Willow Springs Horse Thief Mile Track Guide Tips

Turn 1: I like to split Turn 1 into two different parts.

1st half: As soon as you pass the start/finish straight, you want to hug the right side of the track (except if there is dirt/debris, you will want to compromise to avoid that). The turn will naturally push your car out to the left setting you up for the 2nd half of the turn. You’ll probably be in 3rd gear here.

2nd half: Get over all the way to the left edge of the track to prepare to apex the right hander up the hill. I noticed I would always start moving over to the left edge too late, for some reason the turn in point comes sooner than you think. You want to be as far left as possible to straighten out the turn up the hill. Aim for the section of track where the dirt comes to a sharp point where it meets the track surface. If your set up the corner correctly you can go full throttle once you clip the apex allowing you to get a good run up the hill. After the apex let the car run out very gently to the left edge of the track in preparation for the braking zone for Turn 2.

Turn 2: Turn 2 is a late apex and is also the strongest braking point at Horse Thief Mile. Most will probably be shifting down from either 3rd or 4th into 2nd gear during the braking zone. It is very steeply up hill so you can brake later than you think. There are a series of 3 red graffiti markings on the left edge of the track during the braking zone. The last red marking is the turn in point. After you turn in you will see a similar graffiti marking on the right edge of the track, this is the apex. Aim for that and unwind the wheel quickly, letting the car use all the track and run out to the far left edge of the track.

For this turn it helps if you think about ‘getting all the way up the hill, and then turning down on it.’ Late apexing is the key for this turn.

Turn 3: After turn 2 the road curves gently to the left but you have enough road to basically continue going straight building up some speed. The run down to turn 3 is steeply down hill so be careful how much speed you carry into the braking zone. You want to be at the far right side of the track when you begin your braking. For most this will be a 2nd gear corner. This turn is also a late apex. Resist the urge to turn in early. There is a red graffiti marking on the right side of the track, I usually turned in just slightly before reaching that point, but I believe that is the ‘ideal’ turn in point. It seems way too late to turn in but it will give you the straightest shot out of the turn up the hill to turn 4. After turning in look for a small red graffiti marking at the left edge of the track. To hit this, on approach the driver’s side wheels of your car will almost be in the dirt, be careful not to drop a wheel off here. After hitting the apex get on the throttle while unwinding the wheel using all the track, moving gently over to the track’s far right side. Immediately after reaching the far right move the car back to the middle of the track in preparation for turn 4.

Turn 4: You want your passenger side wheel approximately in the middle of the turn. You will not be clipping any edges of the track for this turn, it’s a bit counterintuitive but its the fastest path around turn 4. For me the I elected to do a short sharp brake at the top of the hill then turn in, remembering not to go in so tight as to clip the inside edge of the turn, you want to stay about a 1/2 a car length off the inside edge. Don’t lose too much speed during braking as during the turn you will naturally scrub off some speed. This turn is all about having the right entry speed. After turning in get your head around and start looking for the exit. The turn opens up so straighten out the car as soon as possible and let it run out to the far left edge. I took this turn in 3rd but most will probably take it in 2nd.

Turn 5: Once you reach the far left edge immediately get back to the far right to prepare to brake for turn 5. This is probably the most difficult turn at Horse Thief Mile. Think about getting all your braking done nice and early before you think about turning in. Its very easy to over-cook this turn so remember ‘slow in, fast out.’ I would go down from 3rd to 2nd gear for this turn. The exit of this turn is tricky. Depending on your car and the track conditions, you may or may not clip the inside apex. My instructor used a slightly wider line, looking to track out as quickly as possible. I think generally this is the better line. Experiment with both lines and judge what seems faster for your car. Let the car run out a little to the right but don’t go all the way to the far edge of the track because you need to get back to the far left for turn 6.

Turn 6: This is a ‘sacrifice’ or ‘compromise’ corner. We will sacrifice some entry speed to get a better exit, allowing us to gain speed all along the faster section of the course immediately following. Do a short, sharp brake at the top of the hill and aim for a slightly late apex, thinking about getting the car straightened out quickly. If you do this correctly, your car should naturally clip the apex of the very slight left hand curve immediately following Turn 6. This was a 2nd gear corner for me.

Turn 7: Not sure if this is really a turn in itself but I’ll classify it as such. Avoid the urge to turn in early. Wait a fraction longer than you think you should turn in, then turn in and apex the right hand edge of track. The late turn in will help you gather speed through the fast chicane section ultimately letting you carry speed all the way up the hill to Turn 2. I would stay in 2nd through Turn 6 and 7 and then upshift to 3rd when reaching the chicane.

Chicane: Just be sure to be smooth with your steering inputs, the car is almost straight during this section so increase your speed as you feel confident. This was taken in 3rd gear for me, it may be 4th for other cars. Remember as soon as you pass the start/finish line, get the car over to the right to prepare for Turn 1.

About the Author: Daniel Kim is a graduate of Coventry University’s Automotive Journalism Master’s program. He has worked at Ferrari North Europe, Evo magazine, Autocar and Formula Drift.

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