Column: Which Ovals Have Good Road Courses?

Daytona Road Course iRacing.jpg
Image: iRacing.com
Oval racing season reached its peak with the Indy 500 and Coke 600, and that got Luca wondering: Which oval racetracks have decent road course configurations?

I am not keen on oval racing, I just do not have the nerve for it - but I respect those who do race on ovals. So I will happily stick to my road courses, some of which are confined within the infields of some oval circuits, so it is a blend of both. Because of the lack of space at many of these speedways, the general rule is that most 'rovals' are not that good.

This is due to having to fit it around the paddock area, resulting in some pretty awkward designs. Such loathed examples include - but are not limited to - Kansas, Gateway and Pocono. The latter two are even said to be ovals that feel like road courses to drive anyway due to their turns differing considerably when it comes to radius and banking.


Unfortunately, it would appear that you can count on one hand the amount of decent road courses at oval tracks. But there are good ones, too, so if you are a road racer and wanted to know which oval tracks to go for in sim racing, here are my picks.

Daytona​

This one seems a bit obvious. As well as hosting the Daytona 500 NASCAR Cup race, there is also the famed 24-hour race on the road course, which is always a great way to kick off the sports prototype endurance racing year. Along with the typical banked corners, Daytona's road course is a relatively flowing set of infield corners and a fast chicane. Not the most intricate layout, but it works.

Turn 1 is very satisfying to get right, and the entire infield, whilst not inherently hugely challenging, is still nice to drive around. It is essentially the perfect blend of road course and oval track, using its banked corners for other types of racing besides NASCAR and with it being a superspeedway, more than enough space on the infield for some corners.


Its relatively simple layout may not be a huge challenge, and other tracks that host 24-hour events like Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans and Nordschleife are certainly more difficult to drive. But as it stands, Daytona has proven itself to be the exception to the rule that most oval tracks are not that good.

This is not to say there are no other oval road courses to consider.

Indianapolis​

Next is the other major superspeedway with a road course. Indianapolis is the home of the Indy 500 but has also historically hosted F1, MotoGP, IMSA, the GT World Challenge and even NASCAR and IndyCar on its infield road course. In that time, the layout has gone through several different configurations. From F1's tenure at the track between 2001 and 2007, the infield had a double hairpin which was then changed to a more flowing chicane when MotoGP first visited in 2008.

Another thing MotoGP did was run in the opposite direction to F1, heading the same way as oval racers down the start finish straight. They also had an infield section built where oval Turn 1 is, with that having previously acted as the final corner for the F1 race (and we all know how that turned out in 2005). Then, when IndyCar decided to run a road course race from 2014 onwards, they reprofiled a few corners again.


In the end, what we are left with is decent. It is certainly a bit more complex than Daytona, but better? Debatable. Considering its more rectangular shape compared to Daytona, they could have done more with the infield if they did not have to accommodate a golf course.

One particular corner I believe to be criminally underappreciated is on the MotoGP layout after the renovations. The typical Road Course T1 was the last corner for the motorcycles, then when the track was updated in 2014 they added a more flowing set of corners to end the lap. It was only used for two more years before MotoGP left, and it is a shame that MotoAmerica do not use the Indy road course in its place.

Charlotte​

That is two American superspeedway's road courses, so you would assume those are the only types of oval tracks with enough space for an infield road course. But surprisingly, an intermediate oval has a very interesting road course, although maybe some may not feel the same.

From one of the tracks hosting one of the two major oval races over the last weekend of May to the other, the Coke 600 takes place on the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. On its roval layout, you will be very surprised to find something typically not found on oval road courses, and that is undulation. Yes, somehow the infield has elevation change.


This is probably not a popular opinion by any means, but I actually enjoy driving the Charlotte Roval more than the Indy Road Course. The infield feels like a real challenge, having to carry a lot of corner speed and having a few of those corners being unsighted, it is amazing that they managed this in the confines of a 1.5-mile oval.

The roval held a round of the 2020 IMSA SportsCar Championship with the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes, and it was also the iRacing VRS GT Endurance Series track on the same weekend as the 24 Hours of Daytona Special Event. I did the race on the Saturday morning and I really enjoyed it, as the track provides a unique challenge in GT3s.

I would insist none of you knock the Charlotte Roval. I would not say it is one the best tracks in the world, far from it. But it is a hell of a lot better than people give it credit for.

Lausitzring​

For our next track, we leave the States and go to Germany. It is predominantly known for hosting DTM, but was also the site of two CART races in 2001 and 2003. There are a few different configurations, with DTM historically using both the GP layout and the short course which bypasses the chicane and hairpin, instead going for a challenging sweep hairpin.

The penultimate corner is particularly challenging, with it being a mastering in patience of the driver and the traction of the car. Get a good run out of this corner and you are set up very nicely for a pass into T1, whether it be the hairpin version, the faster sweeper or perhaps even the oval T1.


