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IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay drives through Turn 7 during a testing session at Sonoma Raceway, Tuesday. (Mike Doran/Sonoma Raceway)


IndyCar drivers take advantage of testing session at Sonoma Raceway

By From page B1 | August 14, 2013

SONOMA — Oh, that pesky Turn 7.

A handful of IndyCar teams were at Sonoma Raceway Tuesday to take advantage of a one-day testing session ahead of the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, Aug. 23-25,  and one after another, the drivers couldn’t stop talking about Turn 7.

In light of it being a hard track on which to pass, Sonoma revamped a few turns before last season’s IndyCar event to allow the chance at more passing. The widening of Turn 9 and a longer approach to Turn 11 have generally been accepted by the drivers, but the slippery Turn 7 seems to always be on the minds of a few drivers.

“Being such a low-grip corner, if you try to go in there and try to go deep with a late-braking maneuver, things can really go wrong in a hurry,” Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliff said. “And sometimes if you’re the defending car, the car in front, the best thing to do is leave the door open and just let the guy sail on by.”

Hinchcliff, who was testing Tuesday along with teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay, knows there are different strategies to dealing with different situations in the difficult corner.

“It’s tough to enter from the inside,” he said. “Even if you’re trying to defend, you’re really opening yourself up to an attack on the exit because you’re really going to have to slow the car down and it’s really low-grip.

“It’s a really difficult corner because it’s so easy to overdo it because the window of grip is so small. The biggest thing is to have a car that’s consistent. If you can do that, you’re in a good position to protect yourself (in Turn 7) during the race.”

Hunter-Reay, who’s had his own troubles around the 12-turn, 2.38-mile Sonoma layout, knows the more drivers run laps, the better the track, and its different corners, will get.

“When you get into the race weekend with more and more cars pounding around, every lap that we do, we’re putting down that Firestone rubber,” Hunter-Reay said. “They are so soft, if you watch, you can actually see the marks that we are putting down. That has to continually happen. That’s where you get more grip from.

“The track will change for the better (over the course of the weekend), but we’re getting in some good work here (Tuesday). The whole grid knows how to get around this place. It’s all about making the right moves at the right time, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”

Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson, like many drivers, said his team is always trying to find the perfect fit for the challenging road course.
“We’re just trying to find our balance and find more grip (in the turns),” Wilson said. “We seem to lose a lot of time after the third lap on tires, they just degrade so fast that we’re working on that (to) see if we can find a better package. We’re experimenting with a few things.

“(But) this is a fun track with all the elevation changes, with the compressions and the crests. It makes it fun for the drivers.”

Except for maybe Turn 7.

Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or [email protected] Follow him o Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.

Brian Arnold

Brian Arnold

1992 graduate of San Francisco State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism.

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