08-10-2012, 10:03 PM
Officially Welcomed to the 'Fest
Location: Nor Cal
Join Date: Jan 2005
Mein Auto: 330i
Big changes are in store for the IndyCar race at the track formerly known as Infineon. The Aug. 26 race, renamed the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, will be run on a slightly reconfigured road course.
The big knock against the race, which will be run for the eighth time, has been that there wasn't enough passing because of the narrow, twisting track and the scarcity of real passing zones.
With help from current and former drivers and from IndyCar, raceway officials decided to modify three corners to prevent the race from falling into the dreaded "fuel mileage race" label, in which practically the only lead changes are due to pit stops.
"The races haven't been interesting the last couple of years," Steve Page, raceway president and general manager, admitted.
IndyCar is "a great spectacle with very fast cars," he said. "But the one thing that we have not been satisfied with over the past couple of years is the quality of competition on the track." The changes "should open things up considerably," he said.
Turn 11, a hairpin that leads to the big run to the start/finish line, will get the most dramatic remodeling. The entrance to the turn will be lengthened by 200 feet, and the turn itself will be tighter with a wider exit.
Because the exit to Turn 9 - the so-called Bus Stop - will be widened by 10 feet to 50 feet, that too becomes a passing zone. Going around the gradual Turn 10, the cars will approach Turn 11 with more speed than in the past. Drivers will battle to out-brake each other, hopefully leading to more passing.
The third change eliminates the buttonhook at Turn 7 in favor of a tight corner with plenty of room for two cars side by side.
"I'm excited about this," Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe said at a news conference held at Turn 11. "I think these changes are really going to make the racing good."
He took a spin around the course - with the imminent changes marked by cones -and said he was delighted. The old Turn 7 was tricky and "a real pain ... to be honest. It was a little dangerous." Now it "will be the major passing zone." Since Turn 9 will be faster, he said, there will be less separation among drivers going into 11, so it "will become a passing zone."
As a result of the modifications, the track length grows to 2.31 miles (from 2.30). The race will increase from 75 to 85 laps.
Page said the changes have been under study for nearly a year, and racing greats Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford were among those providing input.
The modifications will apply only to the IndyCar race; the NASCAR and AMA courses will not be altered.
According to Page, the even longer entrance to Turn 11 used for the NASCAR race wouldn't work for IndyCar because of safety concerns. There wouldn't be "sufficient run-off if someone came in full speed and had no brakes," he said.
The first official test of the new layout comes Aug. 17, and all the drivers will take part. The test is open and free to the public.
Last edited by MCSL; 08-10-2012 at 10:08 PM.