TOPEKA, Kan. (Aug. 14, 2007) – Defending SCCA GT-1 Class National Champion Philip Simms, of Orlando, Fla., got a sneak preview Monday and Tuesday of the newly-reconfigured Heartland Park Topeka road course that will host not only this weekend’s Kaw Valley Race Group SCCA National race weekend, but October’s 44th Annual SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by AT&T, billed as the Pinnacle of American Motorsports.
In a two-day private test, Simms put his 600-plus horsepower Jaguar XKR through its paces around the 2.5-mile circuit, and was pleased with the reconfigured Turns One, Two, Eight and Nine.
“The changes are real fast,” Simms said. “Everybody that wanted a high-speed track—they’ve got one now. It’s fun. I think everybody will like it.
“Going into turn 10, I’d say we’re going 15-20 mph faster than before. Into turn three, I’m a whole gear up from before, so you’re looking at 25-30 mph.
“The changes are totally different than any other corners I can think of. Going into nine, it’s blind. After you do it a couple of times, you know what’s going to be on the other side. It’s kind of like coming over the hill at Road Atlanta in that sense. You know where you’ve got to be and know what you’ve got to do and just do it, because it’s totally blind.”
Simms noted that with changes, sometimes come compromise.
“You give up two passing zones. I can go into Turn One so fast that nobody can pass me and the same is the case back in what used to be the bus stop [Turn Eight]. Turns Three and 10 will be better passing zones, though.”
Simms felt that the new Turn Eight-Nine complex was a gut check, where ultimate speed will combine both skill and bravery.
“You can run flat out right up to the hump, which is about where the new track rejoins the old track. That’s pretty deep. You brake, turn in and get back on the gas and the car just slides in a four-wheel drift.”
In 2006, the course featured primarily slow to medium-speed corner sections, something Simms, and many drivers were not accustomed to.
“Last year, when I came here, it was real humbling, because I’d never run anything this tight,” he said. “If you don’t figure out how to get your speed through these tight corners, you’re slow.
“I think there are a lot of drivers that are going to like the changes, because it’s got something that’s gonna scare them a little bit.”
From what the team has seen in the private testing, the course may be as much as five or six seconds faster, depending on the car type and class.
When asked simply if he felt the changes were fun, Simms was quick with a smile and response.
This weekend’s KVRG SCCA National event, the final race of the year in Kansas before more than 600 drivers converge on Heartland Park Topeka for October’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by AT&T, will have qualifying sessions on Saturday, with racing all day Sunday. Tickets are available at the gate, and are $10 for adults with discounts for military and seniors. Admission for children under 12 is free.