Top ten… Hermann Tilke corners

Korean Grand Prix track in Jeo

Guest writer Ned Flanders picks his ten favourite Hermann Tilke designed corners.

Hermann Tilke ?ǣ Formula?s 1 circuit guru of the moment ?ǣ is not one of the most popular figures in F1. But with over half of the 2010 calendar partially or entirely drawn up by Tilke?s pen, it?s fair to say that modern Formula 1 has been well and truly Tilkefied.

In the build up to the debut of his latest creation, the Korean International Circuit, it?s worth reflecting on his achievements in Formula 1.

1. Jochen Rindt Kurve, A1 Ring, Austria (1997 ?ǣ 2003)

A Ring, Austria

The A1 Ring ?ǣ built on the site of the old Osterreichring during the mid 90s ?ǣ was chosen to host the Austrian Grand Prix when it was reinstated to the F1 calendar in 1997, and did so a further six times until its demise in 2003. A simple configuration made up of short straights connected by just nine mainly low speed corners, it was the first high profile circuit to be designed by a German engineer named Hermann Tilke.

Unfortunately for Tilke, his creation was largely derided by fans and drivers alike. What had once been a fast, flowing circuit sweeping through the foothills of the Styrian Mountains had been reduced to a stop- start course which offered little challenge to the drivers.

However, the one saving grace of the A1 Ring was that it remained as undulating as its predecessor. This transformed the penultimate turn, the Jochen Rindt Kurve, from what might otherwise have been a fairly straightforward corner into a challenging downhill right hand swoop which would have been worthy of a spot on the original Osterreichring.

2. Turns one and two, Istanbul Park, Turkey

Honda, Istanbul Park, Turkey

Although many believe that Tilke designed racetracks are inferior to traditional circuits, one new venue which has been embraced by spectators is the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey.

A circuit with elevation changes greater than almost any other on the calendar, Istanbul Park mixes the traditional Tilke elements of excellent facilities and safety features with a series of corners which both challenge the drivers and create overtaking opportunities.

Amongst the best corners on the track is the blind left- right at the beginning of the lap. The cars drop downhill into a medium speed left hander followed immediately by a flat out right hander, a sequence of turns reminiscent of the Senna S at Interlagos .

In the six previous Turkish Grands Prix, the complex has been the scene of a number of major incidents ?ǣ most notably several first lap collisions and Lewis Hamilton?s manoeuvre on teammate Jenson Button in 2010.

3. Turns 12 and 13, Sepang, Malaysia

Another of Tilke?s more popular creations is the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia. Located around 60km south of the country?s capital Kuala Lumpur, the circuit?s arrival in 1999 was the first of many increasingly extravagant venues on the F1 calendar.

When completed the facilities at Sepang were unprecedented, with huge grandstands catering for thousands of fans and garages which dwarfed those found at older racetracks.

It has since been usurped by other new venues in terms of the grandeur, but few modern courses can rival its driving challenge. The pick of its many fast, sweeping corners is probably the fast chicane at turns 12 and 13. Approached downhill at around 150mph, the sequence is taken flat out and, with turn 13 effectively acting as the braking zone for 14, it?s a challenging corner for the drivers.

4. 100R, Fuji, Japan (2007 ?ǣ 2008)

When the Toyota owned Fuji circuit returned to the F1 calendar for the 2007 season, racing fans were up in arms ?ǣ and not just at the loss of Suzuka which it had replaced. The redesigned Fuji Speedway was criticised as being one of the most sterile circuits in modern F1.

Tilke had been heavily constrained by the circuit owners. He was asked not only to keep the track layout as similar as possible to the previous circuit (which had hosted two Grand Prix?s in the 1970s) he was also asked to ensure Formula 1 lap times remained well over a minute in keeping with other modern circuits. Inevitably, since the original Fuji was little more than one long straight connected by a few sweeping bends, this proved difficult.

Tilke?s unimaginative solution was to add a series of hairpins to the final sector of the circuit. Unsurprisingly, the new circuit went down like a lead balloon; Keith labelled it the worst in F1.

