Turn by turn guide to the Laguna Seca track
A quick note about the track in general: the apexes are at the red curbs that are inside the flat curbs. Do not hit these red bits, as they are high and can damage wheels. The exception to this is T5, where the apex is just after the red block and the corkscrew where they do not exist. -Michael Skeen
(I'm not a pro, probably not even very good, but I've been fortunate enough to do about 100 laps of Laguna Seca in an S2000. Speeds and gears for a stock S2000... Adjust all speeds gears for the appropriate car.)
Although it doesn't seem like much of a turn but is possibly the scariest. Since the approact to T1 is uphill and the turn itself is on the crest, this can leave the rear end light at high speed on fast cars with low downforce.
For now just picture yourself winding out full throttle at 90-95 mph in 3rd or just having shifted to 4th and hitting 100-105 having just cleared the Start / Finish hitting a speed of 90-100 miles an hour as you approach the Andretti Hairpin.
This is a full throttle corner that has poor approach visibility. That's the challenge. A 'chicken lift' rising over the hill means less pucker and a lot of lost time. With the lift your approach to Corner 2 is about 90-95 instead of 100-105 mph. My first visit to Laguna I lifted for about 30 consecutive laps before getting up the gumption to go full out. A big smile followed my 31st attempt.
Exiting, you should be aiming for the #1 or #2 Brake Marker (BM) of Corner 2.
Turn 2 "The Andretti Hairpin"
"The Andretti Hairpin" 190 deg left hand hairpin - 45mph 3rd gear or 2nd if challenged:
Corner 2 is the first corner you hit if you enter right after exiting the pits the way the Champ Cars do. Motorbikes use the FIA entrance which enters the track after corner 2. I've used both and prefer the FIA entrance for safety (this enters the track right *after* the hairpin.
Single Apex Method (Novice): Usually when approaching this corner I'm aiming for the #2 or #1 Brake Marker (BM) and hard on the brakes at or just before #4. You need all of the braking you can get since you're going about 100-110mph if you have done Corner 1 correctly. You heel and toe downshift from 4 to 3 (or 2) but be sure to get speed down below 50 before releasing if in 2nd or you will have a big problem. The key (on the single apex approach) to this corner is remember to stay outside until at nearly halfway around the corner. By this time you should have come in from the right about 1/3 of the way. Remember to hit a late apex here since an apex too early is how my friend made his S2000 a sub-compact. Use all the track and the rumble strip to "track out". Come back in to the left slightly and straighten and THEN turn toward the BM 4. Get over left and then turn along the outside of the track. A slight right kink will force you to turn right slightly... brake in a straight line between 2 and 1 and turn at one. Stay in 3rd unless you are heavily challenged.
Double Apex Method: If you are trying for higher times you might try the double apex approach to Corner 2. Use the same approach to the corner but instead of braking hard at brake marker (BM) 4 to BM 1 turn in to the corner on the left and brake late (BM2?) which takes you right at the apex to the outside of the hairpin. then turn in and hit the exact same apex at before.
Corner 3 right hander - 50-55mph 3rd gear or 2nd if challenged:
Corner 3 approach is as above and in 2nd or 3rd you hit a moderately late apex and track out. Turn in is BM 1 (this is the standard on this track) and use the rumble strip if necessary (this is optimal). You are now on the far left of the track... stay there going under the big tire.
If you have entered T3 at the proper entry speed and hit your apex, you should gain good momentum to carry you through T4 and up to T5 where the uphill really begins.
Corner 4 right hander - 70mph 3rd gear:
Corner 4 is probably my favourite. Hard on the gas to BM 2. Punch the brakes for a spit second to slow slightly and turn in early... about 2/3 the way between BM 2 and 1 (like BM 1.3). Don't shift. You'll be on the power still in 3rd as you turn and hit a surprising EARLY apex. Weird, I know, but it works. You are going to take this very fast and will need to get 2 tires on the left hand rumble strip. This sets you up nicely for a sweeping kink with no name. I call it "the sweeping kink with no name".
Run through this at full speed and if I'm getting the hang of the track I'll be shifting into 4th and hitting nearly 105 before hitting the brakes for 6.
Corner 5 left hander - 50-55mph 3rd gear:
The biggest challenge for me in Corner 5 is the inevitable downshift to 3rd. This is a pretty fast corner so getting the shift completed without upsetting the car is tricky. Other than that... textbook. Brake between 4 and 2 turn in at 1, moderately late apex and on the gas to the right outside of the track to set up for 6.
