The 17-turn, 4.3-km Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit is new for most of the drivers in the WEC paddock, making the track walk particularly important prior to this week’s track action, getting a feel for the kerbs, surface, run off and reference points.
In light of that, Francois Perrodo Emmanuel Collard toured DSC round the circuit, to give us an interesting perspective on the WEC’s newest circuit.
The first thing we all noticed was just how long the pit straight is, it’s deceptive and curves slightly to the right on the approach to Turn 1.
In a GTE you can brake later than expected, but you have to be wary of the kerbs, which all have a raised red ‘sausage’ on the inside and ensure that you move over to driver’s right in time for Turn 2 which comes quickly.
Turn 2 requires commitment, to ensure that you can attack Turn 3.
“This first section feels a lot tighter than I was expecting,” Perrodo pointed out. “On the sim, I could go flat through Turn 3, but I think that’s going to be a tough ask, as the exit is difficult, you’d go straight on if you didn’t brake.”
Out of Turn 3, you blast down a second lengthy straight, past a grandstand and the infield park, which is a popular spot for basketball and football games.
“It has a nice feel to it,” Collard said. “It reminds me of Monza with the park on the right.”
But before you know it, you’re into Turn 4, which is tricky on the brakes, and will force the drivers to clip the apex late.
“This section is interesting, because of the traffic. It’s got the same set up as Turns 2 and 3, but it’s a lot tighter.
“You’ll have to brake early, I’m not sure if you can use the kerbs on the outside under braking,” Perrodo explained. “It’s tough to move over for Turn 5, which looks like a 1st-gear corner.”
“I don’t think we can use the outside kerbs,” Collard said. “Could be slippery, and there will be a lot of rubber, even though it’s so flat.”
Out of Turn 5, it’s a short run down to six, which is a tricky double-apex right-hander, that’s likely to catch a few people out.
“Forget about the first apex, you need to slingshot into the second one, and then keep it flat into Turn 7,” Perrodo pointed out. “It kind of reminds me of Luffield at Silverstone in the approach.”
Turns 7, 8 and 9 are tricky, and with little run off. The most worrying thing though, is the pools of water on the inside of the circuit on the grass on the apex of Turn 7, which in bright sunshine, hadn’t dried up.
“It must be coming from the ground, because it would have dried out by now,” Collard said. “That could be dangerous…”
“Yeah, and we’ll need to hold our line with the prototypes trying to get around us. Like the Porsche Curves at Le Mans, it requires us as GTE drivers to stick to the racing line, because if we go off-line we will lose grip and control.”
What’s interesting is how confident Collard and Perrodo remain, despite lack of experience driving the track. According to Collard, there won’t be a massive difference between his first lap and his best lap, as he believes that it will take around five or six laps to get to optimum times.
“I’m old school,” chuckled Collard. “I didn’t go on the sim before this week, just give me three laps, that’s all I need!”
It’s important then, to clip the apex of Turn 9, so that you can prepare yourself for the sweeping right at Turn 10, which leads through Turn 11 and onto the run down to the baseball stadium.
And again, down the straight into Turn 11, there’s more water, but this time on the braking zone and all over the apex. Both Collard and Perrodo hope that before the cars hit the track, the water on the circuit is cleared.
“It’s literally on the braking point for GTE cars!” Perrodo exclaimed.
Turns 11 and 12 are both deceptive. Turn 11 looks like a third gear corner on approach, but the exit is tight before opening up and looks more like a drop to second.
Then Turn 12 has a blind apex, up a slight hill, with the concert stage on the right, and the towering grandstands on drivers left.
It’s a very technical section of track, with 13, 14 and 15 all very tight and enclosed by the grandstands above.
And then finally you run down a small slope into 16, which is a 90 degree right hander under a bridge, which has no runoff, just a wall, leading onto the pit straight.
“It’s tough on the exit here,” Perrodo said, in completion of the walk. “Because you need to keep away from the wall and slowly push down on the throttle through T17, which isn’t flat, keeping an eye on the pit entry on the right. If you were on full throttle and and then lifted and went back on the throttle it would unsettle the car and you don’t want that.”
Then it’s full throttle, as you fly back down past the pits to start the lap again.