Two weeks ago I had the chance to drive on Circuit of the Americas in a 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V. Needless to say, it was an incredible experience. The track is light years beyond any track I've ever driven. Here are a few notes: – 3 of the corners were tighter than any I've ever driven on a track — I had to almost completely cross my forearms over to make it
– They didn't want us to stay on the power for the whole back straight, lest they have ametuers going 150+, so there were some cones where you lift off at, but I did hit 130mph when my instructor let me stay in it a little farther
– It's a large track. 550 horsepower felt just right; it will probably seem slow with less horsepower
– Turn 1 is nearly blind until you've apexed, and then you swoop down a steep hill to Turn 2 and as the road twists to the right
– The esses after Turn 2 felt awesome, you just sort of go with the flow and steer back and forth and moderate throttle. It's not until Turn 6 that it gets tighter-than-it-looks
– There are almost no high speed corners -- there's a kink (Turn 10) you take under full throttle and that's about it. Everything else is a corner after you've slowed down a lot already, either becuase the entry is really tight, or it's a tight corner
I drove the automatic CTS-V Coupe for 2 laps, followed later by 3 laps in the CTS-V Wagon with a manual transmission. Some observations on the automatic:
I found the CTS-V automatic transmission pretty good but it was annoying when I was lapping COTA, just due to limitations of an auto. You come out of a corner and roll on throttle and you have no idea what gear you're in, how much torque you'll have and what RPM you're going to be at, because it might downshift, it might not, it's a pain. On a simpler track it's not as noticeable — make the corner and then accelerate out, but COTA is so complex, there are times when you come out of a tight corner, get on throttle, then lift a little, then have to hold a sustained 50% throttle through a long corner sequence — the transmission doesn't really know how to react. I chose not to try to paddle shift during my introductory laps. It could have helped, but you know, step on the power hard enough your gear decisions are overruled.
It was an incredible experience, and I was fortunate to be among the first people outside of Formula 1 to drive the new track. Now I just have to find a way to do some more laps there!
Below is the video of one of my laps during the event. Please overlook my squeaky voice and nerdy comments!