Grattan Raceway Parkis a 2.2-mile road course located northeast of Grand Rapids, in southwestern lower Michigan. Grattan sees widespread use for racing and is popular for testing (the TWR Jaguar team preferred it to all other courses for testing their IMSA cars). The track is in use most weekends from May through October; in addition to SCCA sports car races, other automobiles and motorcycles are raced here, and Solo, vintage, and marque club events are also frequently scheduled. Motorcycle races at this track are sometimes televised.
Major portions of this page were contributed by Mark Shumaker. Click here for general information on how his pages are set up. He last updated this description on 16 August 1996.
Last Updated: 2005-04-22
7201 Lessiter Road
Belding, MI 48809
This track map is one of the poorer ones, it grossly exaggerates the track
width and distorts the actual track configuration, and does not show all of
the access roads or any of the buildings and facilities.
But, it's the best one I've been able to find.
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The track is about 20 miles northeast of downtown Grand Rapids MI, on Lessiter Road north of Grattan, a small town just off Route M-44 (Belding Road). From downtown Grand Rapids, there are two general ways to the track.
From I-96, take Exit 33 onto Plainfield Avenue northeast and proceed until Plainfield ends at Route M-44. Turn left (north) onto Route M-44 and cross the river. There are motels, restaurants, fast-food outlets, filling stations, grocery stores, department stores, and other shopping along Plainfield Avenue and Route M-44 from I-96 all the way to the river.
To bypass most non-expressway urban roads, take US-131 north to the West River Drive interchange (Exit 93), and turn left onto West River Drive eastbound. Proceed east to Route M-44 (Northland NE) and turn left (north).
Continue on Route M-44 for 2.2 miles, up a fairly steep hill, and follow Route M-44 where it turns right at the Belding Road traffic light. Continue east on M-44 about 9 miles to Grattan, on a loop off to the left. (The Grattan General Store, in the middle of town, is open 9-7 every day and has a good selection at reasonable prices.) Proceed east through town about half a mile to Lessiter Road, at an acute left; this road is not clearly visible until you are nearly upon it. Turn left and proceed north not quite a mile to the track on the west side of the road. Registration is in the two-story building on the right-hand side of the access road.
Paddock space at Grattan is severely limited; most is inside the course, where you must cross the track to enter and leave it. Inside are two areas, the extra-cost paved Upper Paddock at the top of the hill along the pits, and the Lower Paddock -- grass with some paved access roads -- downhill south and east of the Upper Paddock. At well-attended events, the flat grassy area north of the access road and west of the registration building is also used as the Outer Paddock for high ground-clearance cars (such as Showroom Stock and IT classes); generally, impound and tech for these cars will be held in that paddock area. Paved paddock costs $10 per space for the weekend; the spaces are small and two or three are nearly always required, but worth it. If you plan to stay on the paved paddock at well-attended events, it's essential to arrive early on the preceding test day since these spaces are not reserved and fill up rapidly. Do not spill oil or gasoline onto, nor poke holes into, the paved surface if you end up in the Upper Paddock.
Tech and Impound for the two inner paddock areas are on the south side of the paved paddock, across from the garages. Inside-the-track registration, hospitality, and driver's information are located in the annex at the rear (south) of the tech building.
The competitor's facilities at Grattan are good. There are flush toilets, running water, hot showers both in the paddock concession building and in the registration building, and a swimming pool near the registration building (usually an extra cost option). Porta-Potties are scattered throughout the Lower and Outer Paddocks. There is a food concession in the paddock with generally good food. Air and water are available at the east end of the garages, leaded and unleaded racing gasoline is available at the bottom of the hill at the east end of the Upper Paddock. The Hoosier tire distributor usually works out of the eastmost garage in the Upper Paddock. A few garages at the northeast corner of the Upper Paddock are available for rent, and the track is usually available for rental for testing. Test days before major events, organized by the track owners, provide EMS services and corner staff. Current prices and availability of garages and test days can be determined by contacting the track management.
Grattan is a 2.2-mile track, with 11 flag stations and 13 or 14 turns (depending on how fast you are going). There is significant elevation change. Every turn is blind, or off-camber, or changes direction abruptly at the exit, or has a significant elevation or camber change in the turn or in the braking area immediately before, or must be taken off the 'normal' line to set up for the following corner.
Or exhibits two of these conditions.
Some competitors claim that Grattan was designed by an individual who had a clear understanding of the limits of racing cars and a pathological hatred of racing car drivers.
There is some confusion about turn numbering at Grattan. Track maps of different vintages show different numbers for some of the turns, some maps show no numbers at all. The turn numbering in this description is taken from the most recent track map which shows turn numbers, one found on a 1995 race entry blank.
