The Raceway in Sonoma (formerly known as Infineon Raceway) isn't usually considered one of the more passing-friendly venues in the IZOD IndyCar Series. But a variety of modifications to the 12-turn layout used there by the series could change that.
Three major changes will be implemented for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend (Aug. 24-26) in an attempt to liven things up in California's wine country.
The first change that drivers will notice comes at Turn 7, which will now be a right-hand U-turn instead of a sweeper. The corner is situated at the end of a straightaway coming out of the track's signature Carousel.
From there, drivers will shoot through the esses and head for Turn 9, which will be widened by an additional 10 feet to give more room for passing opportunities there.
After going through Turn 10, the drivers will then encounter the final change made to the INDYCAR layout at Sonoma -- a right-hand Turn 11 that's been extended 200 feet to create a longer braking zone.
"These changes reflect nearly a year of study and consultation with drivers, racing engineers and sanctioning officials," said Sonoma president/GM Steve Page. "Combining these new corners and braking zones with INDYCAR's new competitive engine environment should open things up considerably and we're very anxious to see the results play out at the race in a few weeks."
Drivers will get their first crack at the new layout in an Aug. 17 test session. Defending Sonoma winner Will Power said he was looking forward to it.
"We will know more after the testing, but it looks like we will be able to go into Turns 7, 9 and 11 expecting to be able to make a move," the Team Penske driver said. "I've enjoyed the racing at Sonoma in the past and expect to see even better racing this year."
Another competitor that's keen on driving the new Sonoma is California native J.R. Hildebrand of Panther Racing.
"A longer Turn 11 especially will help, because the way we ran the track previously, we never could quite be in a position to make a pass," he said. "But with another 150 or 200 feet you can probably get it done. And it will also make the run up to Turns 1 and 2 more difficult, because you're going to be going up there with a lot more speed.
"Turn 7 is a tricky one, but it's time to try something different and having a hairpin at that point in the track will present more of an opportunity for passing. It will be more like a standard braking zone on the outside of the track, which will help the racing."
Quotes were taken from a Raceway in Sonoma press release.