It's been a LONG time since I talked track design!
The track design program TD has been talking about is a neat little program and fun to explore ideas with.
It's really limited, though, because of its tile paradigm. Tracks aren't really designed on a tile system.
so - several schools of thought here:
1. Temporary track:
If you're using a parking lot or something and need to put up and take down your track OR you just want to change it on a regular basis. . .there are specific needs that you have to take into account. For instance, you would want to standardize the lengths of your Pipes/boards, etc. - then you could quite literally just use any drawing program or even Excel (make all columns same size as rows. . .makes good grid!
Better way, though, is to make a scale sized "sandbox" - a large piece of paper and actual sticks that are scale sized.
2. Permanent track:
here's where you really need to think design. this track will need specific elements BUT will need some flexibility. You don't want to run the exact same track FOREVER. . . you'll want to be able to make some small modifications to change the routes.
if you look at the track at Revelation Raceway, you'll notice that merely by changing where a few boards are, he can completely change the feel of the track. (www.revrace.com/THE_TRACK.cfm
this is a difficult idea to implement and, for a track that is in development, I've been working with the future owners on this type of track design. You have NO idea how many iterations we've gone through and I really don't think we're done.
Elements of track design:
There are several that are considered fairly essential:
Chicane - this is a "jog" in the track. Example on a full-size circuit: http://www.trackdays.co.uk/shared/im...ft-chicane.gif
. On a RC track, it is anything that forces a straightline run to shift one way or the other, and usually back again. Think changing lanes on a freeway.
Radius Turn - this is a turn that decreases in radius and then increases as you exit. this is one of the most challenging elements available.
Keyhole Turn - this is a turn that looks like a, well, keyhole. Also a classic element, it is also very challenging. Starting with a sharp slightly more than 90 degree turn Left (right) it enters into a longer 180 degree turn Right (left) and then into an exiting 90 degree turn Left (right).
Straightway - make this a back straightway otherwise the cars move too fast to track well and other racers get in the way, visually!
Sweeper - best placed entering OR exiting the straight. If you place them at both, you end up with a VERY fast and tough to gear straight.
Hairpins - fairly obvious. Use sparingly and don't repeat them. They tend to be boring. Use them to slow speed down but DON'T put at the end of a straight unless you really want to sell parts!
I think that covers most of the elements.
Sketch out your track and then imagine you're driving it. Literally trace your way through the track, imagining the driving line, apexes, lift points, throttle points, etc. As you find a place that is abrupt or not natural, change it, refine until you have a flowing track that is challenging but enjoyable.