A lap at Long Beach with Hunter-Reay
You start the lap on what is possibly the most famous straight in American open-wheel road racing, “Shoreline Straight” on Long Beach’s famous Shoreline Dr. The straight actually isn’t very straight at all as it bends all the way down to the braking zone for Turn 1. This is the best passing zone on the track as we brake; we go down through the gears from 6th to 2nd.
Turn 1 is much faster than it looks and requires lots of entry speed, you have to have a ton of faith in the balance of the car as the exit is extremely narrow, and the wall seems to jump out at you upon exit.
Next up is the short run up to the famous fountain corner (turn 3), which makes for the best pictures of the cars on-track. This is a tight technical section where you have to be very careful not to lock a right front on entry, tidiness is key here. This isn’t a passing zone, but I’d put money on it someone will try to stick a nose under the car in front on Sunday.
From turn 3 it’s up to 4th gear then back down to 3rd for turn 4, which is a typical, fast 90-degree right hander and requires a hit of the apex curbing to get it right. This whole section is extremely narrow and can bring on some mistakes from the driver’s as the race goes on.
Up to turn 5, which is a tricky, off-camber, falling-away corner, and usually requires a big jump over the apex curbing blocks. This is where you will see the cars moving around the most, it feels as if the rear of the car is never stable here and you’re always flirting with smacking that left rear to the exit wall. Exit speed is key here as we head down the third longest straight of the track up through the gears to 5th.
Turn 6 is back down to 2nd gear again for a run uphill past the Long Beach Hyatt. I particularly like this section of the track as it has a rhythm and flow to it that most street courses just don’t have. Onto turn 7, which leads onto the very important back straight. Over the curbs at apex here and back to power early is essential, this is a tough corner to get just right as the exit shot narrows from apex.
Now down the back-straight up through the gearbox to 6th gear. Entry to turn 7 is a potential passing zone, but it is fast and tricky. Braking never seems to be 100% as the rear feels as if it is floating behind you on entry to this 3rd gear flowing corner.
Turn 8 is probably the strangest corner on the track. It’s 3rd gear and looks fairly straight-forward when you first see it, but due to the surface sealer that has been put down the car seems to handle differently here every lap. One lap you’ll have a big push and the next the rear will snap out creating an entirely new set of problems. Another key note of this corner, it leads to the famous hairpin, which is critical to get a good shot out off.
Turn 9, or the hairpin, is equal to making a u-turn at an intersection where u-turns are illegal. It is ridiculously tight and if you have the slightest mistake on entry, your chances of making it through to the exit aren’t very good. Power-down application from 1st gear exiting the hairpin onto shoreline straight is one of the most important parts of putting a lap together at Long Beach. You have to be patient in order not to create too much wheel spin while trying to get all the horsepower to the pavement.