But Fuji does have at least one fan. Despite it?s undeniably sleep inducing final sector, I love the circuit for its incredible setting at the foot of Mount Fuji, its elevation changes and its history ?ǣ Fuji was of course the setting for the first ever Grand Prix in Asia, and scene of James Hunt?s 1976 title triumph. With its long straight and ever present threat of rain, it also makes for great racing. And amongst its uninteresting first gear hairpins there are also a couple of excellent corners too. 100R, a long downhill right hander taken almost flat out, is probably the best of them.

5. Turns two to four, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi

Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi

In the United Arab Emirates, things are never done by half, and the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is no exception. Built on an almost limitless budget, the circuit is located on Yas Island ?ǣ a $36 billion tourist development reclaimed from the Persian Gulf ?ǣ and features such novelties as an underground pit lane exit, a Grandstand built above the run-off area and a harbour front section designed to replicate the streets of Monte Carlo.

Whether this ??money no object? attitude to building racetracks is good or not, Yas Marina is the most soulless of all the Grand Prix venues, and the $1.3 billion lavished on the circuit by the Abu Dhabi authorities could have been put to far better use.

However circuit officials did ensure some of the expense was put towards creating a memorable circuit. On an otherwise flat island, a manmade hill was created to add some variety to the circuit, transforming turn two to four into an Eau Rouge-esque sweeper. Approached at almost 160mph, the corner is taken comfortably flat out in low fuel conditions and as such is not hugely challenging for drivers, yet the sight of Formula 1 cars hurtling downhill through the kink of turn four in particular is impressive.

6. Turns five to seven, Sakhir, Bahrain (2004 ?ǣ 2009)

It?s easy to forget that before it was extended in 2010, the Bahrain International Circuit was considered a decent circuit, certainly one of Tilke?s best efforts. A mix of long straights and a range of low and high speed corners, Sakhir was seen as a test of both driver and car.

Arguably the best corner on the circuit was the S bend made up of turns five, six and seven. Approached in fifth gear, the track bends left before suddenly veering right into a tighter corner, and then sweeping left again through the flat out, downhill of turn seven.

However, the corner was neutered by the introduction of the ??endurance loop?. Located between turn four and what was previously turn 5, the extension rendered the S bend little more than a comfortable flat out acceleration zone. Circuit officials had claimed the new layout would offer ??a new challenge and new overtaking opportunities??, and organisers have now revealed that next year?s race will take place in the original layout which has hosted the Grand Prix since 2004

7. Turn 14, Shanghai, China

The Shanghai International Circuit is one of Tilke?s most grandiose creations. Costing almost half a billion dollars to construct, the 3.4 mile track is dwarfed by the vast architecture which surrounds it, particularly the towering main grandstand.

Shanghai International Circuit aerial map

The track layout itself is not one of Tilke?s best, made up of several seemingly perpetual sweepers and long straights. But driving challenge is not the only criteria on which a corner should be judged. Tilke?s main aim when designing circuits is to provide overtaking opportunities and no corner provides as good a passing place as Shanghai?s turn 14.

As a test of drivers? speed, the corner is inconsequential; but as a test of the drivers? racecraft it?s as good as any. A tight hairpin situated at the end of a kilometre long straight, it?s been the scene of countless moments of excitement in the Chinese Grand Prix?s seven year history; from Michael Schumacher?s hounding of the Renault?s in 2006 to Sebastian Vettel?s pass for the lead on Jenson Button in 2009, and more recently Sebastien Buemi?s spectacular suspension failure in 2010.

8. Turns 18 and 19, Valencia Street Circuit, Spain

The Valencia Street Circuit is undoubtedly the most derided of all the Tilkedromes. Announced in 2007 off the back of soaring Spanish interest in F1, the circuit was seen by the Valencia authorities as a means of attracting tourists to the city and rejuvenating the dock area where the track is located.

However, poor crowd figures, tedious races and the venue?s reputation as a poor man?s Monaco mean that Valencia has become the circuit everyone loves to hate.

The layout itself is also largely uninspiring, yet it does have its points of interest. The final sector of the lap, a flat out blast through a series of kinks from turn 17 to 25, may not be hugely challenging for the drivers, but it makes for spectacular TV footage as the cars hurtle between the concrete walls at almost 200mph. The high speed left-right chicane that makes up turns 18 and 19 is the pick.

