Before the last Tesla Corsa
After having set (later protested and DQd) the Limited AWD track record at Global Time Attack with a 1:59.12 on PS4S street tires, we learned a lot about the circuit and specifically how to drive the Model 3 at this track to optimize both the platform and to take full advantage of track mode.
Let this track guide work as a goal to aim towards but please do not push yourself beyond your comfort zone – there are many levels of track driver and this article hopes to give a little bit to every level – don’t worry if you can’t apply everything you read here you first time out. If it was that easy it would get boring very quickly.
Buttonwillow is a fairly flat, high-speed track with a lot of aggressive bumps that tend to be located at or near the apex of some
You can watch the 1:59.15 lap of Buttonwillow here. This car is equipped with MPP Sports Coilovers, MPP suspension arms and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on 18×9.5″ wheels. It also had upgrade brake pads, lines
Each corner heading will reference a start and end time of the video so you can quickly cut to that. Corner numbers aren’t set in stone as the track uses the “name” of the corner rather than corner numbers primarily. We’re using the numbers from Wikipedia and also include the corner names.
Corner 1 “Sunrise” (9:50 – 10:00)
Corner 1 is a fast, sweeping left hander. The main thing to pick up from Corner 1 is that you can brake a fair bit later than you think you can, and really roll the speed into the corner. It’s easy to over-slow the car here and find yourself picking up the accelerator too early and just hanging out in what I call “no-mans land” where you’re neither slowing down nor accelerating.
The ideal entry here would be a braking application right where the other track layout joins the straight away (see data point in the graph below). You can put the right side tires on the curbing as it is very smooth, and this will help open up the corner. From there you want to roll off the brakes and use the friction of the tires to continue to slow you down as you tuck in close to the curbing. The apex, and point where you apply power is right where the inside curbing ends. This will carry you out to the outside curbing and Corner 1 is done!
Corner 2 “Off-Ramp” (10:00 – 10:12)
Let me start by saying I hate this corner. I don’t think this corner will feel particularly good in any car, but the Model 3 does a great job with it’s ABS through here. This corner is tricky as the braking zone is done through a kink (so you’re braking while turning slightly), and over a very bumpy surface.
The thing to note here is that the right-hand portion of the corner goes from flat to up-hill, so the car gains grip as it compresses into the ground and you can use that to your advantage. However, I must warn you that the key here is to not over-cook the entry, as the up-hill section then flattens out and if you come in too fast, you will understeer off the top of the hill and ruin your exit! There are concrete patches through this section of the track, and the most grip is when you straddle them under the center of the car, keeping the tires off that concrete.
If you get the entry right and get the car pointed, you can apply full power at the middle of the corner and the two drive units do a fantastic job of getting the car rotated. If you do it just right you can feel the back of the car slide just the right amount and there is a great bit of rotation. You can keep a fair bit of steering angle even at full power for a very fast and powerful AWD exit. It’s a very cool feeling! Keep your eyes up as the “exit” of this corner lasts for some time.
Corner 3 + 4 “Cotton Corner + Grape Vine” (10:14 – 10:31)
This ended up being one of my favorite corner combinations on this circuit. It took me a while to get it right but once I did it really felt significantly faster than any other style I had tried. Like most complex corner sequences you have to play around a little bit to see what feels right.
The entry to Corner 3 is very fast, and
Even before you get over the curbing on the right you should be at full throttle. You’re really focusing on getting a good run out of this complex, but be mindful that the track falls away so leave some extra room on the outside as the car will want to be allowed to move out as it gets light.
Keep your eyes up and far ahead because as soon as you get to the outside curbing you’re turning in again for Grape Vine. There will be a lift off of the power to get the front end to tuck in and then it’s right back to full power over the curb on Grape Vine and then running right out to the outside curbing. Again – super important to keep your eyes up and look far down the track here as the next corner is very fast and sharp – so the turn in point has to be right!
Corner 5 “Club Corner” (10:31 – 10:36)
The difficult thing about Club Corner is that it is a fairly sharp kink. Turn in too early and you’ll go too wide on the exit. Turn in too late and you’ll be scrubbing speed and having a heart attack as you nearly go off the track.
A small lift is all that is needed on the entry to Corner 5, and the Model 3 really rewards smooth inputs here. As you’re nearly at 100mph at this point the car is a little bit light in the back and aggressive inputs will cause the stability control to kick in and really slow you down. So it’s better to have a bit of an extra lift (try not to get into the regen though!) and get the car settled, rather than violently trying to go through flat-out and having the stability control remove a ton of speed.
Again – and I can’t stress this enough – keep your eyes up and focused on the left-hand part of the bus stop. You’ll need to get the car back over to the right before the bus stop, so don’t be a hero in Club Corner and ruin the Bus Stop.
Corner 6 “Bus Stop” (10:34 – 10:45)
One thing I learned very quickly about the Bus Stop is that the two sections of the Bus Stop are nothing at all like one another. The first corner of the bus stop is basically flat out. If you’ve done Club Corner correctly and the car is positioned on the right, you can stay nearly flat with the right line.
Focus on smooth inputs and ensuring that you’re watching the exit. Just as soon as the car gets to the outside of the track you’ll need to slow down for the MUCH slower second part of the bus stop.
This is a sharp corner, and the outside track curbing on approach is not straight – it bulges out at the start and then moves off to the right. You can drive over the curbing while braking. As soon as the car gets over the curbing it will be about time to turn in, looking ahead and planning to use all of the inside curbing (and maybe even some sand). The exit is very tight here and many people go off on the exit because it is a bit of an illusion. The entry invites you to go very fast, but the exit is seemingly tighter or narrower than expected!
