A satellite view is preferable...
A satellite view is preferable to a map as it is a more accurate depiction of the track and shows more detail. This is Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA.
Not too many years ago, there were few options to help you learn a new track. You could walk around it, but that was pretty much the only look you would have before riding. In the days before satellite imagery, track maps, YouTube videos and televised races, you'd be lucky to even know how many turns a particular track had before you went out for the first practice. We say "practice" because back then there were no track days either, meaning it was quite common to start a race with only a handful of laps under your belt and barely knowing which way the track went.
Now, things are much easier. There are a number of ways you can prepare for a new track that will help you learn the course quickly as well as reduce the chance of riding off or crashing due to unfamiliarity during those maiden laps. And no, it's not a matter of picturing the track as a certain animal like Ben Spies claimed to do in a Yamaha promotional video last year (although that would make things interesting). Rather, with some time and effort beforehand you can take your first laps on an unfamiliar track confidently, knowing which way the turns go, what spots to look for and even what gear to be in for each corner before you ever turn a wheel.
In this case, the Internet is your source for all kinds of help. Track maps exist online for practically every course in the world, and you should find one for the track you're planning to attend and print a few copies. The more official the map the better, as it will more accurately represent the track's layout and the corners will be numbered properly for future reference. But because even the best maps can be inaccurate, find a satellite image of the track and print that off as well. Even if the map is perfect, it most likely won't show things like the changing width of the track or even the correct radius of some turns.
It's possible to find onboard...
It's possible to find onboard video from almost any track in the world online, which can help immeasurably with learning a racetrack. Of course, it helps if the video features an experienced rider taking the correct lines.
Aside from knowing in advance how the track is laid out, your objective is also to find-in advance-reference points that you can use once you get on the track. Start with the satellite view: Where are the curbs positioned? Are there bridges over the track? Are any corners or chicanes tighter or more open than they appear on the track map? All this information will be useful. For example, the typical track map for Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA does not even show the chicane on the front straight, but some satellite views will show the curbs in place for the motorcycle layout. Conversely, a track map shows the back straight with what looks to be a tight chicane, whereas in reality it is much more open.
Once you have a map and satellite picture in hand and know the basic layout of the course, the next step is to find an onboard video from the track, either online or from race coverage. Take some time here to find a good quality video; you don't want a novice rider wobbling around off-line with the camera shaking and heavy-metal music in the background. Be creative in your search (hint: don't limit yourself to YouTube) and look for an experienced rider going a decent clip on a relatively clear track. Obviously, the video will help you further learn the layout of the track but now you can deal in three dimensions rather than two, learning where the hills are, the camber of the surface, and turns where your view may be compromised.
Continue your search for reference points, noting buildings, fences or trees away from the track as well as potential spots on the track such as pavement changes, curbs and brake markers. Once you've learned more about the track layout, focus on the rider in the video-note the lines taken as well as speed and gear in each corner, if possible. If the rider takes a decidedly non-conventional line in a particular spot, try to find out why. It could be the specific layout of the circuit, an effort to string corners together properly, or simply a bad line choice by the rider. Onboard video can often be deceiving when it comes to altitude changes, and this is one item to keep in mind while you are watching.