Dancing on the limit at Roebling Road Raceway
Roebling Road is one of the truest to form old school club racing tracks that still exists in the US. Its relatively straightforward layout and a rather flat elevation may fool some into thinking that it’s simple to learn, and it is certainly easy to simply navigate after a few laps, but to really start going fast at Roebling requires some careful thought, some fancy footwork, and a whole lot of car control, especially in a Spec E30. It is definitely one of the best tracks to learn how to extract the most out of your car because if you’re doing it right, you’re spending a lot of time dancing on the limit of the tire.
Roebling’s turn one and two really make up one big turn, but it does make sense to break them down into two distinct turns. As you make your way down the high-speed front straight, you want to be keeping an eye on the marker boards as you approach T1. In a Spec E30, I start getting on the brakes right around the 3 board. You want to get into the brakes hard and fast to scrub off enough speed to get turned into T1. Shift down to 4th and turn the car down onto the inside curbing, doing your best to hold it down there.
As you’re approaching the end of the inside curbing you should find yourself drifting to the middle of the track. By this point, you should have scrubbed off enough speed in the turn to downshift into 3rd, while dragging a little bit of brake to help the front end bite in preparation to turn down for T2. Get the car to turn down as early as possible for T2 and start feeding in power as you hug the inside of the track. You should be able to start unwinding the wheel and end up tracking out to the outside curb.
There are quite a few ways to go about turn 3, all of which you’ll be holding on for the ride. As you exit turn 2, start drifting over to the right side of the track. You want to begin turning in from the far right side of the track about 100 feet before you get to the flag station at T3. You’ll find yourself in the middle of the road while you begin turning in, and you want to be all the way to the inside of the track just before you reach the curbing on the inside of T3. The exit of T3 is where things get tricky. Ideally, you will want to exit either at mid track or left track in order to set up for T4. Things don’t always go to plan though, especially in a race situation, so it is still possible to exit right track and still salvage T4. Depending on track and tire conditions, T3 can usually be taken without lifting in a low power car.
As soon as you get the car straightened out at the exit of T3, it’s time to get on the brakes hard for T4 and get down to 3rd gear as the engine braking will help get the car slowed in a hurry.
I try to get the car turned in as soon as I have it slowed enough, which typically requires a little bit of trail braking here. You want to pull the car tight to the inside and get your two wheels onto the inside curbing. Start reapplying throttle as you reach the curbing and if you’ve gotten through T4 well, you will need to make a shift to 4th. You should end up mid-to left track at the exit. You don’t want to be too far to the left of the track or you’ll have a hard time setting up for T5.
One of the most head-scratching turns in the Southeast. There are many ways to setup and execute it, but here’s how I like to do it. As you exit T4, set yourself up to run as straight across the curbing on track left. Just as you pass that curbing, get as much braking done in as straight of a line as you can possibly make and try to jam it into 3rd gear. As you’re braking, you should be targeting the end of the curbing on the outside. By the time you get to the end of the outside curbing, you should be about mid-track and ready to totally commit to turning into T5. Use the end of the outside curbing as your approximate turn in point. A little bit of maintenance throttle may be needed in order to keep the car stable as you’re turning down to the inside curbing. You should be all the way back to gas once you’re at about the midway point of the inside curbing. At this point, you should be tracking out to the outside curbing and thinking about setting up for T6.
This is a long one and requires some patience. Once you’ve exited T5, it’s time to quickly transition to track left, but if you’re being pressured during a race you may have to stay to track right. Depending on the track and ambient conditions, I’ll sometimes make the shift to 4th, but it’s usually not necessary. Once there, I like to dart to the inside in as straight of a line as possible and get my braking done, which usually turns into trail braking all the way to the inside. Once there, you want to stick as tight as you can to the inside and bide your time, sometimes adding a wee bit of maintenance throttle. Once again, the beginning of the curbing on the inside as you approach the end of T6/7 will be your queue to start picking up throttle. You’ll have to wrestle the car to the outside curbing and grab a gear up to 4th on the way out.
Turn 9 is a wild ride that’ll make or break your run onto the long front straight; it’s also the only wall there is to hit at Roebling. As tires and conditions worsen, you may even find yourself with some tires in the dirt looking for whatever help you can get to be able to keep the pedal to the floor. You should find yourself at track left after exiting T6/7, and you’ll start turning into T9 as the track starts breaking away to the right. There aren’t many reference points, but you can consider the apex point of the grass right before the opening to the pit lane to be your clipping point. After that, you want the right side of the car to be as close to the pit entry line and curbing as you can get. Getting the clipping point right takes a few tries, but starts to become natural after awhile. As you’re exiting, you want to unwind the wheel and drift out towards the exit curbing. If you’re still trying to get the car turned down at the exit it may be better to straighten out a bit and go off safely. If you don’t and continue to load up the outside of the car, it will very likely throw you into the only wall once you’ve lost traction on the exit curbing or grass.
As a parting thought, I’d like to reinforce that working at the limit of the tire is key to being fast at any track and in any car. If you’re still not comfortable with finding the limits of the tire, Roebling can be a great place to learn those limits. There are plenty of long, steady-state turns where you can feel the tire working. Turn 2 is a great place to push the car into understeer, especially on entry as the front end can really fight you when trying to get the car turned down once you have the rear end settled. Finding a place to safely feel out oversteer is more of an issue, but turn 5 does provide a nice open area in a fairly low-speed corner to feel out certain throttle and steering inputs in order to get an idea of what kind of inputs your car is willing to put up with.
Hopefully, this guide was at least slightly helpful to some of you out there, and if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I look forward to seeing some of you down at Roebling in the near future and remember to keep it fast, fun, and shiny side up!
Watch a race: