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Thunderbolt Raceway and its "Special Curbing"

Thunderbolt Raceway and its "Special Curbing"

Thunderbolt Raceway at NJMP is a 2.25-mile long track run clockwise with mostly medium to high-speed corners and minimal elevation change.
Turn 1
A lap starts off heading down the front straight in 5th gear, stay track left as you approach turn 1. Brake hard around where the curbing begins on the left and shift down to 4th gear. When you turn in, stay off the inside curb, it tends to upset the car too much. The exit curbing is extremely wide, almost a full car width, use all of it as you track out and stay on it. 

Turns 2 & 3
Turn in for turn 2 as the curbing ends, there is a small crest at the apex, making the exit blind, so this works as the perfect reference for beginning the turn. A slight lift off the throttle a little is all that is needed to slow down enough. Unlike the first corner, you can take a lot of curb at the apex. Drive out onto the curbing on exit. Stay track left as you head to turn 3, a fun and fast right kink that offers the biggest pucker factor of the track. Keep it in 4th gear, use the curbing on the left side before turning in to make the entry a little wider. Stay full throttle (depending on track/tire conditions a slight lift might be needed) being patient on turn in, it's easy to turn too soon. Take a little apex curb and track out onto the curbing if needed.

Turns 4 & 5
Turn 4 is another fast right-hander, hard on brakes around the 2 marker for a short distance with a little trail brake to help rotate the car, back on the gas through the turn staying in 4th gear. Avoid using too much curb and don't track out all the way to the exit curb. You can also use this turn to set up a pass in turn 5 by staying to the left after tracking out giving you the inside line. Usually, you will cross over to the right side of the track, but there is no need to go all the way over. Brake and shift down to 3rd. This is another turn that is tempting to turn in early so be patient or you will run out of room exiting the turn. There are two options for positioning the car at apex, either no curb at all or put the inside wheels all the way on top of the innermost section of curbing. If you only use the first section of curbing, the car's balance will be upset. Whichever line you take, you will need to use all of the curbing at track out. 

Turns 6 - 8
Shift up to 4th gear as you cross over to the left side of the track for turn 6. Left foot brake or breathe off throttle to get some weight on the front tires for turn in. When the curbing for turn 6 (and 7, 9 and 10) was poured, the concrete for the first stage was raked parallel to the track as opposed to perpendicular as it was for the other turns. This "special curbing" has a lot of grip. Because of this you'll want to turn in a little early and get down to the curb. Just be prepared for a bit of oversteer that sometimes occurs when the front tire hits and suddenly has more grip than the inside rear. You'll want to be on the gas through the turn, on lower grip days you may have to settle for maintenance throttle instead of accelerating. The exit is straightforward, remain on the left side of the track, braking near the 2 marker for turn 7 and going down to 3rd. [Side note: when running here for enduros, you can stay in 4th gear here and not lose much time but will improve gas mileage slightly] Again, have your inside tires go on the special curbing. Track out and open the steering a bit but continue turning and make your way back to the right, shifting up to 4th gear as you do. 

Turns 9 & 10
As you approach turn 9 there will be some curbing on the right, you'll want to be all the way right soon after it starts but stay off it. When it ends, brake and shift back down to 3rd, staying inside for the turn with the right side tires on the "special curbing". Track out and cross over all the way to the left for turn 10, a long, slow and tight left-hander. A quick hit of the brakes and then stay inside the whole corner, again using the "special curbing". Go full throttle as soon as you can, being careful not to do so too early, track out and stay to the right. 

Turn 11 & 12
Turn 11 is a simple right turn so you can stay full throttle and shift up to 4th on exit. Continue accelerating through the esses, keeping to the left as you approach the bridge. Turn 12 is the final turn and is easily taken flat out. As you head down the front straight, you'll shift into 5th a little after start/finish. 

Next article Saturday night short track at Gateway Motorsports Park


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