9. Turn 8, Istanbul Park, Turkey

Istanbul Park?s thrilling turn eight is widely agreed to be not only the most spectacular corner ever designed by Tilke, but also one of the best corner?s on the F1 calendar. An undulating left-hander consisting of four separate apexes, turn eight?s challenge is enhanced further by its jarring bumps; an almost unique characteristic not only of Tilke-designed venues but of all modern F1 tracks.

The statistics alone are incredible. From entrance to exit, turn eight is roughly 600m long and takes around 8 seconds to navigate, making it the longest corner on the calendar. Drivers experience G forces of up to 5.2g, with the strain averaging 4.3g over the 8 seconds. The quickest cars are able to take the corner at an average speed of 160mph, often gaining several tenths of a second on downforce deficient rivals.

Turn eight never fails to catch the unprepared, although its vast tarmac run off ensures few drivers ever make it as far as the barriers. In Istanbul?s inaugural event in 2005, the corner caused havoc for several drivers during qualifying, while it cost Juan Pablo Montoya second place. The following year, it was Michael Schumacher who was caught out, losing valuable time in his pursuit of Fernando Alonso.

10. Final turn, Korean International Circuit

Little is known about the latest circuit to be introduced to the Formula 1 calendar, the Korean International Circuit in South Jeolla province. But the track layout displays some promise ?ǣ including the unusual final corner.

Over to you

For all his flaws I believe Hermann Tilke deserves more credit than he gets for his F1 circuits. Despite working under some extremely restrictive regulations, he?s managed to design some excellent corners, whether they be challenging for drivers, spectacular for spectators and TV viewers or conducive to overtaking.

But this is your chance to put me right. Do you feel Hermann Tilke has done more harm than good to F1? Is racing better at traditional circuits than Tilkedromes? Or are there any other corners or circuits designed by Tilke that deserve a mention? Let us know your opinion below.

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112 comments on Top ten… Hermann Tilke corners

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  1. John H said on 22nd August 2010, 12:21

    “For all his flaws I believe Hermann Tilke deserves more credit than he gets for his F1 circuits. Despite working under some extremely restrictive regulations, he’s managed to design some excellent corners”

    The problem is that for every 1 decent corner, there are 10 more that are constant radius bores.

    Monopolies are never good things, and certainly not in F1. It’s easy to blame the regs but as the new section at Silverstone proves (in my opinion), letting new track designers in on the act keeps everyone on their toes. Problem is, due to the monopoly, the cheapest option will always be to hire Tilke.

    • Agree…. just because he designed 10 “great” cornes from total of 250 doesnt mean he deserves credit.

      To be honest, from drivers stand of point, there is nothing like old track where Tilke wasnt involved yet. Hes tracks are just to boring.

      • BasCB said on 22nd August 2010, 15:50

        Sure, Tilke did about 10-15 interesting corners on those circuits and a whole lot mediocre or bad corners. Still not to bad.
        But the updates to existing circuits he did will have done more to get fans booing him. He happened to dismantle a lot of great corners giving very little in return (even if the rules might have a lot to do with that).

        I also think he is too much into spectacular buildings. And dven though that’s what gets most new era investors interested, it does not mean to the actual fans of the sport. And Tilke was never much into bringing the fans close to the track and see a lot.

        Still, those historic tracks are great only because their origin was racing on real streats (Monaco, Spa) or they were developed and grew into their current form over years. The technical regulations will make sure no such track will ever evolve again and it is much too soon to have us get fond of the new tracks.

        Monopoly has been bad for Tilkes creativity (the best were his first ones Malaysia and Turkey), let’s hope competition (populous) came in time and Tavo pushes Tilke to new hights in Austin.

        • US_Peter said on 23rd August 2010, 5:30

          I’m hoping that Tavo pushes Tilke simply as a former racer and racing enthusiast himself. He’s talked about how they went back and forth to get the design to the point where they were satisfied with it, so we’ll see…

          • bosyber said on 23rd August 2010, 12:49

            I have that same hope – as Ned mentions, A1-ring was bound to be disappointing (it couldn’t stay as it was, amazing – and dangerous as it was). I think Ned did do a great job of showing the good bits of the Tilke-tracks. But it would be much better if Tilke was able to convince event organizers more often that a track is about racing mainly, not about architecture. The silly pit-tunnel at Abu Dhabi is just a stupid gimmic, that offers little because they forgot to put in a good camera position inside and made it too narrow to get some speed. Safety, no doubt.

