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My Favorite Tracks: The Bottom 3 - Even Bad Tracks are Good, Mostly

Updated: 2 days ago

Yesterday I posted my grading criteria in 6 categories, from Fun to Drive and Race to things to do offsite. Today I start my list of 33 tracks by covering the bottom 3. Just remember, while I have "raced" on 33 road courses, that means there are another 50 I have not been to year. And the term "raced" is a misnomer for at least one on my list, because the "race" was more a open HPDE at a private event on a track that does not offer wheel-to-wheel racing. And also please remember, even a day at a bad race track is pretty damn good. So lets get started and review the bottom three.

#33 M1 Concourse, Pontiac MI

TrackPAX: Unrated

https://m1concourse.com



It should be no surprise that my least favorite track is one where no wheel to wheel competition is currently permitted. M1 Concourse is the country’s newest, largest, most successful and most expensive country club for car enthusiasts. Located on famous Woodward Avenue in Pontiac, it is just a stone’s throw from Detroit and the 4.5 million people who live in the metro area. This metro area that has the highest percentage of car enthusiasts and collector and sports cars in the country - which explains the fact they continue to expand the amount and price level of the garages. There is a lot to love about the facility. The garage condos are top notch and right at the track’s edge with the newest featuring roof top balconies that may be the best viewing facilities in the country. The facility is new and the pavement is great. But the course design is little more than a long drag-strip-esque straight with a curvy return road. The corners do not provide sufficient runoff and the track itself has no flow. In summary, driving this course is go fast, brake, and slowly wind your way back to the ultra sharp last corner to do it all over again. A special note about the paddock, unless you own a garage, there is basically nothing but a field. The only paved area of any size is located inside the track and is not accessible during operation. The other thing about not owning a garage – you are seriously outside the income of the garage owners and clearly NOT part of their family – (PS I have some friends here and they were great to me and others – but the rank and file are clearly a separate group and unless you know someone it can be quite imposing). In the end, save your money and come to enjoy one of the best cars and coffee events in the country, just don’t pay money to drive the track.


FUN TO DRIVE

0

TECHNICAL DESIGN

1

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

1

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

1

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

1

AURA/MYSTIQUE

1

GRAND TOTAL

5/30 = 17%

#32 Autobahn Country Club, Joliet IL

TrackPAX: 98.5

https://autobahncc.com/


The bottom two tracks on my list are both country club type facilities. Maybe the poor rating is a manifestation of my bias against enthusiasts who can afford to purchase car condos (hint – it isn’t). Or maybe it is because a track layout designed for fast driving just doesn’t lend itself well to wheel to wheel racing. Or perhaps it is because there is less catering to competitor facilities when owners have condos along the track. Then again it is possible that my poor feelings for the track have to do with the fact it was raining every time I was here. My first time was a Lemons race (why then wasn’t the competitor atmosphere better? Because the paddock is not great). Either way, there is very little about Autobahn that is memorable other than the very industrial setting that borders on the apocalyptic. Don’t get me wrong, they have a nice clubhouse and grill on site, but they are kind of “off site” in the fact that very little of the track can be seen from there and it is not really convenient for competitors to walk to. During my previous events here, I found the track completely devoid of character and it feels like a repurposed airport – and not in a good way like Sebring. Think autocross. In other words, a couple of corners flow well together and then suddenly it is like you have been picked up and re-deposited on an entirely different track with a completely different flavor. I found the track awkward, and I could never get a flow through the various parts of the track in order to string together that one lap that made me feel happy. This year I returned and I would say driving the track in the dry changed my perception somewhat. But day 2 was wet again. The track is more technical than I remembered so I bumped that score up, and the paddock atmosphere is worse than I remember, so that score dropped. In the end the ranking is uncharged. PS I have only driven the South Course, I heard the North Course is worse.

FUN TO DRIVE

2

TECHNICAL DESIGN

2.5

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

1

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

1

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

1

AURA/MYSTIQUE

1

GRAND TOTAL

8.5/30 = 28%

#31 Fontana Auto Club Speedway, Fontana CA

TrackPAX: 104.5

https://www.autoclubspeedway.com/


Living in the Carolinas, I got my road racing start on Rovals. So you would think I would be a bigger fan. None of the rovals on the list (there are 6) ended up in the Top 10 aside from Daytona - which let's face it, is because of the ocean 10 minutes away. Fontana ends up at the other end of the spectrum. The track is not helped by the location, which is slap dab in the middle of a typical big city suburb filled with housing, retail and yes, industrial production. At least the location means hotels are close at hand and if you cannot find a restaurant to suit your individual taste within 15 minutes of the track, you have bigger problems. The track itself is a combination of straights – the one in the infield is longer than the main straights on some courses I have run. The turn into the infield is dangerous at best, a gauntlet that funnels cars through an opening in the infield wall. And the last section that takes you back onto the front straight is more like an autocross with its large flat paved parking lot lined by cones. There is plenty of paddock space and many people rent the garages, which are plentiful. Ah yes, it rained here too during my one visit – who said it never rains in sunny California? Practice day was dry so I won’t let my rain opinion taint my dry one. If the rain were counted, it would get much worse marks because the rain drains to the infield making it seem like we were racing in a half empty cereal bowl. The fact that the track is slated for demolition makes me sad though - remember, there is no such thing as a bad race track.

FUN TO DRIVE

1

TECHNICAL DESIGN

1.5

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

1

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

2

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

1.5

AURA/MYSTIQUE

2.5

GRAND TOTAL

9/30 = 30%

Come back later as we dive through #26-30!

https://www.grasspaddock.com/post/my-favorite-tracks-26-30

See the grading criteria

https://www.grasspaddock.com/post/my-favorite-tracks-your-mileage-may-vary

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