Kinky In South Carolina

I know what you're thinking. You went to the US DESMO spring track day at Roebling Road Raceway near Savannah, GA and quickly mastered the track. By the end of the day you were certain a contract to ride a Ducati Factory Superbike was in the mail. Unfortunately the factory has requested that Capo Calandro subject you to a REAL test of your abilities to ride your fast Italian steed. May I suggest a second try-out at Carolina Motorsports Park just south of Kershaw, SC?

Lets compare: Roebling Road is 2.2 miles long with 9 turns, minimal elevation change and very little hard braking. CMP is 2.3 miles long with 14 turns, 30 ft of elevation change and several hard braking zones. At least they both run clockwise. Unfortunately this means the right side of your tires will be toast by the end of the day. Don't even think of trying to pass morning tech with questionable tires.

The CMP track designers decided to follow European practice and name rather than number the 14 turns. As you exit the pits it is important that you stay tight to the left side of the track until you have exited left hand Turn 1, Camden. Accelerate out of Camden Turn and drift right toward the apex curbing of right hand Turn 2, Esses. Exiting Turn 2 you will drift left toward the outside of the track. Once you have the motorcycle upright it is time to head for the outside (right) of left hand Turn 3. Left hand Turn 3 is deceptively fast and allows gentle braking and an earlier turn in than most riders think. Exiting Turn 3 at speed will allow you to drift to the outside edge of the track. Stay to the outside of the short Dam Hill downhill straight leading to the entrance of left hand Turn 4 Conspiracy.

Brake before the turn-in point of Conspiracy Turn 4 and then flick the bike hard left towards the inside apex and the bike will drift wide at the exit and towards the inside curbing of right hand Turn 5. Turns 5, 6 & 7 are called Faith, Hope & Charity and combine to make a long changing radius carousel right hand turn. I prefer to begin my turn-in for Turn 5 Faith mid track and clip the inside curb and then drift left towards the outside of the track before tightening my line towards the apex of turn 6 (Hope) and repeating for turn 7 (Charity). If it is done properly you will do a classic outside/inside/outside entry/exit for turns 6 & 7 without significantly altering your lean angle or speed.

Turn 7 (Charity) exits onto the 1841 ft Outback straight. The Outback straight drops downhill before heading uphill just before the entrance of right hand Turn 8 (Angels Angle). Choose your braking marker and brake hard before releasing the brakes and turning right toward the inside apex. Angels Angle Turn 8 has a great deal of positive camber at the entrance but turns to off camber at the exit. Don't get too aggressive with the throttle on your Italian Superbike at the exit of Angels Angle or you may run out of track as you drift left. Turn 9 (The Swoop) is a gentle right hand turn that should not require major steering input or throttle adjustment. Exiting Turn 9 you are on the long The Avenue back straight heading for fast right hand Turn 10, affectionately called the Kink.

Head towards the (left) outside of The Avenue long straight and gently brake before turning late into the Kink. Many racers will drag their knee through the Kink while going over 100 mph. The inside apex to the Kink is at an asphalt seam where a cut through road intersects the track. Your knee should touch down on this seam but keep your tires to the left of the seam so that you don't unsettle the suspension. After the apex of the Kink, allow the bike drift to outside (left) as you gentle apply the throttle and pick the bike up right and head down the Runway short straight.

Turn 11 (Mulligans) is a decreasing radius left. I prefer to turn in late from the center of Turn 11 towards the curbing and clip the inside apex before allowing the bike to drift at the exit. Exiting Turn 11 you should head towards the outside (left) of the track preparing for the entrance to right hand Turn 12 (Charlies). Turn 12 has been changed to make the entrance to old turn 13 (Lone Tree) safer for motorcycles. The new Turn 12 is now increasing radius and allows for an earlier turn in than the old Turn 12. After clipping the inside apex of Turn 12 you should be able to smoothly apply the throttle as you gradually decrease the lean angle and allow the bike to move to the left (outside) of the Kershaw Straight.

Brake hard leading up to Turn 14 (Last Chance) and once again use a late turn-in point so that you get maximum drive at the exit. You should almost touch the inside curbing at the apex as you practice your outside/inside/outside cornering technique. Turn 14 is one of the tightest turns you will experience on any racetrack. It is also the last turn and empties onto the Start/Finish straight. Remember to concentrate on maximizing exit speed so that you can carry as much speed as possible down the front (Pit Straight). As you accelerate down the Pit Straight move towards the right side of the track and look for the numbered braking markers as you set-up for left hand Turn 1 (Camden). Brake hard for Camden Turn 1 and once again use a late turn-in point and tight apex to set up for the short shoot entering The Esses turns 2 & 3.

Repeat the above until your session is over and then pull into the pits and cool down with a bottle of Gatorade while your friends describe their scary experiences and how confused they are with the track layout. Then you can smugly explain what you have been doing to making it look easy. That Ducati Factory Superbike contract should arrive in the mail any day.

Bill Birchfield USD Member 00007

Read Bill's Hot Lap of Roebling Road Raceway...

The Carolina Motorsports Park web site has detailed track maps.