As the exit is very important, don’t pinch the car down as if you do the stability control will apply the brakes and try to save your life. You should be at full throttle at the inside apex or just a moment after it every lap. Don’t ruin the exit for mid-corner theatrics here – it won’t be faster!
The next right-hander “Truck Stop” is flat out and doesn’t deserve it’s own section. I will say that you want to get back over to the left side of the track just after it to set up for Riverside.
Corner 8 “Riverside” (10:47 – 11:00)
Riverside is a cool corner. It’s long, banked and high speed. You can enter much faster than you think and use a lot less braking than you think. This is a corner, similar to corner 1, where you want to get off the brakes early, enter what feels like a bit too fast, and let the friction of the tires and the banking of the corner slow you down. With this corner, the braking application is very gentle – just a brush off of speed. Aggressive braking here will over-slow the car. As the car slows, it will obviously be able to turn more, so it will start to approach the apex. In the video you can see I over-slowed the entry and could have actually come in 3-4mph faster. It was about 2 tenths of a second left on the table here.
There is a big bump right at the apex, which is the start of the small inside curbing. You want to be full throttle before the bump but make sure you don’t have any aggressive steering inputs over this bump. Keep your hands relaxed and open the wheel slightly to let the car ride out the bump.
Get the car back over to the right to line up for the left-hand kink. This
As soon as the car is settled from the bump, point to the left of the track for Phil Hill.
Corner 9 “Phil Hill” (11:00 – 11:08)
This is arguably one of the most challenging corners on the track. It’s very fast, and over a crest so the car gets very light, almost as if it is jumping. The key here is to carry a lot of entry speed but to get the car straight over the crest. This means a late apex.
The approach is on a bit of an angle as you’re not going to have the car all the way on the left side of the track exiting the last kink. That’s fine – brake in a straight line pointed at the outside curbing. You can use some curb on the approach or stay just inside of it. The apex is on the other side of the crest – so think in your head that you’re wrapping around the corner and
As the car gets light it obviously has less grip to offer, so to not upset the platform it’s important to have smooth open hands – don’t ask for more than the car can give. As soon as the car lands (if it’s on decent dampers) it will compress and have a lot of grip to offer. You can then gently add some steering input and power and keep it off the curb (or ride the curb, but that may cause the car to bottom out as it’s a curb strike and a big compression at the exact same moment).
In this corner, it’s better to be conservative on the exit and focus on braking late on the entry. There is massive risk to carry too much speed or apex too early over the crest, as the compression and going off here will likely scrape up the underside of your car pretty bad!
Another kink which is flat out and not making a section for comes right after. Get back over to the left for “Sweeper.”
Corner 10 “Sweeper” (11:12 – 11:25)
Sweeper is a very challenging corner. It’s basically a fast left-hander that tightens to a sharp
This is one of those corners that is easier to work out backwards. The last apex and full throttle point are non negotiable. At this point, you MUST be at full throttle. Period. Every lap. So if you do something that sacrifices that, you need to fix it. The exit here is critical, so gaining 1 tenth in the corner and losing that exit throttle point will cost you much more than 1 tenth down the straight.
So – working from the end of the corner
Now, we want to get to that point at 11:21 as fast as possible, this means carrying a lot of speed on the entry and slowing down through the entire corner using the friction of the tires to get there. This is very difficult to do obviously, but you can use the throttle to apply power/regen to stay on the limit of the tires and balance the oversteer/understeer. Just look at that wild throttle trace in the data!
Keeping your eyes up and really looking ahead and spotting for that 11:21 car position will make it easier to get there.
To make it simple – the approach to the corner feels like a diamond. You want to brake in a straight line and carry a lot of speed in to the first “apex” at 11:16, and then let the car run wide of the apex, starting to migrate to the outside of the track while slowing down. If you’re at the right speed at the first apex point at 11:16, you’ll arrive at the right speed and spot to apply full throttle and get a good run out onto the esses.
Corner Set 11 “The Esses” (11:24 – 11:32)
These are easily all flat out. You can use plenty of
The only one of the
Corner 12 “Sunset” (11:34 – 11:44)
Sunset is a difficult corner because you expect it to be so fast, but it’s VERY slow. You’re entering that corner at the highest speed most likely (faster than the front straight), and the corner on entry visually looks very fast. But it tightens up a lot and you run out of exit quickly. There is also no braking indication, so finding a visual reference for a brake marker is difficult. The braking happens before the flagging station on the left.
The apex is extremely late here. You’re best to try to focus on braking late, and then rolling off the brakes in a controlled manner and wrapping around for a late apex and a good exit onto the straight. Note that if you force the car too hard on the exit and pinch it, the exit speed will be much worse than if you just “encourage” the car to stay on the track. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself on this corner but don’t forget how important the exit is.
General Car Notes
The Model 3 is the fastest nearly fully charged (85%+) with Track Mode on. However, there isn’t a massive drop off in laptime until you get below ~55-60%.
The ABS works really well here as long as you flirt with the edge of the brakes. If you leg-press the brake pedal, the ABS will NOT work well and braking distances will be extended as the car freaks out with line pressures.
Stability control tends to be a hindrance when you’re doing something it deems dangerous. Examples of that would be having excessive steering
Track mode at this track generally gets you one really fast lap and another that is pretty close. Certainly, you can’t get 3 flyers in. If you make a big mistake it is worthwhile to just abort the lap and run at a slow pace, using no regen and as little power as possible while ensuring you’re not in anyone’s way. A slow lap around this track can be close to 3 minutes, and with very little battery load that is more than enough time for the car to cool down and give you a really strong flyer lap again.
I hope this helps some of you all find a couple of tenths or even seconds. I suggest watching the video and reading through this a few times over well in advance of the track day, as generally this stuff soaks in best when left overnight to marinate.
Enjoy and have fun, as always please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you, and thank you for your efforts to spread the adoption of clean cars!