Gulf Coast Speedway is a four-layout road course in Panama City, Florida.
Gulf Coast Speedway is broken down into nine sections, and many of its turns are referred to by their labels rather than their numbers. The nine sections of Gulf Coast are: the Frontstretch, Suzuka, Dubai, Spa, the Backstretch, the Boardwalk, Catalunya, Nurburg, and Monza.
The Full Course uses eight of the nine sections of the facility, skipping only Dubai. The entire racetrack is almost perfectly flat, characteristic of the Florida coast.
While most racetracks that have multiple layouts use their longest variant for Grand Prix competition, Gulf Coast Speedway usually hosts its GP event on Course A (described below) after many drivers advocated skipping Catalunya's risky 15-16 chicane combo. Due to this, the Catalunya/Nurburg section has fallen largely into disrepair, and the Full Course is rarely run now. However, since it covers almost the entire area of the facility, it is best discussed first.
The frontstretch leads into Suzuka, which is very similar to the first two turns of Suzuka Circuit in Japan--a dual-apex 180-degree right-hander, with Turn 1 being only 45 degrees and Turn 2 being 135.
Turn 3 is a 180-degree left-hander that is almost the exact same size the Suzuka corners, but is only one apex. Turns 4 and 5 are a right-left 65-degree chicane combination that begins the run to Spa.
Turns 6 and 7 are a pair of very long, sweeping corners, with Turn 6 bending right and Turn 7 to the left. This is reminiscent of the run to the finish line at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the section's namesake.
Turn 8 is a sharp 70-degree left-hander that leads into the sharp right-hand hairpin of Turn 9. This corner is supposed to simulate the Beauxville corner at Spa, but the resemblance is a stretch--Turn 9 is level and there is no huge rock outcropping in the center of it.
Turn 10, a 45-degree right-hander, begins the scenic run down the Backstretch. This entire length of track is sometimes collectively called the Boardwalk, but to be precise, the term usually refers only to Turn 11.
From the exit of Turn 10 to the entrance of Turn 12, the track runs along the shoreline of Panama City's Grand Lagoon, encircling a small bight and crossing a delta in the middle of Turn 11 (the Boardwalk).
The section between Turns 12 and 17 is known as Catalunya, after Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. Turns 12, 13 and 14 resemble Turns 1, 2, and 3 at Circuit de Catalunya--a hard right-left combination leading into a long right-hand carousel.
Turns 15 and 16 are an extremely tight right-left chicane implemented to avoid a slight sinkhole in the ground that developed during construction of the track.
Turn 17 is a deceptive 80-degree right-hander modeled after the central portion of Circuit de Catalunya and ends the section.
Turns 18 through 21 are called Nurburg after the Nurburgring in Germany. Turns 18 and 19 are yet another left-right chicane combo, but less severe than Turns 15 and 16. Turn 20 is a dual-apex, 160-degree left-hander similar to some of the tight corners of Nurburgring followed by a 110-degree right-hander that begins the run to Monza.
Turn 22 is the final corner on the circuit and is known as Monza in homage to Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy. It is a very long, sweeping 160-degree right-hander that cars can almost run full-throttle through. Monza empties directly onto the lengthy frontstretch.
Boardwalk Course cuts off Spa, Catalunya, and Nurburg in favor of two shortcuts. After running through Suzuka, the track only goes through three-quarters of the Turn 3 carousel before stepping off toward Dubai. Dubai is an awkward three-apex corner in which the center apex is by far the sharpest. This corner is modeled after the Hill Circuit of Dubai Autodrome in the United Arab Emirates.
The exit of Dubai leads straight onto the Boardwalk (Turn 11 of the Full Circuit), and departs again long before reaching Catalunya. Cars brake hard for the 50-degree right-hander that leads into the final corner of Nurburg, the right-hander to Monza. Once rejoining the track, cars head through Monza en route to the start-finish line.
Courses A and B
Courses A and B are hybrids of the Full Circuit and the Boardwalk Circuit. Course A keeps Spa but skips Catalunya/Nurburg, while Course B keeps Catalunya/Nurburg but skips Spa.
Course A is sometimes known as the National Circuit, but there is no alternative moniker for Course B.
In recent times, some drivers have praised the disrepair of the Catalunya/Nurburg sections as providing a whole different level of challenges, such as cracks in the asphalt and grass growing on the track. The Course A/Boardwalk layouts have also been repaved, while Catalunya/Nurburg have not, so there is also a paving discrepancy between the sections.
In light of all this, drivers are quick to caution those who run on Catalunya/Nurburg to be very careful about that section, as it can destroy cars quickly, either through losing control or just through regular wear and tear on the tough track.