Only a day after Grand Prix of Baltimore circuit organizers announced slight adjustments to its circuit for its IndyCar race in September, race officials at Sonoma Raceway did likewise for its upcoming GoPro Grand Prix held Aug. 23-25.
Steve Page, president and general manager of the raceway in Sonoma, and Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe made the announcement during a press conference on Turn 11 of the road course on July 31.
The site of the announcement was appropriate as Turn 11 is one of three areas that will be modified for the race, Aug. 24-26. Turns 7 and 9 will also be modified.
The raceway worked with a number of people on the modifications, including Team Penske president Tim Cindric, Team Penske drivers Briscoe and Will Power, Mario Andretti and IndyCar officials, among others.
"These changes reflect nearly a year of study and consultation with drivers, racing engineers and sanctioning officials," Page said. "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."
The modifications to the turns are as follows:
• The entrance into Turn 11 will be extended by 200 feet before drivers encounter the hairpin. This will give drivers more space to out-brake each other and set-up a passing opportunity before the right-hander. The geometry of the modified Turn 11 will mirror the shorter turn used for IndyCar in previous years.
• The exit of Turn 9 (aka The Bus Stop) will be widened by 10 feet on drivers' left, giving competitors additional width in what was already a passing zone. The exit of the turn will now be 50 feet wide.
• At Turn 7, instead of the looping right-hander, drivers will now encounter a u-turn. The new turn will force drivers to out-brake each other, similar to Turn 11, and create a passing zone. Previously, drivers could maintain speed as they made the looping right-hander.
"This was something we worked on in the offseason and I think it is really going to make for some exciting racing," said Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet. "We will know more after the testing, but it looks like we will be able to go into Turns 7 and 11 expecting to be able to make a move. I've enjoyed the racing at Sonoma in the past and expect to see even better racing this year."
With the modifications, the track will now be 12 turns and 2.31 miles (it was 12 turns, 2.303 miles). The race distance will increase from 75 to 85 laps. At this point, the modified track will only be used for IndyCar-sanctioned events.
Drivers visit the facility for the first official test of the new layout on Aug. 17 during a full-field test session.
"As drivers, we should all be excited with the track reconfiguration as it will help open up more areas for passing," said Briscoe, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske entry. "With the new Turn 7, it is going to be a slower corner with heavy braking and later turning, which 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 because they added to the beauty of driving the circuit."