Rough road surfaces. Blind corners. Tight quarters. Unforgiving concrete. Racing on street courses, such as the ones in Nashville or Detroit, isn’t for the faint of heart. However, as much as it intimidates some, it thrills others.
We asked some of the best for their tips to conquer streets, including Trans Am Series TA2 drivers Brent Crews, Rafa Matos, Thomas Merrill, Connor Zilisch and GT America Series driver Robb Holland.
Fortunately, many believe that street courses allow more skillful drivers to rise to the top.
“Street courses is 80% the driver. Road courses is maybe 50% to 60%,” Rafa says. “[Street courses are] very technical. I believe that the drivers with more skills are able to make a difference at a [street course].”
1. Walk the Track
Street courses feature much more variation from year to year than dedicated road courses. This places a greater importance on studying the track.
Robb uses his experience from racing criterium, which involves racing bicycles on city streets. He applies the same strategy he used to navigate street courses with two wheels for when he competes with four: walking the track.
“That’s not getting in a scooter or whatever, but literally walking the track,” Robb says. “All the things you couldn’t see in a race car start to make sense.”
2. Compare the Track With Video
Thomas flies in a day early to check out a street circuit. He pays close attention to not only the surface itself but the placement of concrete barriers.
“Each time we’ve come here [to Nashville], it’s been a little different because human beings are putting the walls down,” says Thomas. “I was watching video to look at if the wall was a couple inches this way than that way last year. You’re using the painted lines to see if I have more or less room than I had before.”
Thomas Merrill at the Music City Grand Prix. Photo courtesy Trans Am.
3. Use the Track
Unlike a road course, city streets are built for people getting from Point A to B rather than racing.
“[The roads have] a crown in a middle so water can run off into the sewers,” says Robb. “If you think about how to enter a left-hand corner, you’ve…