Give It The Boot

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Hailing from my old home state, New York, Steguis brings us another northeast adventure. The video’s fantastic- well worth taking time out of your day to watch. -SF

Being a track and autocross junkie (and pretty much anything that involves enjoying driving a S2000 to its full potential), it’s always a thrill when I get to do my annual pilgrimage one the most incredible tracks in the Northeast- Watkins Glen International, more commonly referred to as “The Glen”. The Glen is nestled on a wooded hill top in Watkins Glen, NY; about 240 miles northwest of New York City.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend visiting the Watkins Glen State Park, which is in a narrow gorge cut through the layers of rock by glaciers from the last Ice Age. The area is spectacular, but the track itself is even more so. If you ask any track enthusiast in the Northeast, surely Watkins Glen will rank high up, if not highest, on their list of favorite tracks.

The track is 3.4 miles long in its longest configuration, and features some very fast sections, as well as very technical ones with elevation changes that take you from the low point of 1490 ft at the “toe of the boot” to a high point of 1631 ft at the exit of the “bus stop”. There is very little run off at The Glen. You are surrounded by blue painted Armco barriers that have taken their fair share of cars past to present. Driving fast at The Glen requires precision, a solid pair of cajones, and most importantly respect for the track and understanding the limits of your car and driving ability.

In the 60s and into the 70s, Formula 1 ran here as well, which is obvious from all the wonderful F1 memorabilia you’ll find in places to eat around the area. NASCAR runs here as well, but they run the shorter track configuration so then don’t have to turn as much.

Here’s a quick rundown of the track from a S2000 (AP1) driver’s perspective. You are barreling down the front straight in 4th taking it all the way to redline (maybe even 5th if you’re on sticky rubber and got a good run). The front straight is on a slight decline with the braking zone right where the track dips down a bit more steeply than the rest of the straight. You need to get this braking done and heel-toe down to 3rd perfectly because turn 1 is key. You want the right wheels right up by the curbing, then get back on the throttle as you track out to the exit. Then it’s flat out to 4th then up the famous “Esses”; it’s a fairly steep incline, the car is compressed onto the track surface, you feel a barrage of G forces, and as you look ahead you see a relatively narrow bridge you have to cross with barriers on both sides. Due to the incline, you can’t even see corner exit as you are coming up, you’re just looking at the corner flag worker checking for flags. He’s your eyes and ears up there letting you know if something’s in the way. At the top of the Esses, you’re in 5th gear, still full throttle as you track out just 3 feet from the barriers then down the back straight.

As you approach 120-125mph at the end of the straight, it’s hard on the brakes and quick heel-toe to 4th gear. While the nose is settled turn in to the chicane (more commonly referred to as the “bus stop”), all four wheels over the rumble strips then a quick left to exit then back on the throttle into a right hand, downhill sweeper where you can use the momentum to gain plenty of speed. Brake hard again on the downhill, with a smooth heel-toe downshift into 3rd as you negotiate a left hander into the “laces” of “the boot”, a series of corners given the nickname because it literally resembles the shape of a boot when looking at a track map. Power out, then back into forth, still going downhill to the lowest point of the track, the toe of the boot. Brake and downshift to 3rd here, but don’t shed too much speed, as a steep and heavily cambered turn greets you. Most people over brake here (me included) but with enough trust, you just let the track “catch” you as you carry that momentum up the hill into the little straight known as the sole of the boot.

Shift to 4th as you get to the crest of the hill, then brake and downshift into 3rd and turn sharply into the right hander at the “heel of the boot”. It’s a short downhill, then an uphill as you cross over the track to position for turn 9, an off-camber left hander which can easily induce a spin if you’re not smooth. It’s a late apex turn that you want to start after the car has settled following the crest of the hill. Down to the last 2 corners, exiting turn 9 you pick up speed, into 4th then be brave, a slight lift is all that’s needed entering turn 10, the concrete surface giving extra traction. Back on the power, get to the left of the track for a quick brake and heel-toe into 3rd as you hit the apex of the right-hand turn 11 leading back onto the front straight. Flat out down the straight, then the whole roller coaster and adrenaline rush starts all over again.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time now is to capture the sights and sounds of a track day in a short 5 minute video, to give people a sense of what it’s like to be at the Glen. When I last visited, with NASA Northeast for an HPDE event, I had the chance to do just that. This is what I put together. The S2000 was built from the ground up as a proper sports car and at the track, when you’re taking it past 9K as you carve corners, especially on a tuned F20C, it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world. Experience a track like this and you will be hooked for life.

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