    • Andy W said on 23rd August 2010, 22:18

      I agree the problem is the Tilke monopoly of F1 tracks and redesigns, they all end up feeling very samey.

      Its not that Tilke hasn’t designed some great tracks and corners (he has).

  2. I adore Fuji and actually prefer it to Suzuka…

    Turn eight at Turkey must be by far the most insane corner in F1, maybe even the best corner. That used to be Eau Rouge but that is flat out these days, turn eight is a total challenge, and you need a lot of guts to try it flat out.

    • Agree about turn 8. The stress itn puts on the driver and car is insane too. The best corner in F1 right now and by a mile.

      I like Fuji. I prefer Suzuka as a track (first sector is the definition os terrifying) but I like watching the races at Fuji as I find them more exciting.

    • Kimster said on 22nd August 2010, 16:21

      The Redbulls took corner 8 in 2010 flatout, the rest didn’t:)

  3. Faraz said on 22nd August 2010, 12:33

    I personally preferred it if the FIA let the Drivers design circuits. I mean they are the ones who race on them so they should have an input. I always get a headache if I watch a race on a Hermann Tilke circuit.

    Anyone agree??

    • For the Indian GP in 2011, the teams have given their input on the circuit and suggested changes to the original circuit draft.

    • Ned Flanders said on 27th August 2010, 17:39

      Apparently Pedro de la Rosa had a large hand in the design of the Motorland Aragon track in Spain, and that seems to be a decent circuit, so you may have a point

  4. David B said on 22nd August 2010, 12:59

    I tend to hate Tilkodromes. And most of you told the reason.
    Some good excpetions: downhill S at Sepang (5 and 6, can’t remember the names), long right hander before 1 km straight in Shangai, turn 3 at Istanbul…and the ones you mentioned.
    Anyway, then curves on some hundreds…it’s really a few!!!

  5. David B said on 22nd August 2010, 13:00

    I meant “ten out of some hundreds”

  6. Raymond said on 22nd August 2010, 13:12

    That final Korean corner looks like Variante Ascari at Monza

  7. Rob C said on 22nd August 2010, 13:18

    i agree that the ’tilke-bashing’ is a bit too extreme, the track regs dont allow alot of scope. but i also think they should commision other designers aswell rather than just using tilke all the time.

    if monaco was only introduced recently would we still hold it in as high regard as we do? maybe for the scenery, but not for racing excitement.

  8. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd August 2010, 13:38

    Interesting that turns nine and ten at Bahrain didn’t rate a mention. The only way to take ten properly is to brake through nine – while turning at the same time. And that’s not easy.

  9. Dr Le Quack said on 22nd August 2010, 13:42

    The Jocken Rindt kurve at the A1 ‘which would have been worthy of a spot on the original Osterreichring’ – I strongly disagree with this one. The Osterreichring featured long, sweeping, mostly fast corners – the new JR kurve looked like someone had simply cut it in half :(

    The A1 Ring didn’t use one single corner of the original circuit (even the ‘chicane’ after the Bosch was recreated on a much tighter scale). Personally, scenery aside, I detest the A1 Ring.

    That said, I can’t disagree with many of your other choices, and for the record I think (with some caveats) that Malaysia, China, Turkey and to a lesser extent the changes made to Hungary are good examples of what Tilke can achieve. That’s not a great compliment though when you see just how many circuits he’s either designed or modified though.

    It also annoys me slightly when people refer back to teh FIA regs and say it’s not Tilke. Fair play, he does have his hands tied somewhat, but look at what Populous did with Silverstone! I actually think that Tilke – although let’s see what happens with Austin – has pretty much run out of ideas…

    One last thing! The 100R isn’t even really Tilke’s creation – it was there before and is the only corner left at Fuji that bears any relation to the pre-Tilke’d circuit…

    Rant over. :)

  10. F1iLike said on 22nd August 2010, 14:08

    Are you kidding me? How does that last corner on the korean track seem even remotely good.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 25th August 2010, 3:44

      It’s not so much the last corner as it is the last three: left kink, long right-hander, left kink. The reason why it looks good is because the corner immediately before this section is quite slow, so the cars will be accelerating through the entire section and the drivers will have to fight inertia through the first half of the right-hander and then give into it in the second half to be on the racing line.

