Waterford Hills is a 1.5 mile road course on the grounds of the Oakland Hills Sportsmen's Club, located just outside of Detroit, Michigan.
Directions and hot lap courtesy of Dave Hammond of the Detroit Alfa Romeo Owner's Club chapter, and Eric Storhok, who passed the information along to me.
Last Updated: 2005-04-06
Oakland County Sportsmen's Club
4770 Waterford Road
Clarkston, MI 48346
248-623-0589 (track fax)
248-623-0444 (Oakland Hills Sportsmen's Club)
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The race course is located in Independence Township, a short distance from Pine Knob, or about 36 miles from the General Motors Technical Center in Warren. From I75, exit at Sashabaw Road and head south to Pelton Road (shortly after Maybee Road). You'll see a Clark gas station on Sashabaw immediately beyond Pelton Road. Make a right turn onto Pelton Road. Take it to the end, where you'll be able see the track's Hilltop Turn on your left. Turn left onto Waterford Road. It's a dirt road and was in terrible shape last year (usually it's pretty smooth), but you'll need to take it only as far as the entry gate. The entrance to the Oakland County Sportsman's Club will appear on your left look for the brown loghouse. Enter the parking lot in front of the log club house. You'll see a road heading toward the track, on your left, at the back of the parking lot. The path will split in two, the left side to some bleachers, the right side running along the track perimeter fence. Take the right-hand path. The brown gate house and paddock entry will be on your left.
This is more or less an "ideal" kind of lap. Commencing at the start/finish line at about the center of the track, gently moving to the left side of the track, at speed...
Gentle braking commences about 10 feet from the starters tower, 43 shift simultaneously. (Better to start at the tower if you're not an expert because this turn has transformed several cars into pretzels.-Ed.) The left front tire should just nick the grass point that exists at the merge of the pit exit and main straight. Try slightly heavier braking just before turn in, but be off the brakes when you crest the brow entering turn one. No braking upon commencement of turn in. The apex of turn 1 is much later than you would think. You compromise turn 1 in order to maintain momentum for uphill climb into turn 2. Accelerate up the hill to the turn 2 apex. This will help to steady the car. There is a fine line at this point between understeer and oversteer that is modulated with the throttle. Turn 2 apex is again taken late. At the apex you should already be at WOT (Wide Open Throttle).
Accelerate hard to the little kink on your left. The left front should almost be off the track at the kink. Stay left at the kink to set up for bluff bend. If you hit turn 2 correctly, the car will be on the buzzer hard about 34 seconds before turn in for bluff. Quick firm braking to transfer weight forward, and turn in for bluff. Apex of bluff is taken real late. Right front tire should just brush the end of the curbing if taken properly. Accelerate hard (WOT). Braking and acceleration are correct if the car immediately goes back on the buzzer. Stay hard right for entrance into turn 3.
For my money, this is the hardest turn on the track to take properly. If not taken correctly you lose too much momentum to go up the hill with any kind of speed, and you run the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time to crest hilltop safely. Turn 3 has a very late turn in and a very late apex. You darn near run straight off the track before you turn in, and if you don't use some very firm, straight line braking coming up to the turn in point, you probably will. Turn left aggressively, and immediately accelerate hard, going for the apex. The apex is virtually beyond the corner itself, almost on the little chute leading up to Waterford bend.
Stay left to set up for Waterford bend. You should now be WOT. Apex here is just a little past the center of the curbing. It's tricky to get this on just right. Too early, and the car will drift too far left and will require a lift from WOT, and too late and you will have to make a steering correction to bring the car over to the far left side of the track to properly set up for hilltop. Stay far left to set up for hilltop.
My Waterford Hills driving drivers' school instructor, the former chief steward of the track for a number of years, had an interesting comment about hilltop. He told me that if I ever got to a point where I was comfortable cresting hilltop, then I was going to crash at that turn sometime soon. I have to agree. In four years of racing I was never comfortable taking that turn. The apex to hilltop, at least in a showroom stock kind of car, is blind, occurring over the crest. There isn't any real marker to use to determine your turn in point. It just has to be done by feel. Since the car is on such an uphill section, baking isn't really required for weight transfer. Simply backing off on the throttle for a second or so will usually suffice. However, if you carried the proper speed up the hill, you may have to brake in order to turn in without too much understeer as the hill flattens off at the top. The key is to leave the turn in as late as you can, so that when you make the turn, the car crests the hill and is aimed at the apex. Hard acceleration to WOT the second the nose of the car is over the top. Doing it this way gives you an edge on acceleration, plus, if a car is following closely, the sight of the rear of the car going sideways slightly usually makes them lift for a second to see if you're going to make it down the hill successfully. 34 shift occurs about 25 to 50 feet before clipping the apex at Pelton bend. I used this shift point as an indicator as to how well I took hilltop. The sooner the shift, the better. Let the car drift to the right slightly, but start bringing it back to the left edge of the track soon.
Big Bend probably has the highest pucker factor of any turn at Waterford Hills. Hold WOT in 4th to your turn in point. My fastest times through big bend were done using gentle left foot braking to set up for this turn. However, be advised that if you brush the clutch pedal inadvertently while going for the brake pedal (it's very easy to do, I speak from experience) you will upset the dynamics of the car, fluster yourself at precisely the wrong time, and be in for the ride of your life. That steel wall looks real big from about three feet away, sitting in the RX2. My procedure went like this just before the turn in point, still going in a straight line, lift throttle to approximately 3/4, gentle left foot brake for weight transfer, turn in gently as apex is far beyond the center of the corner, maintain even steady throttle to just before the apex, quickly accelerate to WOT and clip the apex. You should be at WOT before you ever get onto the straight. Let the car drift wide and use all the road. If you took the turn fast enough, you may have to make a very slight steering correction to the right where the track narrows. If you took an early apex, you'll have to steer right also. Don't confuse the two. With an early apex you should be able to feel the car scrubbing off speed.