You work hard at Grattan; the main straight is really the only place where you can relax for a moment, since the turns through the back of the track are so close together. Sight lines are problematical; you are busy at the exit of a very high-speed corner when you should be looking at your pit area, and some of the corner stations -- notably the one at Turn 7 -- are outside your normal view and require you to take your eyes off the track. The track surface is generally smooth, particularly where it has been recently repaved; in fact parts have been seal-coated and can be extremely slippery on hot days if the oil has not been washed off recently.
The false grid is on an access road south of the front straight and east of the starter's stand; this road joins the track on the outside of Turn 3 -- you will not see the condition of the track on the front straight and through Turns 1 and 2 on the pace lap, and should be prepared for first-lap surprises in those areas (unless there are two pace laps). Passage between the paddock and the track for testing is non-obvious; first-timers need to have it explained in detail (even then it's not always obvious). Grattan is a higher-speed course than it at first appears; CSR cars using all five gears in a five-speed gearbox can exceed 135 MPH on the front straight and take the slowest corner at about 65 MPH. The ground off the edge of the track is smooth in most places, but is generally rough and rutted from Turn 5 around through 7, and swampy near Turn 8.
What follows is a generic description of the track, describing its features without defining speeds, gears, or shift points -- all of which will vary widely from car type to car type.
Many of the turns at Grattan are sufficiently well separated by straights that they may be treated as isolated turns, but there are three sets of clustered turns (where your line through or out of a turn must be modified to accomodate the requirements of the next turn or the one after it). Turns 3 and 4 are a cluster, as are Turns 5 through 7, and Turns 8 through 10.
The starter's stand is about a third of the way down the front straight, and is not visible beyond about the tenth row of the grid, but the front straight (once part of a dragstrip) is wide enough that there are seldom difficulties from a waved-off start -- and the Turn 10 flag station is visible up to the last second, if they don't drop the yellow flag, it's not a start.
The track has been recently repaved from Turn 7 all the way around through Turn 2, and all repaved areas except the front straight were widened substantially. The front straight is essentially flat, but rises gently in the braking area before Turn 1. There is a seam in the new paving in the braking area at the end of the front straight just about a car-width off the left-hand edge of the pavement, if you put a wheel on this seam your car will become very unstable under hard braking. The banking at the end of the straight and into Turn 1 has been moved away from the track surface, and a straight-ahead gravel-trap runoff area added; this and the recent widening and repaving here have greatly reduced the probability that you will hit the banking. Turn 1 is a fast partially-blind right-hand 120-degree turn in which the track rises sharply at the exit, allowing you to make a fairly early apex because you can turn harder in the uphill section. The turn starts out very wide but narrows at the exit to two cars wide. Following a short uphill straight, Turn 2 is a partially-blind slow flat 90-degree right-hand turn; for many cars the apex comes into view about the time you reach your turn-in point at the end of the uphill straight, drivers of cars with high ground clearance and/or upright seating position will see the turn-in point earlier.
You must get back to or near the right-hand side of the track during the following short straight for the upcoming left-hand Turn 3, a most complex piece of road. Turn 3 is a 120-degree left-hand turn, and the entry is completely blind. The track slopes sharply down just at the turn-in point for most cars, the middle part of the turn is off camber, and the exit is off camber and uphill. There is no real consensus on how to take Turn 3 except that you need to stay as far to the left as you can throughout -- you cannot afford to be too far toward the right edge of the track in the middle of the turn because the surface is more steeply off-camber there, and you cannot be too far toward the right at the exit because you must get back to the left on the following uphill straight to enter Turn 4 properly. You may be under full power from the apex of Turn 3 all the way through Turn 4, or you may need to lift slightly at the entry to 4 -- if you do not normally lift when coming into Turn 4 after taking Turn 3 correctly, then blowing Turn 3 will affect your speed all the way down into the esses. Turn 3 is the site of many first-lap spins and agricultural excursions; be extra watchful until the traffic opens out a little.
Turn 4, a fast downhill 95-degree right-hand turn, is an important turn and must be taken correctly to assure high speed down the following back straight. The track has been widened slightly at the exit of the turn. Sound measurements are made on the outside of the track at the exit of Turn 4. (Don't forget that Central Division tracks enforce a 105 dBA sound limit.) Try to avoid going off at the exit of 4, there are trees uncomfortably close by even though some runoff areas and barriers have been added.
The following somewhat bumpy straight (it's not exactly straight but close enough) goes downhill and flattens out, then crests a small hill or hump just before the right-hand Turn 5, the first turn of the Esses. You must experiment with your braking into Turn 5; the track takes a slight kink to the left just at the hump, and is then level for only a very short distance before the turn. You may be able to delay your braking until you have stabilized the car on the downhill side of the hump; if you are forced to do part of your braking on the uphill side, be very smooth so you don't lock the brakes as you come unstuck at the top and downhill side. You should place your car a few feet from the left edge of the track surface as you come up to the hump, and make your slight kink to the left before the hump so that you will be pointed dead straight at your turn-in point as you go over the top and complete your braking. A certain amount of experimentation and practice are required here; a test day the first time you come to Grattan is a good idea.