Due to the slight kink prior to the bridge preceding the turn, T5 can be deceiving. Watch your markers and brake earlier than you think in order to exit this corner quickly and safely.
Corner 6 left hander - 70-75mph 3rd gear:
I love Corner 6 for its high speed and the cool little gutter on the apex (left side). You don't brake much in the approach... say BM 3 to 2. You will take this uphill lefthander VERY fast. Maybe 70-75mph. If you can hit a medium apex and get two tires in the "gutter" it will swing you nicely around the corner and zoom up the hill. The temptation in a well executed corner is to NOT track out. WRONG! Track out using the rumble on the right to set up perfectly for the uphill climb to the "little kink". By doing this you have just straightened the entire climb to Corner 7 and probably gone as quickly through Corner 6 as you can.
T6 is another deceptive corner. You can enter this corner a little faster if you can nail it correctly.
"The Rahal Straight"
This is a long uphill straight that actually has a little kink going up the hill that's hard to see on the map. The kink is a left hander - full throttle 3rd gear:
Here I'd like to describe an important feature of the track. There is a slight "little kink" in the track between corners 6 and 7. It is right after the bridge (or is it a sign?) and kinks to the left. You should aim for the spot one third to the right of the left side of the sign ( If this is the sign, aim for the asterisk |.....*..........| ) This will have you run OVER the rumble strip and completely straighten the kink. You will now be approaching Corner 7 perfectly.
Corner 7 right hander - 50-55mph 3rd gear:
When you are through the "little kink" as described above you will approach Corner 7. This is barely a corner at all but is super important as a setup for the Corkscrew. Just before Corner 7 the up hill approach steepens abruptly. There is typically a bunch of rubber laid down on the track here. The beginning of this rubber is my start braking mark. Nebulous I know but that's how I do it.
The track attitude will level off at this kink, leading blindly right into the corkscrew (T8). The fastest times will require careful braking and bravery. As you crest this area of the track watch where your car is pointed as it may go light.
I take this corner differently than I did the first time out at LS and now brake hard setting up for seven. Let off and turn long the outside (right side of the track and STAY to the right. I.e. do not track out. I then hit the accelerator a second and brake again for the Corkscrew.
Turn 8 & 8a "The Corkscrew"
Corner 8A &8B "the Corkscrew" left right "S" curve - 50mph then 60mph 3rd gear or 2nd through 8A and short shift to 3 on the "straight" part:
Here it is. What everyone is waiting for. Corners 8A and 8B are the Corkscrew. The key to the Corkscrew is to straighten between A and B. The natural inclination is to use an "S"... don't. Turn through Corner 8A with a moderately late apex and then straighten for a split second aiming for the oak... then turn to a medium to late apex on 8B and use all the track. Then aim for the last oak on the left to brake straight and set up for the dreaded Rainey.
Careful modulation of the throttle will keep gravel in this famous turn from spinning your car. After the sharp downhill your suspension will load up allowing you to feed in the power prior to Rainey Curve (T9).
Corner Nine "The Rainey Curve"
Corner 9 "The Rainey Curve" left hand sweeper - 65mph 3rd gear:
Pointing straight at the last oak get on the brakes for about 100 feet. Then let off and begin the turn. Easy does it on this corner carving out a long sweeper. Hit a VERY late apex on the Rainey and run off using all the track on the right to "track out".
When I drove the track there was a very hazardous concrete gutter on the right side of the track as you come out of the corner. This is exactly where you'd want to track out but if you hit it this became a bit problem. In 2006 the track was redone and happily the gutter was removed.
Corner 10 right hander - 60-65mph 3rd gear:
Full bore on aiming at the BM#1 for corner 1 and hard brake between 3 and 2 using the BM#1 as the turn in point. hard on the gas here just before the apex. This is surprisingly high speed and you get a lot of room on the left to track out... but you need it.
Corner 11 110degree right hander - 35-40mph 2nd gear:
You only get a little while to accelerate because #11 is a b*tch. Brake hard between 4 and 1 and downshift to 2nd. Late apex on this corner OR ELSE!. Track out to the right but geez watch out. That wall is made of concrete.
Start Finish Straight
Start/Finish Straight 2nd to 3rd to 4th 90-95 at the S/F line:
Stay right on the straight 'til about halfway down to the bridge. Then aim for the "AZ" in "MAZDA" This helps straighten out the kink and set up for Corner 1. Right at the bridge is where you'll hit about 90 and shift to 4th. I think next time I'm aiming for the "Z" to keep me more to the right for Corner 1; driving the kink down the middle and turning in to the left to straighten Corner 1 instead.