VIR - Driving The New Pavement
Last weekend I had an opportunity to drive the new pavement at VIR. This essay summarizes my thoughts.
At least in moderately powered cars it now feels that the pavement has grip everywhere. Before the repave there were sections that were noticeably more worn than others - turn 1 and Hog Pen for example - and now the entire track is of uniform, sticky consistency.
Two pavement extensions have been added on the outside of the curbs, in turns 3 and 11 (Oak Tree). Both of these should be used for optimal lap time.
Besides the two pavement extensions, track layout remains the same as it was. Only the asphalt was replaced - curbs remain where they were, and the track width has not changed much.
Start/finish line has moved to the very end of the pit lane rather than being about 3/4 way into the pit lane. This can be a good thing as the first lap would be guaranteed to be recorded on data acquisition systems now.
Turn By Turn
The line in turn 1 remains mostly the same, but with added grip the turn becomes faster. The challenge is figuring out how aggressive you can be at corner entry, as mid corner and corner exit phases are much closer to flat out than to feathering throttle like old pavement was.
Assuming you hit the apex, once at the apex the turn is completely drama-free now.
Line through turn 2 is the same.
This turn is now truly a high speed turn due to the pavement extension on the right at corner exit. Very little braking is required in low power or high grip cars.
High power cars will obviously need to brake more.
The curb is fairly tall, and stiff cars may get air time as they are tracking out. The amount of pavement on the outside of the curb is nearly a car width, thus the fast line is floating over the curb, landing on the outside and staying right of the curb as you get into the braking zone for turn 4.
The character of this turn remains the same - it's a late apex, slow left hander. Because turn 3 is much faster now than it was before the repave, more braking is needed for turn 4.
Snake drives the same now as it did before. Use the curbs as necessary to flatten the line.
I suspect the limiting factor for many cars in the climbing esses is unloading of the rear tires over crests which does not change with how grippy the pavement is. As such, top speed over the climbing esses may remain in the same ballpark as it was before the repave.
Turn 10 is now much faster, and in my opinion a lot more enjoyable than it was before. Grip was the limiting factor and now there is a lot more of it, permitting a lot more speed to be carried through. Also, the exit curb feels less tall now and the pavement extends to the outside of the curb where the curb ends - one continues to track out off the curb onto pavement rather than onto grass as was the case previously.
Whereas before turn 10 inspired fear, it now inspires confidence. Turn 10 might even rival the climbing esses in the amount of excitement.
This turn remains largely the same, except more speed can be carried into 11b which means 11a is now a faster turn.
Turn 11b - Oak Tree
The repave added a pavement extension to the left of the exit curb, similar to turn 3. The extension in turn 11b is not as wide, and the curb has more sharp edges, compared to turn 3. Still, given the importance of exit speed out of 11b, using the exit pavement extension is a necessity.
Higher grip on pavement also makes cutting the apex curb in 11b more tenable. On old pavement, going over the apex curb often required waiting for the car to settle and re-grip after landing. On new pavement the car grips immediately once it touches down, thus penalty for going airborne is much reduced. Especially when turning in too early it makes sense to clobber half or all of the apex curb to maintain speed.
The top of the rollercoaster was quite slick on old pavement - not anymore. Whereas on old pavement most of the braking was normally done uphill, with braking tapering off over the crest, on new pavement it is possible to continue braking with high deceleration as the car crests and approaches the right turn. What this means is braking point moves quite a bit downtrack.
This turn drives the same as before. Due to additional grip, higher entry speed should be possible.
The left hander leading into hog pen has become more tricky with the new pavement. Whereas before this was a completely throwaway turn - attempting to carry any sort of speed through it would screw up turn 17 and thus exit speed onto front straight - now that there is grip everywhere it is possible to at least attempt to carry speed between turns 15 and 16 into turn 16 as late as possible, turn into 16 earlier, then brake and still make turn 17 on a reasonably good line.
High horsepower cars might treat turn 16 as a sweeper, holding speed at high lateral Gs without acceleration or braking. The difference from old pavement is the high lateral Gs now possible.
The first right hander of the hog pen is one place on the track where cars are still sliding. The pavement there is bumpy enough that, combined with elevation drop, cars with stiffer suspensions may become momentarily airborne without driving over curbs. In such cases the line through 17 remains the same in principle as it was before - wait for the car to land which often comes with a bit of oversteer, and mash the throttle as the car rotates into position for 17a.
Cutting the curb in 17 is now beneficial to the extent that it permits carrying more speed through 17 and 17a. Similarly to turn 11b, the car regains grip and can accelerate immediately upon landing and straightening the line over the curb may be an advantage over driving around the curb.
Same as before the repave - this turn should be taken flat out.