Last year I created Fuji Speedway from scratch. Only to discover that someone else had been doing the same, but didn’t release his track until three or four weeks after me. I was a bit disheartened by that as I had invested a lot of my free time to get the track done in time for the real life 2007 Grand Prix there.
Subsequently I fixed some issues (like the dx7 “snow bug”), but never got around to posting it. Now I packed and released it for the online league I’m driving in. In case anybody wants this, here’s the link:

Topeka: Finding information

I finished the commercial project on thursday and finally have some free time to work on my two just-for-fun tracks:

My first stop when doing research on race tracks I want to build is Google Earth/Google Maps. If it has a usable satellite photo of the track, hooray. That is a lot of help, especially for getting the basic layout right. In some instances (e.g. Silverstone) the resolution is so high, you could place every single seat in the stands correctly. However, this usually isn’t the case.

Topeka has one major issue: The track wasn’t completed when the photos were taken. So there are high-resolution images, but they only show the track in a state before the tarmac was laid. I used it (as shown before) for the base spline, so that I at least have good reference for that.

Blueprint may be judged to be of better quality by some, but, in my experience, tracks never get build the way they were supposed to. If you base a track solely on a blueprint, it will be inaccurate. I’ve seen official technical drawings and blueprints that were missing kinks or whole corners.
Another pet baby is GPS. This has one big advantage: Elevation changes. I believe you can build the layout  accurately without the help of GPS, but with the elevation changes you will be relying on educated guesses and gut feeling. However GPS is expensive as it requires you to have a high-accuracy recording device and, crucially, access to the track when nobody is running on it. If you want to accurately measure the track, you’d need at least two rounds: left verge and right verge of the track itself. Additionally you’d need to take some samples of the runoff areas or you’d be relegated to guesswork for that again.
Something amazingly technical has been done by Brendon Pywell et al on Eastern Creek. Measuring the whole area by laser surely got them insane amounts of accurate data. However this as well is immensely time consuming and requires the tools as well as the access. The result may be stunning, but without financial backing and manpower this is usually not a viable approach.

Back to Topeka, on which I have good information about the basic layout. Still, I need a lot more information about the surrounding areas (are they hilly? steep or swopping? where are natural spectators areas?), placement of advertisement boards, grandstands, power lines, tirewalls, curbs, etc. etc.
What I want to do first with any track I don’t know is getting to know it. Know the layout by hard, so I can place photos with the correct part of the track just by looking at it. This makes working more accurate as it helps me avoid misplacing photos and easier, as it builds an image of the track in my mind to which I will build the track with the help of the material gathered. Usually videos, especially onboard footage, helps a lot. Here I can get a feeling for the elevation changes as well.
Furthermore, photos are of the essence. For a guy who has not been and can not reasonably go to the track (Topeka is 7,500km/4,660 miles from where I live), this is my “window” to the track. A source for photos usually is Google or Flickr. Sadly, they both didn’t deliver good quantities of photos on the track.
However, Lee (who first posted a request for the track to be done at RSC) has taken some photos at past races and is currently at the track, taking new ones during this year’s SCCA Runoffs at Topeka. What I’m looking for in photos is good views of irregular trackside objects like grandstands, s/f or timing towers, or garage buildings from various angles. Some wide shots of the track to get a feel of the environment and foliage, as well as for building a good background. Ideally frontal photos of details such as guardrails, curbs, tirewalls, grass, track markings etc. for reference and, if possible, for building textures from them.

I will continue work on Topeka once Lee gets back from the track and I’ll post again when that happens.

Topeka Status

Heartland Park Topeka hosts the SCCA Runoffs. As I read in the Track Request Thread at RSC. bigleeal and f2000keith appealed for someone to do the track for rFactor and on checking the track out, I thought it was a very interesting layout. After a lot of fictional tracks I wanted to do a real track and THP has been the best one posted in the Track Request Thread in a while.

The satellite image on Google Earth is quite old sadly. I could only use it for the old track layout. However two turns (black in the image to follow) have been modified and I modelled them based on aerial photographs.
Currently I’m looking through more ressources to get a better feel for the track, to see where it might change it’s width, it’s elevation or camber. So here’s a shot of the spline along which I will loft the track:

Oval Complex Status

So let me start with the most advanced of the two non-commercial projects I’m working on. I intended to sit down and scan a map of the US for a good place to put this oval but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So it still is Oval02 or “that oval complex” in my book.

I draw up my tracks on paper first. For this one I laid down the oval (2 miles, D-shaped) first, printed it and then filled in the infield course. See here:

In the end I didn’t actually build the chicane on the back stretch as I didn’t feel it was necessary for any of the possible layouts. The arc where the first infield part rejoins could possibly be used for a chicane layout, using T1-T2 of the oval, the arced chicane and then using the second infield course arm.

Here’s what it looks like at the moment:

All of the textures are placeholders. The yellow blob near the s/f line was to confirm that my UVW mapping was accurate. I test this by using regular shapes on the textures I map. If e.g. a circle doesn’t show up round, I know I messed it up. 😉
The infield area has been added and is populated with four garage buildings which can house 120 cars/teams. Access to the track will be through two openings in the pitroad. Also I added the access road running below the track between T4 and the s/f line. As I said, I wanted to add all the stuff I would love to see in a track here.

Why do this blog?

I first started blogging my track creation process about two years ago when I started work on Stratotech Park, a Karting/low-level Formula track in Canada. However the track and my continued work on their project got picked up by a company and subsequently didn’t allow me to continue blogging the process.

Now that I have finished said project I want to revive that experience for a few different reasons. Among them my desire to talk about the creative process of creating tracks, which is kind of hard to do in your normal everyday friendships. Track creation is a bit of a niché still, even in simracing circles.
This brings me to my second reason: Maybe someone will feel he or she is able to do this too, and follow his or her desire to create their own tracks. Even if a post or two on this blog shows some of you a technique you can use for your own track or project this would be a success.

Last but not least, I just want to document my working process and not just the end results this time. The neat side effect is that you get a glimpse of it as well.

More on this is to follow, but this is what I’m currently working on:
– a fictional track for a commercial project
– a fictional oval with infield course, set to be my personal wonder-track. I want to add all the features to it I love to see in tracks.
– Heartland Park Topeka, work has just started on this.