A lap of Lowe's Motor Speedway

The second round of the American Le Mans Series will be held at the Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend, where Audi, BMW, Panoz, Porsche and Chrysler will again do battle for class and overall honours. The track is like a smaller scale Daytona sportscar track, with a mixture of high-speed oval and road course infield. The infield presents another interesting challenge for the drivers, with hills and gradients aplenty in the infield section

A lap of Lowe's Motor Speedway

Join sportscar driver Randy Pobst as he takes us round a lap of the Charlotte course in his Porsche 911 GT3R, entered in the 'baby' GT class of the ALMS.

"The Start/Finish line is most of the way down the truncated pit straight and doubles as a rather late braking point for turn 1. In the Porsche 911 GT3R the entry speed is about 150 mph, the fastest point on the whole track. There's a nice bump under the start line that makes a driver wonder if he's going to make it without locking up the brakes and possibly ruining a tyre, and we're aimed right at the outside wall.

"Turn 1 is loaded with potential excitement. It's a medium-speed left coming off a long braking zone, the best place to attempt a pass on this track. It'll be third gear for most, about 80 mph, and it crosses the bumpy add-on pavement joining NASCAR oval with Sports Car road course. In doing so, million-dollar race-cars cut through an opening in the pit wall. Run a little wide and there will be a dramatic demonstration of the immovable object meets the nearly irresistible force.

"The greatest thing about road racing is that it's just like driving in real street situations but as fast as you can. Left and right...tight corners and fast sweepers...up and down hills...rain or shine...day or night.

"Turn 2 sweeps left again almost immediately, up to fourth gear and over 100 mph. It's banked and probably flat out if the car's right and the driver's survival instincts underdeveloped (a valuable trait in racing). Our racing tyres will encounter a stout test of their ultimate abilities here, not to mention my neck muscles! This is my favourite corner because it is so rewarding to power through a fast banked sweeper in the Porsche. We'll probably get fifth gear before diving downhill through turn 3 (to the right) into the low point of the track (I mean that topographically, not emotionally), turn 4 (another right).

"Now we accelerate down a flat inside straight that's long enough for a Le Mans Prototype to get by us easily but not long enough for another competitive car in the same class to overtake without some paint-and-body alteration in turn 5, mark my words. Turn 5 is a cool, 90 mph right-hander that is a nice, two-thirds scale imitation of turn 1 at Road Atlanta. What spoils this party is that if 5 is taken at its max, turn 6 will cease to exist, this lap anyway. Sometime when it's just about the right moment to really put the power down climbing out of 5, it becomes quite necessary to brake, downshift to third gear and bend into the blind, over-the-crest 60 mph turn 6 (a right-hander). Another moment to display all possible talent and finesse as these tasks are pretty much concurrent. Late in the afternoon this time of year, a blazing sun eliminates any view of the track for maybe two to three seconds (Use the Force, Luke). Now comes the roller coaster. If turn 6 was a good one, the Porsche will slip the surly bonds of earth for just an instant, the road dropping steeply away and then swooping back up into turn 7. This left-hander is entered at maybe 65 mph but gets steadily faster. I love increasing radius corners but I hate that blinding sun that again obscures the next corner and the infield wall that swooshes by inches to the right. Turn 8 slides the GT3R left again and rejoins the banking with a wild ride that would give crew chiefs nightmares. You see, the angle between the infield and the banking is like a bad driveway and makes the rigidly sprung racers totter madly for a moment like a chair with two longer legs. My helmet bangs dinnerbell style between seat and rollcage here every lap.

"Sir Isaac's laws of motion propel the Porsche way up the steep banking of NASCAR 2 and we accelerate flat-on-the-floor through 140 mph on the way to Mayhem Central, the undoubted action spot of the weekend, The Chicane. The manoeuvre is necessitated by the combination of the sheer banks and the speed and downforce of the sports cars. It keeps the speed down on the banking in the interests of tyre survival. The challenge results from the natural condition that only one car can enter the Chicane with any real speed...and the fact that any tiny mistake will result in disaster because there is no run-off area.

"Survived the Chicane? Well, now it's flat out acceleration on the oval once again around NASCAR 3 and 4. It's rough enough to make it tough to hold the shifter and the car does not feel like it should hold the track at this speed, but it does. That's one of the strange characteristics of the high banks -- surreal cornering speeds. Back up to sixth gear, maybe 150 mph, try to straighten the tri-oval bend for balanced braking into Turn 1 and get ready to do it all over again.
The Charlotte race will be very physically taxing, mechanically as well come to think of it because the cars will almost always be under the heavy loads of cornering and braking.

"It'll be a game for the whole brain."

Randy Pobst drives for the Alex Job Racing team.

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