For the 2021 and 2022 DTM rounds, the drivers ran the oval T1 which was spectacular to see. A shame in a way that it did not get run during the Class 1 regulations and instead only happened once the series became a GT3-based championship.

In my opinion, the best version of this track is the short course with the oval T1. The passes into the second corner would be nothing short of spectacular, and it is a shame that this track is not first-party content in more sims. The only platform that features the Lausitzring is RaceRoom, with the only oval T1 configuration being the GP loop.

Rockingham​

There are two oval tracks called Rockingham. One is Rockingham Speedway in the USA (North Carolina, to be exact) with a very uninspired infield circuit. The other is Rockingham Motor Speedway in the UK, and is unfortunately no longer used for racing anymore. A shame really, as it was one of the best in the entire country.

The track was developed with the intention of bringing CART to Britain (which it did in 2001 and 2002), and then went on to host British GT, British F3 and the British Touring Car Championship. It was only just over an hour's drive from Silverstone, and of course by no means is it anywhere near as good a track as Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Donington or Oulton Park. Still, it was still pretty great in isolation.


There were two major highlights of the typical road course: first one is the long run into the first braking zone after the banked T1, rewarding the drivers who can nail the drive from the first corner and make bold passes into the hairpin. Then the other is the sequence of long left handers in the middle of the track, proving a real challenge no matter the car.

Being from the UK, I am gutted that I never went to Rockingham to watch BTCC or British GT. I can imagine that the views up in the grandstands overlooking the whole track would have been spectacular. But now, knowing it is being used for storage is akin to seeing the Mona Lisa being used as a placemat.

It is not even anywhere to be found in most sims as first-party content. It was in the likes of Live for Speed and the TOCA Race Driver series.

Which oval tracks do you believe have high-quality road courses? Let us know your choices on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!
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Luca [OT]
Biggest sim racing esports fan in the world.

Comments

After watching SimRacing604s recent Indy car enthusiasm, I have made a brilliant custom championship on AMS2. I greatly enjoy the Indianapolis road course & of course the legendary Daytona road course too, both brilliant!
 
I would really like the ACC Indy version, if the final two corners would just be the the oval instead.
90° into T1 and then the connected slope of tighter and tighter corners with the possibility of the inside car at one corner losing out in the next is great with GT3 cars.
You can overtake around the outside or the inside or swap the position around between corners.

Also if you're battling, you're losing a lot of time so if there's a car decently close behind, it'll quickly become a group fight!

BUT the last two corners are just super annoying.. Lots of crashes in races and frustrating loss of time during Hotlaps.
If you could just go around the oval and let the cars stretch their legs.. It would be awesome!
 
Rockingham Motor Speedway is certainly not in Grid Autosport.
 
at iRacing, I usually get only ovals that have a road course attached. double value. though some of the roval layouts are hardly ever used.
scrolled through my list of tracks rented and this is what I found on top of the ones already mentioned above:


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I've always been a fan of Texas World Speedway and it's roval...


I do enjoy the ones that leave the confines of the oval part more often than not... A lot of the infield only ones are just like the bad street circuits...
 
Talladega has a road course which hosted several IMSA events in the '70's and early '80's. Not used officially since 1983 it is still available, with or without the oval; it is also used as a training track for the Alabama State Troopers.

Talladega69-83.png
 
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Calder Park in Australia used to race Auscars (nascars) on a cool banked oval, and has a great road course also.
 
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I've always been a fan of Texas World Speedway and it's roval...


I do enjoy the ones that leave the confines of the oval part more often than not... A lot of the infield only ones are just like the bad street circuits...
I'll be honest, the fact that ALMS raced on the road course is fascinating to me. A couple of medium speed hairpins and one brief flick is the only thing that prevented it from just being a straight oval race.

Same with Kansas. The briefest bit on infield along with 98% of the oval track. Las Vegas too.
 
I've always been a fan of Texas World Speedway and it's roval...


I do enjoy the ones that leave the confines of the oval part more often than not... A lot of the infield only ones are just like the bad street circuits...
Yup, and it's why New Hampshire it's one of the best rovals, I was reminded of it by Eckhart's post!
 
Talladega has a road course which hosted several IMSA events in the '70's and early '80's. Not used officially since 1983 it is still available, with or without the oval; it is also used as a training track for the Alabama State Troopers.

View attachment 758685
IMSA's backlog of racetracks is amazing, it has many obscure street courses, permanent road courses forgotten in history, and some rovals to boot, they also raced at Charlotte Roval, adding a chicane on the backstraight!
 
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Gateway is AWESOME! :inlove:
To loath it is to be loathed but since Gateway is such a forgiving sweetheart of a track -
consider yourself forgiven! :cool:
I'm not apologising for stating the Gateway Road Course is terrible. The oval is amazing, do not get my words misconstrued.
 

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