Track Guide: The Ridge Motorsports Park
The Ultimate Guide to Go Faster at The Ridge Motorsports Park
Track Guide: The Ridge Motorsports Park
Welcome to our third edition of Track Guide. The notebook on how to be fast at tracks around the U.S. In each edition, we will cover a different circuit giving drivers the best approach to tackle a track and reduce their lap times.
At about an hour's drive south of Seattle, Washington, in the small Pacific Northwest town of Shelton, the Ridge Motorsports Park was built in 2011 to serve as a focal point for racers from all of Oregon & Washington. Designed by Steve Crawford as a motorist oasis in the middle of an evergreen pine forest, this racing track offers magnificent views of the surrounding vegetation. It also adapts seamlessly to the formidable elevation changes in the natural terrain, defying the drivers' abilities to remain in control of their vehicles.
The Ridge Motorsports Park track is 2.47 mi long, with a total vertical gain of 299 ft from start to finish. There are 16 turns in this racetrack, including several closed ones like The Carousel and The Thumb. Another impressive section is the ridge complex, an abrupt descent of 50 ft through a challenging turn combination. Several straight runs compensate for the loss of speed in these sharp curves, leaving the average lap time at 1:55.246 and the average velocity at 77 mph. Given the particular characteristics of the terrain, this track only goes in the counterclockwise direction, which enables vehicles to develop top speeds from top to bottom.
As you approach, Turn 1 at the end of the front straight; almost all cars will carry a good amount of speed. The goal is to roll most of that speed through 1 without over-slowing the car too much with the brakes. 1 is just a quick change of direction to set up 2, which leads up the hill. Timing this 1/2/3 complex is rather tricky to master but super crucial to rolling speed through 4 and 5 to make lap time. As you approach 1, come off the gas late and brush the brakes to settle the nose for the turn-in. The key is to roll as much speed through 1 as the car will allow. There is very minimal braking at 1. You can hold a trail brake following 1 to set up 2. But if you're getting back on to throttle a lot between 1 and 2, it means you're over-slowing the car. Let momentum carry you in, use your right foot to trail brake, and keep weight on the nose.
After you fly through 1, let the car float out to the middle of the track but not to the driver's right or on the curb. You don't need to be that far out, so try and leave ¾ of a car's length on the passenger side. Keep it mainly in the middle as you roll all your speed in, and use the tires to help slow the car down and scrub speed. Most cars will need at least one downshift between 1 & 2. Keep your trail brake initiated to keep weight over the nose while turning the car in at 2. When the nose is pointed at the apex, commit back to throttle and head up the hill. The earlier you can get to throttle here, the better. It's right after you initiate the turn-in. The track will naturally take the car towards the apex of 3.
This is a blind crest. Hard to see the apex and what's to come, but you have to trust there is pavement on the other side. The car will naturally become unsettled here, requiring a lift at the apex in almost all cars. Try and aim the car over the apex to keep it tight to drivers right on the exit of 3. It's hard to do without practice because it's all blind, but the more over to the right you are as you crest the hill, the better because it will help straighten out 4 and 5. Return to throttle after cresting the hill as soon as possible to maximize the speed you carry down the straight.
Keep the car tight through 4 modulating throttle as much as the rear will allow. The track drops off at the apex, and then suddenly, you will suffer an understeer condition heading towards 5. Let the car float out to the middle of the track between 4 & 5, and give it as much throttle as it can handle.
Make sure to hit this apex and get the car down. If you do, you can avoid running out of road on the exit, which comes up quickly. You might have to modulate the throttle a bit to make the exit. The key is carrying as much momentum as possible down this short straight, yielding faster lap times. It all starts with a good setup in 1 and 2. Early throttle application in 3 as you crest the hill and keep the car in the sweet spot through 4 & 5.
It is one of the trickiest on the track, as there are many ways to get through it. The brake zone is short, and drivers can easily miss their turn-in point and carry too much speed resulting in an off-track excursion. For a more traditional momentum-based car, the secret is to keep the car down toward the bottom. Start your approach a little over center with more of the car closer to the right sideline. Again leave about 1/2 of a car width over there; you don't need to be on the line. The track will naturally take the car to the middle as you start to turn in. Think of this as a double apex corner. The brake zone is not straight here, so do your best to trail brake into the corner, keeping the weight on the front nose to aid with the front bite. Keep your foot on the middle pedal until the front end starts cooperating while you bring the car down to the bottom on entry for the first of two apexes. The car will float out towards the middle, which is okay. Return to throttle when you can while modulating off and on while aiming for that second apex and bringing the car back down. Once you hit the second apex, you should be full throttle once you know you will make the exit. Let the car drive itself all the way to the edge of the track unwinding the wheel early. If you pinch the car on exit, you will be limiting your car's rear traction, which could create oversteer. Use all the road and carry your momentum down the hill towards 7.
