Saturday, August 18, 2012
Test Leads to Positive Reviews by Drivers at INDYCAR Session in Sonoma
by John Cardinale
SONOMA, Calif. -- Changes made to the raceway in Sonoma's layout for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma drew positive reviews from IZOD IndyCar Series drivers testing at the 2.310-mile road circuit on Friday.
Officials at the raceway in Sonoma worked with INDYCAR drivers, teams and officials to modify the layout with major changes made to Turns 7, 9 and 11. Most felt the changes were positive entering the race weekend, Aug. 24-26. Twenty drivers attended the test.
“Turn 7 is going to be better passing, just the fact that it’s deeper and harder braking and a much wider entry. That was a good change. Turn 9 is just about the same corner it was, maybe a bit faster and it might set you up for passing into Turn 11,” said Team Penske’s Will Power, who consulted with the raceway on the changes and enters the race atop the point standings. “This new car is really quick around here. I think it’s going to be good racing. Fans are in for a treat.”
The full day of testing allowed teams to acclimate themselves to the course before practice begins in Sonoma on Aug. 24. While lap times were not indicative of the work being done to prepare cars, drivers came away feeling like the track had been improved.
“I think the track is certainly a lot better. I felt like the chicane (Turn 9) is a lot better. The new hairpin at Turn 7 is going to be better for braking, and it could give you an opportunity going into Turn 9. Having Turn 11 extended is much better. Before the turn was too close and you couldn’t build momentum,” said driver Graham Rahal. “I think the track did a phenomenal job making adjustments. One of our biggest challenges as drivers is getting our opinions heard and getting things changed. It means a lot to us to see that.”
Most drivers agree that the tightening of Turn 7 into a hairpin U-turn was the most effective change, but differed on their opinions of other changes. Still, all credited officials with the raceway for making changes to improve the racing.
"I think opening up the Turn 9 chicane is definitely a move in the right direction. A lot of the moves were done to help the passing, but until running side-by-side it's hard to tell if it's really going to be effective," said Sausalito’s JR Hildebrand of Panther Racing. "I give the track a lot credit for making the changes and trying to adjust. We'll see as we continue to run how it all pans out."
Though official lap times were not available, cars from Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing set the pace at the test.
Unofficial lap times provided by engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda had Penske's Helio Castroneves and Power fastest among Chevy-powered cars at 1 minute, 19.1 seconds. Scott Dixon was the fastest Honda at also with a 1:19.1.
Charlie Kimball was back behind the wheel of the No. 83 NovoLog Flex Pen Honda for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing after missing the Mid-Ohio race with a hand injury sustained in a testing accident on July 26.
The entire IZOD IndyCar Series returns next week for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. The weekend will also feature the Cadillac Sonoma Grand Prix World Challenge and the Formula Car Championship. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 800-870-RACE (7223) or visit racesonoma.com/indycar.
GoPro Indy® Grand Prix of Sonoma Weekend
WHAT: Big O Tires Racing Season Presents: GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
WHEN: Aug. 24-26
CIRCUIT: 2.31-mile, 12-turn road course
2011 WINNER: Will Power (Team Penske)
NOTABLE: The weekend will include Brasil IT+ Pole Day on Saturday, Aug. 25, as well as the Cadillac Sonoma World Challenge and Formula Car Challenge.
TICKETS: $10-$65 single day/$65-$85 weekend; parking is FREE and kids 12 and under are FREE (Friday and Saturday). Garage passes are available for purchase.
INFORMATION: 800-870-RACE (7223), racesonoma.com/indy, ticketmaster.com