The first two turns in the Esses, Turns 5 and an unnumbered Turn (5A) are fairly slow 70- or 80-degree turns that move towards and begin to climb up the side of the hill. The straights between these turns are short (shorter between 5A and 6), but long enough that you will speed up and slow down again between each turn (if you find yourself shifting up and down between the turns you're geared wrong). Turn 6, the third turn in the Esses, is a slower 90-degree uphill right-hand turn that leaves you at the crest of the hill. The Esses don't look like much from the paddock at the top of the hill, but that view is very deceptive!!
The critical point about the Esses is that you must exit Turn 6 close to the right edge of the track; this in turn means that you must exit Turn 5A close to the left edge, and must exit Turn 5 somewhere on the right half of the surface and be able to get back to the right edge before entering Turn 5A. If you do not take these Esses properly, you will go off uphill on the right entering Turn 6 (the ground is badly torn up here where lots of cars have done just that), or you will be set up entirely wrong for the following difficult Turn 7.
At the exit of Turn 6 is a very short straight leading into Turn 7, another diabolical piece of road. Turn 7 is a short-radius steeply-banked 135-degree left-hand turn that you enter downhill and exit uphill directly into a high-speed climbing slightly off-camber right-hand turn. This turn is known as the 'Teacup', the 'Sugar Bowl', or the 'Toilet Bowl', depending largely on how badly you get through it (it's just at the west end of the Upper Paddock, and is the most popular spectator area at the track, of course). Each type of car has a different best (actually, least bad) line through Turn 7; in general you have to complete your braking before entering it (you're going to get a little light as you go downhill into the turn) and take a very late apex on the uphill right-hand turn at the exit. The road is widened slightly at the turn-in point.
Trying to pass on the inside coming into the Toilet Bowl is very dicey -- if you make an early apex you will be in some difficulty at the exit; and if your intended passee doesn't cooperate but stays with and outside of you through the Bowl, you will be in a great deal of difficulty at the exit.
High exit speed and proper track position at the exit are of utmost importance at Turn 7 because it leads into a high-speed portion of the course, a series of uphill and downhill fast right-hand kinks and short straights that change direction through a total of about 120 degrees. Be extremely careful when you come up out of the Toilet Bowl that you do not miss the turn-in point for the first right-hand kink at the top of the hill. Your car will be a little light here and the kink is partially blind and slightly off camber, and if you miss it you're likely to slide down a grassy slope into a recently-installed and unprotected two-high Armco fence (hitting it is little better than hitting the trees, which you may do anyway if you become airborne down the slope). The safety staff have a lurid little tale to tell about each stump and broken-off tree.
You should treat the fast right-trending downhill section past the Bowl as a straight with occasional kinks, and try to take the entire section flat out, although since widening and repaving it's a lot faster and you will likely have to lift for the last kink and possibly some of the earlier ones. Again, some experimentation will be required, and a test day the first time you go to Grattan is a good idea.
If you take the last kink properly, you will be positioned at the proper braking point on the downhill entrance into Turn 8. Don't leave the track surface near Turn 8 or you'll find out why it's called the Swamp turn; it's a wide but tight and slow 110-degree off-camber right-hand turn followed immediately by a tight 20-degree kink back to the left. If you follow a normal line through the first (right-hand) portion, the second (left-hand) kink will force you towards the right edge of the track and you may have to struggle to get through traffic back over to the left edge for Turn 9. Alternately, you might try treating the right-hand portion as being just a slightly tighter 90-degree right-hand turn, and exit a little slower but along the left edge of the sharply uphill straight section and positioned correctly -- although on the outside -- for Turn 9.
Turn 9 is a wide blind-entry slightly uphill fast 60-degree right-hand turn followed by a short straight and an unnumbered partially-blind very wide and very fast 60-degree left-hand turn out onto the front straight (I'm going to call it Turn 10). If you have taken Turn 9 properly, you will be able to make what looks like a slightly early apex in Turn 10 and sweep wide across the track under full power. If you take Turns 9 and 10 properly, you should be under power (maybe not full power) all the way from the exit of Turn 8 to the end of the front straight.
The pit entrance is reached by keeping well to the right at the exit of Turn 9 and proceeding directly across the front straight, then turning hard left. The Upper Paddock, and Tech and Impound, are reached from the east end of the pit lane by making a tight U-turn to the right and proceeding steeply uphill.
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