You may have asked yourself the same question that plagues my sleepless nights: due to constraints of money and time, I can’t get to a real track day more than once every year or two. How can I safely practice cornering etc. the rest of the time?!
I came upon my first answer to this question by accident. Driving on the highway one day near home, I encountered one of the complex, mystifying interchanges endemic to northern New Jersey, or “North Jersey” as we call it here. Signs for the next highway here are helpfully placed as close as possible to the ramp, so you immediately know which wrong road you just got on.
I found myself on the wrong ramp, and started looking for the ramp to bail out, turn around, and try again. As I did so, I discovered that the U-turns and on-ramps were all highway-speed, and formed a glorious circuit.
Here’s a map of the entrance (top), exit (bottom), and circuit which I made by using the path tool in The GIMP, overlaid on a Google Earth map of the area:
During off-hours traffic, I can move around it at modest track-like speeds safely and without any egregious speeding. It happens that there is a decreasing-radius corner exiting into an uphill straight (righthand side of the map), as well as an off-camber turn at the top of another fast hill (lefthand side). “The Track,” as I call it, is even better in the wet for my car: the limits of grip are lower, and loss of grip seems more linear, predictable, and sense-able.
Not too many interchanges offer all this, but if you scout maps of local highways, you may be able to find one in your area too!
Next time will be the Backroads Edition: how to increase your chances of finding glorious, spirited country driving near you.