Some major changes in several turns will be in place for this year's racing season at Watkins Glen International. The Glen is undergoing a major renovation project, with changes including the removal of gravel traps and grass, modification of the catch fence, installation of SAFER barriers, and the relocation of guard rails.
The project will be the largest improvement project on the 3.4-mile road course since the installation of new catch fences prior to the first IndyCar Series race at the track in 2005. The renovation project will affect all series that race on the 3.4-mile circuit and include improvements to the inner loop or "bus stop," Turn 5 (known as Turn 9 of the short-course or the "Carousel"), Turn 10 and Turn 11.
"We make it a point to evaluate our entire facility every year and we identified these areas as needing improvement," said Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International. "The feedback we received from each of the sanctioning bodies was very positive and in agreement with our recommendations. We think the drivers will like what they see when they return here and it should lead to even better on-track action for our fans."
Officials from Watkins Glen International and its parent company, the International Speedway Corporation, recognized a need for improvements around the road course. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 season, officials from WGI, ISC, and North American Testing Co. (NATC) convened to discuss ideas of possible improvements. After an initial list was formed, the track officials met with executives of NASCAR, the Indy Racing League, Grand-Am, and all of the other series that compete on the road course to gather feedback. Based upon those discussions, improvement plans were devised that will be completed prior to the start of the 2010 season.
Along the portion of the course known as the inner loop or "bus stop," the existing gravel trap will be replaced with a paved run-off area, which will allow more side-by-side racing throughout the tight turns. Additionally, a SAFER barrier will be installed along the interior concrete barrier wall and the existing catch fence system will be removed with a modified version installed.
Turn 5, also known as the "Carousel Turn" will include the removal of the existing grass to pave an extended run-off area and the installment of a rumble strip built to FIA specifications along the track edge of pavement. The existing guard rail system will be modified to install a crash attenuator system, to help absorb the impact when a car makes contact with the wall.
Similarly, the project in Turn 10 will include the removal of a portion of the current gravel trap, which will be replaced with another paved run-off area. Additionally, the current FIA rumble strip will be extended along the track edge of pavement.
Finally, Turn 11 improvements will feature the installation of a SAFER barrier in front of the exterior guide rail system. Additionally, all grass areas between the new SAFER barrier and the track will be paved to help provide better traction when a driver is attempting to bring their car to a stop.