The original plan for the weekend was to race my brother Mario’s Miata at Calabogie in the AER series but the car wasn’t ready so we made alternate plans and took his street Miata on an HPDE safari. While racing is always a great rush, the first few laps at a new track are such a special experience that I didn’t mind the change in plans. The first track we hit was New York Safety Track (NYST). NYST is a relatively unknown track that caters more to motorcycles than cars. It’s a family run business that’s been open for only a few years. It looks great on paper/video so I was eager to check it out.
My normal preparation for driving a new track is to run a bunch of laps on a simulator. Laser scanned tracks are accurate to the centimeter, so you have a pretty good idea of how to drive the track when you get there. But real life is always a little different than virtual. You perceive elevation changes much more in person, for example. But there are other, more subtle differences that add up to a unique ‘feel’ in the real world that can’t be duplicated in simulation.
Unfortunately, NYST doesn’t exist in the simulator world, so I couldn’t prepare that way. So I did my homework by watching youtube videos, marking up track maps, and imagining myself driving the track. There’s a saying that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. It’s sort of like that with track preparation. What may seem like an ideal line on paper can be suboptimal in real life. So whenever I go to a new track, my main goal is to explore the space a little. As a result, I overdrive the car a little rather than trying to optimize lap times.
Here’s what I wrote ahead of time about NYST. In red are comments I made afterward. Video follows text.
T1-T2: The T1-T2 combo is taken as an increasing radius turn with a lot of slowing early and then full throttle as soon as possible. The main straight climbs gradually into the braking zone. The apex is right at the peak of the hill, at which point the track turns down and opens. It’s important to get on the throttle early and use the whole track while unwinding the steering.
The braking point is ludicrously deep. You can brake at the 100 marker and then flick it over the hill.
T3: Double-apex carousel that is half descending and half ascending. Set up wide at the entrance, brake through the first apex, maintain throttle through middle, and gas it out to the exit, but be careful because there is no exit apron (here or anywhere).
As expected, the exit pinches in, so you want to let the car drift left a bit before hitting the second apex.
T4-T5: Flat out. T4 and T5 are slight bends right and then left, but the racing line is straight through. The apex of T5 is slightly blind.
T6: Another descending-ascending double-apex carousel. Unlike T3, the apexes are really far apart and the track-out is held tight to set up for T7.
I liked this as a double apex rather than holding a tight line. I feel like the exit speed is better. Too bad I didn’t have my RumbleStrip with me to test.
T7: Flat out. T7 is a blind right-handed bend that should require no turning if the exit of T6 is held correctly.
This turn feels a little like Buttonwillow Phil Hill. Turn it in before the hill and just go straight over.
T8: This is the highest speed corner of the track. Set up track right on entrance and stay mid-track at the exit to get ready for the esses ahead.
T9-T11: Rolling esses. As soon as you pass the apex of T8, get the car straight and unloaded. The braking zone to T9 is short. Brake just a touch into the hill. T9 is a blind right-hander that is quickly followed by T10 (left) and T11 (right). Like any esses, sacrifice the exits, except for the last one. Track all the way out of T11.
There are two ways to handle this complex. You can shift down to 3rd before or after 9. My guess is staying in the high gear is better because downshifts often end up with too much braking. But downshifting before gives you a great run up to 11.
T12: Descending decreasing radius 120. The track will start to descend before the braking zone to T12. It’s tighter and longer than it looks and continues downward. Get rid of speed early since it’s dangerous to do so mid-corner. Stay tight the whole way around.
The corner is so damn long that it’s possible to brake through some of the corner. It is off-camber, so you don’t want to run too wide. This was a surprisingly fun corner.
T13-T14: Long left. One might think of this pair as a single decreasing radius turn, but the exit of 14 is kinked, so there’s no point in holding out for a fast exit. Just go around on the inside and manage traction. It’s possible a double apex line is best.
The geometry of the turn invites oversteer, which you can see in the video.
T15: Sharp 90. This sets up the climbing section, so the exit is important, especially in a momentum car. The entrance is kinked. Should one try to get all the way track right, which requires additional braking, or does one enter mid-track at higher speed? In either case, running out of room at the exit will hurt because there is no apron.
It’s a slow rotation corner, so optimize the angle by getting as far right as possible before the turn.
T16: Flat out. T15 is so slow that the slight right bend at T16 is not much of a turn. Run over the berm here and the next turn.
T17: Uphill. This is the steepest part of the track. Maintain as much speed as possible with an early apex and fight to keep all the momentum and traction as you continue up. Use as much track as you can.
T18: Cresting left. The braking zone is before the crest of the hill, as is the apex. It doesn’t start to flatten out until the exit. Exit speed is crucial since the main straight follows. So the apex must be late enough that you don’t have to cut throttle if you start heading into the grass on the exit. The apex berm and blind nature of the corner conspire to make you want to take an early apex, but wait on it.
Indeed, the corner invites an early apex, but be disciplined and wait for it.
NYST is a fantastic track. I’m ranking it as my 3rd favorite track behind Thunderhill West and Sonoma. Despite the ‘Safety’ in it’s name, I don’t think NYST is especially safe. Some of the trees are a little to close to the track. Also, the motorcycles drive way too fast in the paddock.
OMG, I tilt my head so much when driving. I’ve got some homework to do there.