Reasons to Watch the Sonoma Indy car Race…no really

Reasons to Watch the Sonoma Indy car Race, no really.

As you may or may not know my regular day job is working at the Simraceway Performance Center and the view out of my window is turn 1 of The Raceway at Sonoma (formerly Infineon formerly Sears point) so lets say I’ve seen a lot of cars go by, and driven my fair share of laps.

On the podcast we have indeed lamented to “good old days” of Indycar and while not an Indy Car site there are obviously many connections between F1 and the top stateside formula car series, the most current being Rubens Barrichello  (and maybe soon Felipe?)

Indycar has been coming here for quite a few years and quite honestly the races have been a bit of a bore. The width of the cars and track, along with the constant direction changes led to a lack of any obvious passing opportunities and the races generally became processional and were won and lost on tactical fuel mileage and pit stop strategy (joy!).

The upcoming race could see a wholesale change to that which is why I encourage you to visit or at least DVR the race this Sunday. Like them or not the new Dallara’s are better than the old ones, which isn’t saying much of course and it could have gone a lot further during it’s wholesale change, but it’s what we have and there’s still hope as the drivers are calling for more and more aero reduction (God please let this be a nudge to F1) and they did, of course, adopt the Indycar push to pass in a way (KERS/DRS) etc so you never know—I’d at least enjoy this idea.

So here goes.

Passing Opportunities!

Turn 7

I’ve been talking with the track over the previous months and they did even ask my opinion on layout—my first suggestion was to utilize the sharpest version of turn 7. The older version allowed a fast entry with not too many negatives of a slow mid-corner, as there was no room to get by. This “new” hairpin will increase the braking zone due to its lower minimum speed.

Passes will occur 2 ways here.  A pass on the inside with a good exit out of 6, but be careful as too much too late will lead to the good old re-pass as the driver who was passed flounders to make the apex. Blockers must also beware as the even tighter entry will be hard to make and a smart and well-timed move could be made from the outside to tuck under on the exit (side by side through 8 anyone? Not likely).

Turn 9

A re-profiling of the turn 9 chicane has made a nicer and more fluid series of turns, in practice last week however I saw a lot of drivers try to take an even bigger chunk out of the turns (which has now been made more hazardous by some nicely placed strips this week) so not a big change in passing ops but with more speed comes more downside if you get it wrong. Look for some wheels off and possibly some impact at the exit.

Turn 11

One of the best places to get by here is into turn 11—big speed running into a 180 degree turn (watch Nascar race here for example). Due to safety reasons the Indy car series had adopted the motorcycle version of turn 11 which cut the length of straight from 10 to nearly zero and eliminated the passing zone.

This year they have pushed the turn to the normal turn 11 (while still leaving some room for runoff). The profile of the shorter turn (tight and early apex followed by increasing radius exit) remains however and the entry is still narrow, but from observing the testing it seems every driver was struggling with keeping the car tidy and on line at the exit so I think we will see some exit drag races all the way to turn 1.

So from zero I think we now have 2 bona fide passing opportunities so I’m really looking forward to see what emerges in the race. Also the length of race has changed and now all cars must run a 3 stopper, which allows drivers to run full tilt boogie and not be running a mileage strategy.

If it still doesn’t work I guess we could always install sprinklers, and shortcuts?

I’ll be around all weekend either at the Simraceway simulators, giving hot lap rides around the track or perhaps even trying to get Dario’s wife’s autograph. Feel free to stop by and say hello and tell me what you think of my workplace, or just give me a wave when I go by.

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