Changes for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma should make the track more diffiultEnlarge Photo
Less than a week after announcing a new title sponsor for its upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series event, the Raceway in Sonoma unveiled a modified layout for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, scheduled for August 24-26.
Working with INDYCAR officials, Team Penske president Tim Cindric and his drivers Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, as well as enlisting the assistance of racing legend Mario Andretti, the Raceway extended the entrance to Turn 11 by 200 feet before race cars arrive at the hairpin, giving drivers more space to out-brake and set up passing opportunities before the right-hander into Turn 12. The track was also widened the exit of The Bus Stop (Turn 9) by 10 feet on driver's left, enhancing passing in this area. Rather than entering a looping right-hand turn at the seventh corner, drivers now contend with a U-turn, forcing out-braking maneuvers and creating an enhanced passing zone.
"These changes reflect nearly a year of study and consultation with drivers, engineers and sanctioning [body] officials," noted Steve Page, track president and general manager. "Combining these new corners and braking zones with INDYCAR's new competitive engine environment should open things up considerably. We're very anxious to see the results play out at the race in a few weeks." Teams will have the chance to test the changes before this race in an open test arranged by INDYCAR, scheduled for August 17.
With these modifications, the Raceway in Sonoma now has 12 turns consisting of 2.31 miles; the race distance increases from 75 to 85 laps. At this point, the modified track is only for INDYCAR sanctioned events.
On hand for the announcement at the track Briscoe noted, "We should all be excited with the [new] track reconfiguration as it will help open up more areas for passing. With the new Turn 7, it is going to be a slower corner with heavy braking and later turning," he said. "It will become an added passing opportunity. Turn 11 will also create a new challenge with a longer chute leading to carrying more speed into the Start/Finish line. I certainly welcome the new changes; they add to the beautify of driving the circuit."
Local driver JR Hildebrand, who hails from nearby Sausalito, believes the changes will help everyone. "A longer Turn 11 will help overtaking with another 150-200 feet to get it done. And it will also make the run up to Turns 1 and 2 more difficult because you're going up there with a lot more speed," he said. "Turn 7 is a tricky one, but it's time to try something different; having a hairpin at that point in the track will present more of an opportunity for passing. I think both turns will be places you can be successful in your passing attempts."