than late, one can accelerate briskly from the exit of Gilles, starting long before the apex of Easy which is, in fact, easy.

The exit of Easy takes you onto Rocky Road, the longest straight at Calabogie.  Glance at the array of boulders along each side. The straight leads to Mulligans which is a compound curve involving Mulligans, Big Rock and Candy Mountain. These corners like many others are linked and each must be negotiated with regard to the next.

Mulligans – There are several lines possible here. I prefer to approach lined up near the left side of the track which curves slightly to the right (a corner called Sir John A, which isn’t much of a corner), more like a slight bend. Lining up parallel to the left side will take you into Mulligan’s close to and parallel to concrete curbing on the right side. The approach is nearly straight in. Braking and a downshift to 3rd must be done before the end of the curbing.  Gently turn the car in making a curve which will pass close to the left hand edge about 2/3rds the way around. Turn your head to the right to see the entry of Big Rock. By the way, leave a good safety margin on your left, putting wheels off will most likely damage the car.

Big Rock – named for the huge rock perched high above the track (and looking rather precarious) is tricky. You need to turn in more from the curve you established in Mulligans and line the car up parallel to the right hand side. The track is banked in your favor here and in spite of the tightening curve you can apply progressive acceleration up the hill – note I mean PROGRESSIVE, don’t floor it! Exiting Big Rock, turn in gently to the left, aiming for about mid track. Look left for the apex of Candy Mountain and get ready to turn in little more for the apex of Candy Mountain.

Candy Mountain – is a totally blind apex at the crest of the hill leading from Big Rock. It is a fast 3rd gear left hand corner and supports progressive acceleration all the way from the exit of Big Rock.  Be careful, it is easy to turn in too early here. If in doubt, turn in a little late, the exit is wide. Too early and you will be headed for the grass.

The exit of Candy Mountain leads to a straight, stay right and watch for the brake markers which signal the entry to Temptation.

Temptation – I suspect named because we will all be tempted to turn in early.  Temptation requires lots of patience. It is a slow (3rd gear or perhaps even 2nd in some cars) left hand roughly 180 degree carousel-like corner. You will be distracted by cones blocking off a road used to connect the various layouts.  The easy and safe line is to drive around the outside about 4 feet from the right hand edge until you can see the exit. This line makes Temptation into a single late apex, rather like Carousel at Tremblant only much slower. Be careful on the exit, do not turn in early or you will run out of road rather suddenly.  Resist temptation and make sure you turn in fairly late for the apex at exit.  On exit bring the car back (to the left) to mid track to prepare for Deliverance.

Deliverance – exiting Temptation we climb up hill (did I mention that this track is a wonderful roller-coaster?) to a fast 3rd gear right hander. Think of “deliver me from temptation”.  Deliverance is not hard, but don’t turn in early, the track rises towards the corner and falls slightly as you exit. If you go in hot and early, you’ll have to lift to avoid running out of track.  Lifting at that point is likely to have nasty consequences because the car is light here. For the first few laps plan to take it a bit late for safety.  Every time I went through there I reminded myself that the corner should be called “don’t lift”.

Deliverance exits into a straight leading to the Duck’s Head.  This is another series of linked turns. Looking at a track map the similarity to the head of a duck is obvious. Driving down the straight, stay mid track to avoid having to turn slightly to the right to approach the turn in point. The straight leading to Ducks Head is not quite straight. Approaching from mid track will take you to the left side and the turn in point for the first of the linked turns.

Crown and Brow – These are essentially two apexes of a single turn. Approach from the far left and dive down to the apex of Crown. I do this in 3rd gear. Since you can see both apexes from turn in, arrange to make a smooth arc touching the apex of Crown and then Brow which is also a right hander.  As you gain confidence and speed, the car will track out from the apex of Brow, but there is more than enough room as you head up the short, fairly steep hill to The Beak. You will brake quite hard for the entry to Beak.

