While MCO members were busy organizing or driving at the Canaska Cup at Shannonville, I went to the first event held on the full track of the "new" Mont-Tremblant. The event was a driver education weekend put on by Rennsport, the local region of the Porsche Club of America (PCA), in early July 2001.
My first impression of the new facility was that the old paddock appears smaller - although more useable. The paddock is now crushed gravel except for the skidpad, which is unchanged. The paddock runs flat all the way from where the old turnaround used to be to the victory podium in front of the cafeteria and beside the washrooms. The washrooms remain, but are not operational until new sewage systems are installed. The old cafeteria is still there, but most of its driveway is gone - the paddock has been widened. The laneway running around front of the washrooms is now the exit from pit lane into the paddock. The entrance to pit lane is at the other end of the paddock - near Namerow.
Pit lane and the pit area are extensively changed. The hot pit is now very wide, reminiscent of Watkins Glen. Pit-in is on the outside of the (new) Namerow, and pit-out is at the top of corner 2, with the concrete barriers like those at Mosport very much in evidence. The staging area behind the tower was not finished when I was there. The tower is being renovated and enlarged, and now has a clear view of Namerow.
Namerow, corner 14, remains the "signature turn" of Mont-Tremblant. However, from a driving perspective, it is no longer Namerow, it is Namerow plus Paddock Bend (corner 15). Paddock Bend is a real turn now, as the main straight is now wider and perhaps farther "in" (away from the paddock). The two turns form an "S," so the line through Namerow must set up Paddock Bend. Paddock Bend itself is a fairly straightforward flat corner. Namerow is not.
The old Namerow is gone, a victim of the need for runoff versus rock. The new one retains much of the physical look of the old one. However, the angles, elevations, and camber are simpler, and one ends up driving around the corner, much like one does in the first part of the esses. In races, however, the wide variety of lines possible will make this a fun-for-spectators passing area. The width of the exit of Namerow (still downhill) will allow for a variety of entry lines into the corner, but it is who is first out of Paddock Bend that will count.
The main straight is wider, a more even grade, and drives shorter. Exiting Paddock Bend throws one out to the inside of the track (away from the pits). Thus, one has to cross back over to set up for corners one, the "phantom" corner 2, and Diable. Here again, the look is very similar to the old corners - although there is now a chicane, which I did not try. I had the most difficulty with these corners as all my old reference points were gone, and what seems to be the fast line doesn't use the whole track. The track is definitely wider, and the runoffs remove some of that "We're on the 323 north of Lac des Plages" feel that this segment of the track had.
The Esses (corners four and five) seemed pretty much the same to me - except the camber is gone (or seems to be) so more trail-braking is needed. When I ran the track the curbing was not yet installed, so one could not go through here very aggressively (the event was a driving school). The exit has a whole new look, in that one can see cars flying down the backstraight. All over the track, sightlines have been improved.
Corner 6, the sweeper, is visually different as the exit joins the new connector segment. The connector allows for a second short course. I understand this second course, which has its own pit on the back straight, isn't that exciting.
Corner 7 remains as it was after repavement a few years ago, although I think there is more runoff now at corner exit (I wasn't really looking).
The Carrousel is the same, but different. The fresh pavement, especially in the braking zone, allows a lot of trail braking, with the result that more speed can be comfortably carried through this corner.
The back straight seems identical, although, like everywhere on the track, it is wider. The second set of pits on the inside of straight gives a different look.
The sweeper at the end of the straight and the gulch turn feel pretty much the same. The track has extra width and is smoother in making elevation transitions - although this may have been an illusion - however the transition from the Gulch into the Bridge turn felt like a smoothly increasing slope, and not the immediate "you are driving up a wall" feel of before.
The Bridge Turn now has usable pavement at corner exit, but the kink feels sharper. The following straight is about the same, although the pedestrian overpass isn't there anymore.
Braking into Namerow is uphill, but, for lack of better term, more consistent than the old turn. The uphill is all on the same angle, and at the top there is one change in elevation - whereas the old Namerow seemed to have three to five different elevation changes, depending on whether one was trying to go inside or not!
Thus one finishes a lap of the new Mont-Tremblant. Overall, the track is wider, smoother in transitions, with more runoffs and bigger sight lines. Similar comments can be made about the "new" Mosport - except I've heard that the line at the "new" Mosport hasn't changed. This isn't quite the case for the new Mont-Tremblant. I've avoided giving a specific line, as I, like most people in attendance that weekend, drove the track with a preconceived notion of the "old" Mont-Tremblant in mind. What works best on the "new" Mont-Tremblant, especially in racing, remains for you to discover.
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