Now that you're on the only real straight-a-way, check your gauges. Its the only chance you get at this place...
If you took Big Bend properly, the car should go on the buzzer about 34 seconds before your braking point. I always referenced the large tree on the left, beginning to brake just before reaching it. 43 shift just before the turn in point, making sure that I was so close to the left side of the track that the left tires of the car were almost on the grass. I cannot emphasize too greatly the importance of using the whole race track. As an instructor and a competitor, I always found that to be a rookies greatest problem. The apex to archers corner is again taken late, smoothly rolling into the throttle just before the apex. Let the car drift over to the left edge of the track and stay there, setting up for the entrance to paddock bend.
Turn in for paddock is fairly similar to turn 3. Gentle braking in a straight line, hold your turn in until late, turn in aggressively. At the point where most people think you should be clipping the apex, I was 3 feet away from the curbing. Apex your turn real late, almost to the end of the curbing, not in the middle. At the apex go to WOT. This should allow the car to drift to about two feet 'from the left edge of the track with no steering correction whatsoever. Quickly but gently get the car over to the right edge of the track, brake gently while crossing the track, and with your right front tire reaching the edge of the track, it's time to turn to the esses. That's what you would do in Qualifying or when you are running alone on the track. But if you are looking to get by someone...
Without a doubt, I found this to be the best place to pass. It's fairly slow, most drivers are very preoccupied with getting through this section, and combined with the flag station, don't watch their mirrors too well.;. The perfect opportunity. Be advised, however, of the attraction for metal to metal when you try to pass here. I lost three right front fenders at this corner in four years of racing... be advised. If you are right on the tail of another car at the apex to paddock (I'm talking 6 inches or less between the two cars), instead of turning back to the right to set up for the esses, stay of the left side of the track and accelerate like hell (not for time trial events!). You should be able to reach the entrance to the esses just as the other car begins his normal turn in. Brake hard and turn left very hard, being careful to not put your left tires behind the curbing, just put your tires right on top of the curbing. It's a little rough, but exciting. If the other guy hasn't paid attention to what you've done up until now, pray that he does now, or that RF fender is history. This maneuver usually flusters the other guy just enough. He/she has come to the sudden realization that his is line skewed and he backs off just enough to let you through on the inside of the left harder. Remember, though, that he's now in a better position to take an early apex to the right hand portion of the esses which will make his car want to drift out wide to the left side of the track, so you'll have to aggressively race him around the outside of the right hander (a tricky situation), and either make him slow to get behind you to set up for swamp, or race him around swamp with you on the inside (a tricky situation for him). God it's fun. But I digress. Back to the "ideal lap".
When the right front tire is just at the edge of the track, turn left hard, looking for an apex just after the center of the curbing. Roll into the throttle just after your turn in. Your left front should just rub the curbing if you did it right. Go to WOT. Apex the right hand portion of the esses just past the middle of the curbing (don't brake and don't lift) and let the car drift all the way to the left side of the track, in the area of the back entrance to the paddock. Gently bring it back all the way to the right side, and prepare for swamp. If the esses were taken correctly you should be hard on the buzzer (about 7200 7500 RPM) when you begin braking.
Swamp turn is a double apex that can be a real bear to master. The initial turn in is critical to hit both apexes because steering corrections in the meddle of this turn are very difficult due to the flatness of the turn and the lateral G loads working on the car. Even minute gentle, left hand, steering corrections have a distinct tendency to make the tail of the car go to the throttle on the early portion of the turn before the first apex, but after the first apex, you'll be accelerating towards WOT and you've got the 34 shift coming up as well, so steering with the throttle is no longer viable. It's a very busy time.
It's very difficult to try to tell you how or where to turn in to clip the first apex for swamp. It will have to suffice to say that having completed your approach braking, the turn in begins from the far right edge of the track on the approach to swamp, very gradually at first, tightening slightly after the initial turn m, and the apex is virtually the exact center of the curbing on the inside of the track. I try to hold approximately 1/2 to 3/4 throttle coming up to the first apex using both the throttle and the steering wheel to place the car exactly where I want it. Upon clipping the first apex, I would very gently roll into the throttle (so as to not upset the car too much) and allow the car to drift towards the right side of the track. Be very careful at this point, however, as the marbles that accumulate on the outside of this turn can be downright treacherous. If the car feels as though it is drifting too far too soon, just lift on the throttle slightly, but be prepared to correct for the cars' reaction. All this must be tempered with the realization that you should now be on (or nearly on) the buzzer and ready to make the 34 shift. This shift is made before you get to the second apex of swamp, while you are still turning. This is probably the trickiest shift on the track because the G forces are pushing your body hard to the right, it is very easy to accidentally touch reverse gear instead of 4th. Make a conscious effort to pull the fever straight. the left side of the track you will see some old asphalt which was the original false grid at Waterford Hills. The point at which the beginning of the old false grid and the racetrack meet is the second apex. You should hit this apex just a little early running WOT into 4th gear. This will let the car drift to the right side of the front straight. Let the car go all the way to the right side of the front of the track, but do not allow the right side tires to go off the track. Almost immediately, you must begin moving over to the left side of the track to set up for the entrance to turn one.
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