How much can the design of a racetrack
promote close racing? Quite a lot, actually.
Yes, there is a formula to racetrack design
that promotes competition. Problem is,
it isn’t the whole answer, nor could it ever
be, according to Tony Cotman. The former
vp of operations for Champ Car and IndyCar
set up NZR Consulting in 2008 and,
of the current IndyCar venues, the Sao Paulo,
Baltimore, Edmonton and (should it happen)
Qingdao tracks are his work.
Here are his thoughts…
WOrDS Tony Cotman
IlluSTra TIOn Paul laguette
ou could argue that the biggest
influence on competition in most forms
of racing is the tires. When Firestone gets
the difference between its reds and blacks
right, the racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series
is great, and you could argue that the
Pirelli tires in Formula 1 have made the
racing better than any time in the last 20
years. Everyone tries to design tracks
around cars or to make the racing good,
but you also need the sanctioning body to
have rules which allow good racing, and
open development in many areas –
including tires. It’s not just the cars, not
just the tires, and not just the tracks;
it’s a combination of things.
First of all, a racetrack needs to be
challenging to the drivers. But it’s difficult
sometimes in that a driver’s perspective
isn’t necessarily what’s good from the
show’s perspective. So what wins out?
In my opinion, it’s the show. Having said
that, you aim to create a track that’s
the best of both worlds.
You want elevation and you want
no two turns to be the same, so a
combination of high-, medium- and
low-speed, left and right, different
radius turns, with some flat, some
cambered and some off-camber.
street courses are by necessity a compromise,
given that you’re pretty much working within an
existing layout. But that didn’t stop tony cotman
from coming up with a successful design for the
inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix last year (BeLo W).