  11. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 22nd August 2010, 14:09

    That middle section looks like it will ruin the Korea race. It’ll space the cars out far too much and hurt any faster cars trying to get past.

    I liked Fuji too. Certainly the racing was better than the return to Suzuka, though there’s partly the weather to thank for that. The last part was indeed a joke but I liked a lot of the rest of it.

    My favourite Tilke corner? The downhill double-left at Bahrain. I also like Turns 1 and 2 at Malaysia and China, shame they’re so similar though.

    • GeeMac said on 22nd August 2010, 14:50

      Turns 1 and 2 at Malaysia? If I remember right Martin Brundle once said it was a “crime” to force F1 cars to go that slowly round corners.

      That said I do really like Sepang. It’s my favorite of Tilke’s tracks.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 22nd August 2010, 19:55

      The dry race at Fuji was still more exciting than last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

    • sato113 said on 23rd August 2010, 22:36

      fuji 2008 in the dry was still a very good race.

      • Ned Flanders said on 27th August 2010, 17:43

        There have been 4 races held at Fuji, and three of them have been brilliant. That’s a pretty good ratio!

        (Although, admittedly, the 1977 race was a tragedy)

    • Tom L. said on 25th August 2010, 0:22

      I was going to say Turns 1 and 2 at Shanghai too, very unusual corner. Malaysia is good too – the way it drops down the hill is a bit different, and overtaking is definitely possible.

  12. Talladega Knight said on 22nd August 2010, 14:25

    Personally, I believe that Istanbul Park is one of Hermann Tilke’s better attempts of designing a circuit. Turn One at Istanbul just looks fantastic when you see F1 cars catching the apex there. Also there is a fantastic camera position at Turn One positioned at the barrier, which gives an incredible view. Turn 8 is one of the best examples of pushing man-and-machine to the absolute limit on the calendar.
    However, I belive one of Tilkes best corners is neither of the two mentioned above; but turns from 11 to 14. I know it’s just a chicane but it creates so much excitement as overtaking is possible, as the outside line to turn 12 then becomes the inside to turn 13, as demonstrated by Button in this year’s Grand Prix at the circuit.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 22nd August 2010, 15:11

      I think this is a pretty brave attempt by Ned Flanders to pick the best features out of a fairly unpoular set of creations.
      I agree with you Talladega that Istanbul is one his best designs and the kink-then-over-the-hill and down to the right-hander at 12 is pretty damn excellent.
      I’m not sure that Tilke can be given credit for a couple of other feautures listed in Ned’s article, to whit “turn eight’s challenge is enhanced further by its jarring bumps” and Fuji’s “incredible setting at the foot of Mount Fuji”.
      Picking the best corners from the Tilke tracks is always going to be like selecting musical highlights from the Des O’Connor songbook. Brave.

      • BasCB said on 22nd August 2010, 15:56

        I agree about this being a brave attempt by Ned to show Tilke is not just bad tracks.

        Nice job Ned!

        Ned did not even mention the weather in Fuji and Malaysia making races more interesting :-D

  13. Robert McKay said on 22nd August 2010, 14:36

    Turkey, Turns 1 and 2:

    “The cars drop downhill into a medium speed left hander followed immediately by a flat out right hander, a sequence of turns reminiscent of the Senna S at Interlagos.”

    …which is precisely why I don’t overly count it as great Hermann Tilke – he’s just nicked a good bit from another track. It’s a good complex but I’m not really crediting Tilke for it.

    Personally I think the list of good Tilke corners is pretty short. Turn 8 genuinely is a great turn. The “cascade” of turns at Bahrain is genuinely good. The fast flick at Malaysia is genuinely good. And there’s a few corners that also not great corners but produce good racing opportunities (last couple at Turkey, parabolika-to-hairpin at Hockenheim). And that’s about it, really, for me.

