Get it Straight
At first glance, the four-mile-long Road America circuit appears to be all about straightaways. The front straightaway is a stunning 4,400 feet long. The Moraine Sweep is 3,800 feet and the defining run from the Carousel through the Kink on the way to Canada Corner measures 4,000 feet.
In all, straightaways account for a total of totaling 18,000 feet, or 3.4 miles of the four-mile circuit. Ironically, the long straights even help to cool tires as they reject heat before the next heavily loaded braking and cornering event.
But, although the straightaways make up approximately 85 percent of the circuit length, it is the corners connecting the straights that often define success.
“We are so Slow”
In the early years of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, a mini parade of drivers made their way to the Road America Media Center for their class pole winning press conferences.
Incredibly, as one left and next arrived, each lamented how slow they were on the straightaways. “We are so slow. We are down 5 mph on the straights,” declared more than one pole winner.
The obvious question was, if your car is so slow, how did you win the pole?
The unspoken answer was that rather than having a car fully trimmed out to minimize drag on the long straightaways, each was driving a car with a combination of aerodynamic downforce and mechanical grip.
Ride the Big Roller Coaster
Elevation changes are a big part of the circuit’s character and challenge. A traditional “natural terrain” road course, following the rolling hills of the region, Road America sees cars climb five times per lap and descend seven times, a total of 20 stories up and 20 stories down each lap.
The circuit goes up, down, over and across the terrain, demanding precise inputs from drivers as the car’s momentum and balance shift while the driver is braking, turning, or accelerating over uphill, downhill or sidehill terrain.
IMSA teams took full advantage of increased mechanical grip and torched the record book here in Michelin’s first season as the Official tire of IMSA in 2019, with all new qualifying and race lap records, some by more than three seconds per lap. Now that all the records have been set on Michelin tires, the gains from year-to-year will likely become smaller.
By the Numbers
Road America fans will enjoy an amazing array of cars and classes at the IMSA Sportscar Weekend, as IMSA teams have filed a total of 130 entries for the races on the 4.08-mile circuit.
The IMSA WeatherTech Championship has 35 entries (70 drivers), with the Michelin Pilot Challenge has 37 and 74 respectively. The exciting, new Porsche Carrera Cup North America presents 32 cars and drivers.
The idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup adds another 26 cars and drivers. All are Michelin exclusive classes, except the MX -5 Cup which races on BFGoodrich tires, a Michelin brand.
The nearly 200 drivers entered hail from 30 states, 19 countries and 4 Canadian provinces. Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, and New Jersey were the top five home states for U.S. drivers.
Great Britain, Canada, and France were the top three home countries of the 50 international drivers.
Seventeen of the 18 current IMSA car manufacturers brands are entered at Road America.
A strong second place finish in the Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR class at Lime Rock brought Alfa Romeo’s its first-ever IMSA podium. This made it the 15th automotive brand to score a podium in 2021 IMSA competition. Only Ferrari, Ford, and Toyota have yet to spray the bubbly in 2021.
Women to Watch
The Road America 120 for the Michelin Pilot Challenge features two recent winners to watch.
Taylor Hagler is coming off her first professional career win, having teamed with Michael Lewis at Lime Rock for Bryan Herta Autosport in the No. 77 Hyundai Veloster N TCR. They now lead the TCR Championship standings.
Here at Road America, Sheena Monk and co-driver Corey Lewis won in the No. 3 McLaren 570S GT4 in Michelin Pilot Challenge GS in 2020 at Road America. Monk and current co-driver Spencer Pigot currently stand fifth in the big GS Class standings.
Monk’s win was the first overall victory for a woman in the series since Ashley Freiberg won overall with Trent Hindman at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in 2015.
DPi: 9 sets – IMSA Hard
LMP2: 9 sets – IMSA Hard
LMP3: 6 sets – Michelin Pilot Sport GT S8M (Fronts) / S9M (Rears)
GTLM: 10 sets – GTLM range
GTD: 6 sets Michelin Pilot Sport GT S9M
GS: 5 sets – Michelin Pilot Sport GT S9M
TCR: 4 sets – Michelin Pilot Sport GT S9M+
DPi: Dane Cameron/1:48.715/2019
LMP2: James French/1:52.037/2019
LMP3: David Grant/2:02.930/2020
GTLM: Laurens Vanthoor/ 2:00.590/2020
GTD: Ben Keating/ 2:05.250/2019
GS: Nate Stacy/2:16.096/2020
TCR: Shelby Blackstock/ 2:19.712/2019
DPi: Dane Cameron/1:51.034/2020
LMP2: Simon Trummer/1:53.492/2020
LMP3: Matthew Bell/2:01.664/2020
GTLM: Antonio Garcia/2:02.664/2020
GTD: Jack Hawksworth/ 2:06.991/2019
GS: Corey Lewis/2:16.673/2020
TCR: Mat Pombo/2:20.971/2020