Hot fun in the Florida sun!
During the 2008 racing season, Moroso Motorsports Park was sold to a group of racing enthusiasts who were intent on building a new Motorsports destination for Drag Racing, Roadracing, Karting and more. The new owners of the facility wasted no time getting busy with a total renovation…and I mean TOTAL renovation. The surfaces of both the road course and the drag strip were completely removed and discarded. This was not a temporary fix scenario; we’re talking a complete re-surfacing here. The transformation literally began from the ground up, starting with fresh dirt. By November of that same year, the old Moroso was gone and the new Palm Beach International Raceway had emerged. One very noticeable difference was that the drag strip and the road course were now completely independent of one another. This would allow as many as three events to be run simultaneously.
Although the road course officially held its first event in November of 2008, it wasn’t until March of 2009 that motorcyclists would have their first taste of the new venue. Initial feedback from the racers was that the track had lots of traction. While that is generally considered a good thing, it also meant you could really burn through tires. The other subject on everyone’s mind was the fact that the track is completely surrounded by concrete walls. For the most part, those barriers aren’t right next to the racing surface and S.A.V.E. Safety Barriers have been installed in the most likely impact points. There is also adequate runoff in most corners. Unlike most courses, there are no gravel traps. All of the runoff at PBIR is either asphalt or grass. Initially, asphalt runoff areas might seem like a bad idea but in practice they actually work pretty well. When you ride off through dirt or gravel, it’s likely you have no better than a 50/50 chance of staying upright. By contrast, with asphalt runoff you have a larger braking area to stop safely prior to hitting a barrier, improving the chances of preventing a crash. If you fall while cornering and slide into an asphalt runoff area you tend to just continue sliding. If the turn has gravel or grass runoff you now have the problem of tumbling to consider. While not all of the corners at PBIR have asphalt runoff, the most significant braking areas (Turns 1, 6 and 10) are so equipped. The remaining turns sport grass runoff.
As you fly past the start/finish stripe you are only just getting settled down from the exit of 11, bringing you right to the outside edge of the track as you head for Turn One. Arriving at your brake marker you will get on the binders pretty hard, downshifting twice before turning into the start of this flowing chicane. Don’t be fooled; there is actually a lot more room going into One than you would initially think. Hitting the apex through Turn One, you will immediately transition from hard left to a sweeping right hand Turn Two as you steadily roll on the throttle. The exit of Two points you towards the apex of Three. It is helpful to note that if you blow the entry to Turn One, your best option is to stand it up and ride through the large asphalt runoff area. If you run off prior to arriving at Turn Two you can safely re-enter before Turn Three, but wait for the corner worker’s signal.
Turn Three isn’t so much a turn as it is a left-hand kink taken at full throttle. I find that I’m grabbing a gear right before the apex to avoid having to step on the gear shift at the deepest lean angle of the corner. Exiting Three, you will grab another gear as you drift out to the edge of the track. This should set you up perfectly for the left hand Turn Four, which delivers you onto the back section of the track. Prior to turning in you will get on the brakes and downshift twice to set your entry speed. As with most sweeping corners on this track, you can take several different lines through it. You can use the traditional wide entry, tight apex, wide exit approach and it works. Another option is to select a more aggressive and tighter entry to the corner, treating it as a double apex. This line takes you wide mid-corner, but allows you to bring the exit in tight again for a better drive up to Turn Five. Since Turn Four is so long, turning back on itself more than 180 degrees, the faster line is typically the double apex.
While still leaning to the left coming out of Turn Four, you will accelerate and climb over to the right side of the bike to set up your entry to Turn Five. I find that I trail brake into this corner, not enough to require a downshift, but enough to adjust my corner speed. This is a sweeping right hander where a more traditional wide-tight-wide strategy may be best. However, since the corner is so long you can adjust mid-corner to affect your exit. Exiting Turn Five, you will need to upshift at least once before braking and downshifting for right hand Turn Six.
As you accelerate through Turn Six and grab a gear you’ll be headed directly toward the section of Turns Seven and Eight. This is a tricky section. Seven is another high speed left-hand kink, while Turn Eight is an increasing radius right hander. I find that I’m most comfortable staying on top of the bike, counter-steering through the kink at Turn Seven and then braking for the right-hand Turn Eight. From there I drop a gear and lean off to the right. The increasing radius of the corner will allow you to pour on the throttle as you move towards the outside edge of the track. The really fast guys are passing for position through Seven into Eight. The Unlimited class bikes will reach speeds of 180mph + down the back straight.
Approaching the end of the straight you will need to brake hard while downshifting all the way to 2nd gear as you trail brake into Turn Ten. As with Turn Four you can take a traditional racing line through here or treat the corner as a double apex. The faster guys tend to treat this as a double apex, allowing very late braking into 10. Grabbing 3rd gear, you’ll climb over the bike and transition towards the left hand turn 11, upshifting again as you hit the front straight. The right-left transition and gear changes tend to disturb the suspension just enough to unsettle the bike as you push to the edge of the track. Finally, grab another gear and cross the start/finish stripe ready to do it all again.
That’s my hot lap of the new Palm Beach International Raceway. The track is 2.034 miles long with 10 turns and room for an additional chicane on the back straight if necessary. The track surface is very abrasive, so expect lots of traction and tire wear. For more information about the track you can contact Palm Beach International Raceway directly at 561-622-1400 or review their website at www.racepbir.com.
Les Moscariello is the owner of Crush Hardwear, LLC. This company manufactures Custom made and off-the-rack leather suits, gloves and other racing gear.
Tomy Puerta doing a flying lap -