    Having said that, actually I liked the A1-Ring and think it should host Grands Prix again. What I specifically like about it (and perhaps fellow regulars are getting bored of my drum-banging on this) is that they layout is fairly simple and doesn’t have billions of corners on it. If Tilke could do that simple type of design for A1 Ring I don’t know why we can’t get that again instead of these exceptionally overdesigned layouts we get now.

    It’s a good, interesting article though, nice read.

    • BasCB said on 22nd August 2010, 15:53

      Your probably not going to be a fan of Tavo’s Austing GP track with it’s range of corners inspired by famous corners (rumours say some Silverstone, Spa, Monza and Turkey corners) ;-)

      • Robert McKay said on 22nd August 2010, 15:58

        If done right it could be great, it just wouldn’t automatically be attributable to Tilke’s powers of design.

        What I do remember is an interview article with Tilke in F1 Racing where he designed a fantasy track using the best corners in the world.

        He said what was difficult about it was not so much designing the profile of all the corners but making sure the condition were the same for entry into them. For example if you’re heading into a new track replica of Copse corner or Eau Rouge you had to be doing approximately the same speed as what you would be doing in the real one. If it was a bit different the whole characteristic and challenge of the corner changed. That was one of the tricky aspects about replicating classic corners, not least of all actually building them if they had massive changes in elevation etc.

        • bosyber said on 23rd August 2010, 12:58

          Yes, you make good points. I agree that it would be interesting to have new circuits not go for the “most corners per meter of track” record, it tends to lead to those simple angles “point-and-squirt” ones we got so many of. Or is that just because Tilke likes using them as filler material?

          I like being inspired by existing corners, but Robert, you mention a good reason not to just copy them: it isn’t just the corner, it is the track leading up to it, and out of it, ie. the placement within the circuit that makes it good.

          So, to repeat, please no copying, just inspriration for Austin.

          • bosyber said on 23rd August 2010, 12:58

            inspiration, that is :)

          • gabal said on 28th August 2010, 11:42

            Magny-Course was made by copy/paste method as a selection of great corners from the tracks all over the world. We all know how well that went…

            Rules are constricting and also the track owners – if I recall correctly Tilke had fully open hands in one case only – Turkey and that is his best track by far. For example, in China he was given a swamp and the Chinese organizers wanted to have a track which shaped like a Chinese symbol for progress and they wanted to have longest straight on the calendar. You try to make a good track layout with that list of requirements, bad terrain and restricting rules…

  14. Surely the FIA should have several designers producing circuits in order to create diversity in designs

    • Kimster said on 22nd August 2010, 16:32

      Agree, get an handfull designers and let them make a change to a circuit/corner.
      Then publish it on the F1-site (without name of designer to keep it exciting), let fans vote.
      Winnig design is implemented

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd August 2010, 0:43

        Fan votes?

        Oh, God no.

        Put it this way: the ten teams and the FIA can barely agree on anything. You want to make things “better” by allowing millions of fans – all of whom want different things – in on the decision-making process?

        Besides, circuit design is something of a black art. No-one is entirely sure what makes for good racing; Tilke’s long-straight-heavy-braking ethos has been around since the Nurburgring and La Sarthe were first conceived. There’s no way to guarantee that the fans would pick the best circuit layout, because the fans aren’t in a position to know what works.

      • John H said on 24th August 2010, 17:41

        Fan votes end up in the ‘average’ best choice, which never quite captures a single designer’s idiosyncrasies.

        What’s happened with Tilke is the same but at a smaller scale. It’s the choice with least risk.. the boring choice… the ‘sensible’ choice.

    • graigchq said on 23rd August 2010, 11:44

      you’d think so wouldn’t you…

  15. sumedh said on 22nd August 2010, 16:30

    Great article Ned. Anyone notice how all these corners have numbers instead of names, like on old circuits?

    Personally I would add turns 12,13,14 at Istanbul to the list as well. Agreed they are very slow bends but they allow cars to go side-by-side for an exceptionally long period. Most notable examples being, Button-Hamilton in 2010, Heikki-Rosberg in 2008 and Lewis with so many drivers in his GP2 race in 2006. You never know who will come out in the front on the start-finish straight.

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