Running to a total lap length of 2.238 miles (3.602 km) and featuring one of the most spectacular and dramatic corner sections anywhere in the world – The Corkscrew – Laguna is always good for a fun time on track, even if it can occasionally be a touch difficult to (cleanly) find a way to overtake a rival.
Coming to rFactor 2 as part of the 2022 Q2 content release this month, let’s take a look at what is needed to navigate a lap of this famed Californian track.
More of a gentle kink than a corner of any real significance, Turn 1 nevertheless provides an interesting obstacle for drivers to overcome on the run down into the Andretti Hairpin. In isolation, T1 is but a simple full throttle curve to the left, however the placement at the very start of the steep descent into Andretti, and the fact that drivers here will find themselves partially unsighted as they begin to drop downhill and search out the braking point for T2, make this a corner that works very well in the context of the wider lap, whilst also providing an element of jeopardy when all a driver really needs at this point is to build confidence before hitting that middle pedal in anger for the first time further down the road.
A famous corner with a famous name, the Andretti Hairpin is probably the easiest opportunity for drivers to effect a successful overtake here at Laguna Seca, as well as being a key opportunity to win or lose lap time. Thanks to its placement at the bottom of the steep hill running from the start/finish line and through T1, the Andretti Hairpin is approached at high speed, with the car just beginning to settle down on the racetrack before the long braking zone approaching the corner. Hard on the brakes and easing off into the apex, here drivers have multiple choices of racing line through what is more of a double turn than a traditional hairpin – go for mid-corner speed, defend the inside line, or carry as much pace out of the turn and up into T3 – difficult choices, with no real correct answer.
Launch cleanly out of Andretti, and the next challenge faced by a driver at Laguna Seca will be the rapidly approaching right-hander of T3. Here, the open nature of the turn and lack of significant trackside reference points often encourage drivers to commit too much speed into the apex, which inevitably forces the car to transition quickly to mid to exit corner understeer that can easily push you out onto the rough surface on corner exit, and giveaway significant portions of lap time along the short following straight.
Similar to T3 but much, much faster, the fourth corner at Laguna Seca is very much car dependant. Enough grip and downforce underneath you, and this can be a pretty straightforward event, however if you are lacking that bit of road holding from the tyres, it may well be the case that here a driver has to be slightly cautious with their approach speed, potentially scrubbing a little speed on entry to ensure mid and corner exit have been maximized for the following run down into T5. Be cautious not to let this corner fool you into taking too many risks, as although it requires high speed and driver commitment, it is far easier to get things wrong than doing it right.
Turn 5 is a peculiar right-hand corner, as it features a moderate amount of banking that allows committed drivers to really push hard and late into the turn, giving you the opportunity to really finely balance the car throughout the corner and prepare yourself adequately for the uphill run into Turn six and the Corkscrew that follows.
Because of the nature of the banking and corner layout here, a driver must use the full width of the road on the run into T5, and it is advisable to hit a late apex to help maintain as much momentum as possible for the following uphill section. As is often the case here at Laguna Seca, carry too much speed, and run the risk of putting your car out of track bounds and into the loose on corner exit, which will both hurt the tyres, and really punish your momentum and thus overall lap time.
Certainly not as well known as the famous Corkscrew, but arguably more challenging overall, T6 is where a lot of your lap time can be won or lost here at Laguna. Approached blind thanks to the gradient in which it sits, this is a corner that should be attacked with nothing short of full commitment. Positioning the car well in advance of turn in, drivers have to take a leap of faith that their calculations are correct as you charge toward the apex, complicated somewhat as the track falls away from you not unlike a rollercoaster at corner apex. While at your most vulnerable at this point as the car tries to settle down and fall back under control, the driver will need to be searching for the very important point of where to hit the throttle pedal hard, as it’s a long and uphill run from here into the Corkscrew section of corners.
Alex Zanardi. For those of us old enough to remember, do we need to say any more?
Despite being famous for THAT pass in the 1996 Cart race at Laguna, The Corkscrew has long been regarded as one of the more dramatic and challenging sections of track anywhere on the US racing calendar. On paper, this should be a strong candidate for a good passing opportunity, however in real terms it is perhaps best that drivers adopt a safety first mentality here, as the Corkscrew presents plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong in a very spectacular way indeed.
As one can imagine, this corner requires a healthy amount of hard braking on approach, made doubly difficult by the fact the track is far from smooth on corner entry, requiring drivers to think about how the car and weight is behaving underneath them as well as picking out the best line on which to attack the turns.
Best practice is to begin the braking phase here a little before the hump on the approach into the turn and make sure you straight line the entry to be as far right as possible on the approach, to give the car as much breathing space as possible for the first left had part of the wild and wonderful dip through this sequence. Once into the Corkscrew itself, let the car roll through the turn and concentrate on making sure you have the right speed and positioning whilst avoiding those danger curbs, then hard on the gas on corner exit as the elevation once again starts to rise into T9.
Another very fun, and somewhat tricky corner to handle, T9 offers up a multitude of racing line opportunities depending on the driver, setup and car in use. Blind on corner entry, some drivers prefer to hug the inside line and leave plenty of wiggle room on exit, while some favour either a mid or outside line for a more constant and smooth arch through the turn. Whatever line you decide works best for you, just remember to hold patience in check when getting back on the throttle, as once again T9 is the type of corner that can very easily suck you into running out of road on exit, quickly putting you into the rough and potentially losing a significant amount of time.
The penultimate corner of the lap is a little more straightforward than the last few corners we’ve had to deal with, and in the correct rhythm can be incredibly satisfying to nail perfectly on a fast lap. Very high speed, a bit of jockeying to make sure everything is micro corrected and on the right line and plenty of curb on corner exit to maximize the racetrack – lots of fun, and almost within sight of that start finish line!
The final challenge of the lap, a relatively simple hairpin left-hander and another great opportunity to overtake if done correctly. As always with a corner that precedes a long straight, here it is very important indeed to make sure you take the maximum amount of speed out of the turn on corner exit, otherwise you will be compromising not only the lap you are on, but the start of your next lap as well.
May 2022 Announcements So Far
We are understandably delighted to be bringing this wonderful track to rFactor 2 this month, and we cannot wait for you all to get your hands on it and find out just how much fun Laguna Seca in rFactor 2 can be 2. While we are waiting, don’t forget to stay tuned to the Studio 397 social channels and forum in the coming weeks as we reveal more new and exciting content and features coming to the simulation in the Q2 May drop!
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – Coming soon to rFactor 2