It’s pretty easy to get there. Start out on the front straight, but be sure to brake hard at the end for the Horseshoe, which is actually two turns in one. Work your way around NASCAR Bend, which leads you into the Left Hook. Next, you’ll run into the Snake. Once you’ve dealt with those pesky turns, head under the bridge and into the Climbing Esses. It’s important to keep your rhythm here or you could end up taking an off-road excursion. At the top of the hill, take the blind left hander, also known as South Bend. Trust the car, and it will lead you to a short chute that goes downhill and back up again. It’s at the top of that hill that you’ll find what you’re looking for: Oak Tree.
Oak Tree is the signature turn at VIR. And its name aptly describes what it is — a hairpin turn around an oak tree.
Well, that is, until last week. The mighty oak tree has fallen after breaking at its base.
Countless drivers, both famous and not-so-famous, have driven around that tree. I am fortunate enough to count myself among those who have navigated that hairpin. I’ve driven around the oak tree in the spring, just as the leaves are starting to come in. And I’ve been there in the fall, just as the leaves on the tree are starting turn various shades of orange, red, and yellow. There was always a flagger stationed under the tree, warning drivers of any dangers ahead or gently reminding them to get out of the way of the faster car behind them. It was a challenging corner for me, but I loved seeing that tree every time I went past.
And sadly, now this iconic symbol of VIR is gone. I never thought I’d be so heartbroken about a tree.
For nostalgia’s sake, here’s a video of the oak tree in all its glory, along with a few cars coming for a visit.