Part of being a racecar driver is learning new racetracks. There is always time to be gained through track familiarization. In recent decades, technology has certainly assisted drivers in this process with things like driving simulation games, YouTube videos of in-car footage, and satellite imagery. In 2019, NASA scheduled its National Championships at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. As a team from California, we had never had the opportunity to run the track, which was a disadvantage for us.

I had the opportunity to attend The School at Mid-Ohio and during the course they used a white board with a map of the track on it to explain the line around Mid-Ohio.

I flew to Ohio to attend the School at Mid-Ohio before the race to learn the track. It was an awesome experience, and I gained a ton from it. During the school, they used a white board with an outline of the Mid-Ohio track on it to teach us the line around the road course. I thought that was a great tool and wanted one, but knew the school would frown upon me stealing its stuff.

I decided my team needed our own white board track map of Mid-Ohio. So, to assist the rest of my team in understanding the intricacies of the road course in Ohio, I decided to create our own track map and place it on our own white board so we could make notes on the board and then erase them when we came up with a better braking point or apex line. Time to get to work.

Using Google Maps satellite images, I zoomed in and screen-captured different sections of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Once I had the entire track using a number of images, I had to stitch the images together to create the entire road course.

Instead of trusting track maps of Mid-Ohio found online, I decided I wanted to trace the track myself from satellite images. I used Google Maps and started screen-capturing portions of the road course after zooming in as close as I could for clarity. Using about six separate images, I began to piece the track together into one image I could use to trace the track. Just the process of tracing the track in Google helped me familiarize myself with the shape of the road course.

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Using the stitched-together image from Google Maps, I began to trace the racing track. I also labeled different corners and landmarks around the track for reference.

Using Adobe Photoshop, I traced the inner and outer edge of the road course. I included landmarks like the pit road and bridges around the race track. To ensure the entire team — drivers, spotters, engineers and pit crew — would be using the same geographical references to the track, I labeled portions of the course so we would all be using the same nomenclature. I used the corner names like Keyhole, Madness and Thunder Valley to represent different portions of the track.

On the same vinyl cutter we use for making stickers for our racecar, we cut the outline of Mid-Ohio out in black vinyl.

Our team has our own vinyl cutter for making graphics for our cars, something that has saved our team thousands of dollars over the years. We used the vinyl cutter to slice out the shape of the race track in black vinyl so we could add it to a white board. We use Vinyl Master Pro cutting software on a U.S. Cutter machine.

After our vinyl cutter was finished cutting the outline of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, we were left with the shape of the race track in black vinyl.

Once the vinyl cutter was done cutting the image into the vinyl, we had to pull away the vinyl we didn’t want and left behind the vinyl we wanted to keep — like the outline of the racetrack. This process is helpful with some tweezers. Once we had the image we wanted to keep we used transfer tape to get the sticker ready to place onto a white board.

We weeded away the vinyl we didn’t want, like the interior of the race track, and the course started to take shape. Here you can see the Keyhole corner for Mid-Ohio.
To transfer the track map sticker onto another surface, we covered it with transfer tape. This will allow us to pull the sticker from its backing and then lay it on the white board surface.

I purchased a white board from Walmart for $20 — I found it in the back-to-school section — and used the white board’s dimensions to help design the track map sticker. The board had metal inside it so magnetic white board pens would stick to it. Vinyl material is inexpensive and after buying some multi-colored fine point white board pens the whole project only set me back about $30.

I scored an inexpensive white board from Walmart for around $20. It came framed with hardware to hang on a wall.
It was important that we scaled the track map to fit in the Walmart white board. Here you can see we are getting ready to remove the transfer tape and stick the decal on the white board permanently.
Here is the final version of the white board track map, complete with labels and reference points like the Start/Finish line.

The final version of the white board track map came out just as I hoped it would. It provided a reusable surface for the team to discuss braking points, corner entry, apex locations, passing zones and spotter locations. We made hundreds of notes on it and then cleaned those notes away with an erasure and started over. It was an incredibly effective tool for our team, especially at a track we were originally unfamiliar with.

With a set of different colored magnetic white board markers at the ready on the board, you can see our white board track map up in the Mid-Ohio garage. We used it all weekend long at the NASA 2019 National Championships to make notes and discuss the fastest line.

At the 2019 NASA National Championships presented by Toyo Tires at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in September, we were parked in Garage 4 and had our white board track map up on the wall. This became the focal point during the entire weekend and we had many discussions, and scribbled lots of notes on the board. Specifically, we continually made notes on braking zones into Keyhole and China Beach/Madness “Go deeper!” Other teams clued in on our little track map and made their way into the garage to use the map themselves. Did the white board track map help? Our team had never been to Mid-Ohio before and we finished first and second in Honda Challenge 4 during the Championships. I would say it helped immensely.

Rob Krider is a NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion and the author of the novel, “Cadet Blues.”

Image courtesy of Rob Krider

2 COMMENTS

  1. Some corners on a new track may be similar to a corner of a track you’re familiar with. For example, T5a at Indy is similar to T2 at Laguna Seca, so the technique used at LS would apply to Indy. Reduces experimenting if you already have a baseline from a track you’ve driven.

  2. Why not just simply project the track image to the white board and trace the outline of the track with grease pens? Projectors are cheap.

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