New road courses are few and far between, so it’s always pretty exciting when land, capital and bulldozers come together to make a new one. Sometimes, they’re expensive, professional efforts involving famous names like Alan Wilson, resulting in a nicely flowing layout polished free of surface imperfections, with ample runoff room. Other times, they’re idiosyncratic creations of gearheads with pavers — nonprofessionals just paving a circuit along the existing contours of the land,
Oregon Raceway Park, in Grass Valley, Oregon belongs to the latter category. It’s in good company; both Lime Rock and the Shenandoah circuit at Summit Point were the product of track-crazy guys on a mission. And typical of the category, it’s a fun, busy track rife with built-in imperfections and great corners created by accident. What follows is some video, and my thoughts, turn by turn. Let me know what you think!
(Unfortunately, I took video on only one session, and didn’t position the camera very well; see YouTube for more videos)
Corner By Corner
The pit straight ends at Turn 1, a fast, banked corner slightly greater than 90 degrees. The track drops abruptly as you approach the corner, reducing the available grip under braking and hiding the turn in point until you’ve already begun slowing the car.
Braking for Turn 1
Fortunately, the corner’s camber makes heavy braking unnecessary in many cars, and serves mainly to slow you down slightly before the uphill braking zone for the the acute Turn 2.
Braking for Turn 2
Turn 2, with Mount Rainier in the distance
A classic, late-apex approach pays dividends, as Turn 2 exits onto the second longest straight of the track. As with many parts of ORP, drivers have to wait until they’ve covered two thirds of the straight before gaining sight of the next corner, a downhill 90 degree left hander with a large, broken down barn to driver’s right on exit.
Approaching Turn 3
A modest amount of acceleration is possible before entering Turn 4, or from the official ORP literature, “The Pucker Factor.” If there’s puckering to be done, it’s more out of frustration than fear. An off-camber, decreasing radius corner, Turn 4 will resist the best intentions of carrying speed until drivers learn to be patient, wait to see the exit and apply the throttle. It never feels dangerous, merely wrong and awkward.
Exiting Turn 4
Once getting on the throttle out of turn 4, though, maintenance of speed is critical, as it leads through a fast Turn 5 onto a very long uphill straight. After apexing turn 5, the track dives away toward track out, only to start climbing slightly before cars reach the edge of the track itself. As drivers become comfortable with the elevation changes, a very fast, early and aggressive line is possible here. Timing is critical; after the car crests the small hill, the car becomes unweighted and slides laterally toward track out, only to be caught ever so slightly by the beginning of the climb uphill at track out.
Contours of Turn 5
At the crest of the hill, the track heads to the right. Drivers should take a wide approach, treating the crest of the hill as an apex, then line the car up on the right for the approach to the North Bowl.
Heading up the hill
Approach to the North Bowl
Taken at speed, the approach to the north bowl is one of the more technical combinations at ORP. Beginning with a fast left-hand sweeper, the track dives down and then back up to the right for a tight, blind, late-apex right-hander into the Half Pipe. It’s possible to carry a deceptive amount of speed through the left-hander and down the hill, then using the uphill section to get hard on the brakes and get the car buttoned up for the right-hander that follows. The contours of the track mean that this uphill braking zone is also slightly curved.
After the fast left-hander, heading downhill into the North Bowl
Right-hander leading into the Half-Pipe
After the North Bowl, a very short straight leads to the steeply-banked Half Pipe. Though this sequence photographs very well and was probably intended to be a signature of the track, most drivers will shoot straight through here, scarcely using the extravagant banking. A quick tap of the brakes helps set the nose for turn-in, after which point most cars can add throttle throughout the turn. I found success taking an earlier apex than the cone in these photos suggests. Curbing will ultimately be required here, as drivers will be tempted to make this as much of a straight as possible.
Half Pipe, part I
Half Pipe, part II
Half Pipe banking
Exiting the Half Pipe, the banking (and available grip) ends fairly abruptly, making off-track excursions to the left a real possibility.
Exiting the Half Pipe
A very short straight then leads to Turn 11, an uphill right-hander. The track out point is invisible from turn in. A slight hump at the apex slightly unsettles stiffly-sprung cars. After a short uphill straight, then a downhill braking zone for the acute, late-apex entry to Big Dipper.
Heading Toward Big Dipper
Big Dipper Braking Zone
After the Big Dipper, Turn 13 is a blind, increasing radius uphill corner. Once familiar with the track exit, this is a deceptively fast and important corner, as it leads onto the uphill climb back toward the paddock and the main straight.
After climbing and curving around to the right, Continental Corner curls around the pit wall and onto the main straight. Once again, track out is hidden from view by both the hill and the pit wall itself.
Leaving the track