We like to think of this one as a roller coaster as it's a quick bend to the right featuring a drop. The grade falls off dramatically, and some cars will bottom out here and have their splitter scrape a bit. If your car has that issue, move toward the middle of the track to prevent this for a smoother decline. The fast line is on the right, which will take your car straight down and set up 8a and 8b perfectly. Fall down the hill and let the car take itself over to the edge of the curb on driver's left. You don't need to hit them, though.
Turns 8a & 8b:
It's a double apex and a long right-hand corner that leads onto the straight The focus here is to maximize your exit and roll throttle as soon as the car allows you to carry speed up the hill on the second longest straight the track has to offer. As you come down the hill from 7, hit the brakes late and hard. This is another good spot for a little trail brake. Downshift quickly and get the car turned in towards 8a. The key is to take the shortest distance again and keep the car tight through 8a and 8b. If you need to use more of the road in a higher-horsepower car, you can. In a momentum car, keep it tight and aim for one smooth, early throttle application, and your lap times will come down.
Turns 9 & 10:
Flat-out corners. Head up the hill starting at the apex of 9 and let the car drive across the race track to driver's left as you crest the hill. You'll turn the wheel a bit at the top of the hill to straighten out 10 but keep your foot committed to the throttle. Most cars will take this flat out once you're comfortable.
The good old "Thumb," as it's called, because it looks like one. This is a tricky complex a lot of people struggle with. We want to emphasize patience on your turn-in. You'll be flying into 11's brake zone, so keep the car straight while downshifting and let the car point toward the trees. The car should float to the right with about ¾ of a car length left over. Don't turn in early; it will compromise your exit, forcing you to modulate the throttle. Get the car completely slowed down and give it a hard late turn to the left rolling throttle in one clean, smooth motion at the apex. When done correctly, you will be full throttle on the curbs at the exit of 11 on the driver's right. This is another critical area to make lap time. It feels slow, but it will be faster. Hard into the braking zone, slow in the middle while turning in, and fast out with 100% throttle.
Usually, most cars don't need to shift up or down here. Carry your speed out of 11 and bring the car back across the track to the driver's left. This is one of the few corners where your left-side tires must be near that white line to set up the entry. You want to open up the radius of the corner as much as you can. It's a quick short brake zone, but you can hold a trail brake to help the car turn in and reduce understeer. Naturally, your car will tend to understeer on entry and quickly want to oversteer on exit. Roll the throttle at the apex and unwind the wheel early to prevent the rear wheels from losing traction. It will spin around if you pinch the car here and give it too much throttle.
By far one of the slowest corners you will ever come across. Go in hard and brake late, keeping a bit of trail brake initiated as you turn in. It has a very straight brake zone, but it's hard to gauge when to turn it in. Aim for the apex curb; the left front will jump down as the grade falls off at the crest. At the apex, open up the wheel and aim the car towards the curbing on driver's right at 14. Get on the throttle as early as possible for a short burst before lifting again at 14.
This is a one-line section of the track, but make sure to get on or close to the curbing on the driver's right to try and straighten out this sequence as much as possible to set up 15, which is most important since it leads onto the front straight.
As you come down the hill, leave the car about mid-track as you start to turn in. You may need a brake tap here to settle the nose. This is a long radius corner, but maximizing your exit speed is super important. Keep the car about ¾ of a car length off the inside in the entry and middle of the corner. If you're too tight, you'll battle some grip issues, and the car will understeer. Run the middle groove while modulating on and off the throttle until the rear bites and the front points towards the curbs at 16. You want an excellent early full-throttle application here.
This flat-out little kink leads onto the front straight. Go into the dip inside the curbs to straighten this out and save lap time. It does work the car a bit, but if you're looking for every tenth, go straight through. If every tenth doesn't matter, keep the car to the left and graze the curb.
And that's a complete lap around the Ridge on the fast lane. We hope you learned a few tips and tricks about car placement. This is a technical track that takes time to get really good at as it presents a lot of different types of corners. Practice the proper habits; eventually, you will link sets of corners together and see the lap times fall.