The Beak – is a very, very late apex 2nd or 3rd gear right hander (think of the right hand ‘ess’ at Tremblant) with a slight favorable banking.  The track runs downhill along the curbing.  The Beak flows naturally into The Throat.

The Throat – is a left hand, down-hill 3rd gear turn which follows closely on The Beak. The clipping point is at the near end of the concrete curbing.  While brisk acceleration is possible, resist temptation because you will be unable to brake enough for The Hook which follows a short distance away. Hook is not visible from the apex of Throat. The Throat is an early apex and doing it right brings you right to the turn in point for The Hook.

The Hook is a tight left-hander leading uphill which can be done in 2nd or 3rd gear depending on car type.   Approaching it, you need strong braking (that’s why we don’t want to blast out of Throat). Look left and aim for the clipping point which is at the near end of the concrete curbing.  Exiting Hook, the car will move to the right on an uphill straight leading to Spoon.  Bring the car smoothly back to the left. This section called The Ridge is the highest point of the track and if you have time to look around, it is very high indeed.

Spoon – One of the most exciting turns on the track. Spoon is a 3rd gear right hander going downhill with very favorable banking.  Spoon is another blind apex.  Approach from the left and turn in gently. Done right, you’ll find yourself about mid track headed for the now visible apex. You will see the tilt to the right, plan to use it. Do not get to the left of center because the banking on that side is unfavorable. As you swoop down towards the apex, strong acceleration is possible due to the banking and the compression.

4Left – What a great name for a corner! It’s a 3rd or 4th gear (3rd in a GT3) fast left hander leading to a downhill straight. I love the name because it means “4 corners left”.  Depending on car type, a lift or light braking proceeding turn in will do.  You can take this one a bit (not a lot) early as there is plenty of room to track out heading down a steep hill into the Quarry section. Caution, for reasons I can’t explain, the braking zone down the hill is slippery and I got into ABS rather easily. Perhaps the steep slope is a factor putting too much weight on the front wheels leaving the rears with less grip. In any case, you will need strong baking down the hill to slow the car for the entry into Quarry.

Quarry Complex – aptly named because a glance make it obvious that you’re headed down into a quarry pit.  Quarry is in fact a series of linked turns, consisting of Quarry one, Watts Up, and Wicked.

Quarry one is a 3rd gear right hander which is immediately followed by Watts up – another 3rd gear right hander.  These two form roughly a half circle, safely taken as a single late apex although a double apex also works. Using the single late method, turn into Quarry One aiming to be a car width left of mid track. Make a smooth arc past Watts Up. Don’t try to accelerate – constant speed is the ticket.  If you do it right, you will find yourself at the optimal turn in point for Wicked.  Caution, there are no curbs (as of this writing) on the outside of the corner and if you put wheels off on your left the terrain is ugly. Don’t make a mistake.

Pit In – if you go straight ahead instead of turning right for Wicked, you are headed for Pit In.  Cars leaving the track should make a Pit In signal no later than Quarry one.

Wicked – is a 3rd gear right hander following Quarry One and Watts Up nd it is the third in the series of linked turns.  Wicked is a right hander from the exit of Watts Up. It is a late apex and if you haven’t done Watts Up perfectly, or if you used the double apex method, you will have to turn in more. If you do manage the previous turns correctly, you will simply continue the smooth arc you started two turns ago. As with the previous linked turns there is great flow here.

Wilson’s probably named after Allan Wilson the track designer (who did the redesign of Tremblant too).  This is a tricky 3rd gear left hand blind apex corner leading to the front straight. Getting it right means exiting Wicked close to and parallel to the curbing on the right side.   Be extra careful since you’ll be tempted to turn in too soon and be rewarded with a heroic maneuver to avoid going off because you have run out of road! Done correctly you can accelerate before the apex and carry good speed onto the front straight. Turn in early and that velocity will be a liability as you run out of road.

Wilson’s leads to the front straight and you will want to bring the car to the right to prepare for Kink.   That completes one lap of Calabogie.

 

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