Five races before the end of the 2010 IZOD Indycar season, the inaugural Mario Andretti Road-Course Championship Trophy will be presented to Will Power this weekend at Infineon Raceway in northern California. Our regular IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon partakes in more tea-leaf reading to predict the outcome of this weekend’s event at Infineon Raceway, as well as look at some of the latest news items in IndyCar land…
Since Mid-Ohio, the two big news items to come from the IndyCar Series have been the decision to re-form a GPDA-like drivers committee to provide drivers with a collective voice toward tweaks and interpretations to current rules and the formation of new rules. This has mostly come about as a result of the controversial blocking penalty handed to Helio Castroneves at Edmonton.
The second news item concerns the 2011 series schedule, which is close to being finalised and announced. It has been confirmed that Texas Motor Speedway will host twin races in 2011. Both races will take place on the same day, be 114 laps in length and each will carry one-half the normal championship points available for one race weekend. This decision will no doubt see closer racing and will provide more excitement for fans, not that either of these things have ever been lacking at Texas in recent years.
Infineon Raceway is located among the Sonoma Mountains in California, and is the northern-most county in the greater San Francisco Bay Area Counties. The circuit has hosted IndyCars since 2005, and in the five previous runnings, has not seen a repeat winner. All five of these previous winners will contest the race this weekend.
Over the course of a lap, the circuit winds through many elevation changes, with a 14- storey climb alone going through Turns 1 and 2. These elevation changes wreak havoc with car setup. Drivers need car handling to be at its peak to handle the twists and turns on the upper part of the circuit, while also requiring maximum engine power and tyre performance to be able to quickly find grip and to apply the throttle on the straights. Finding the balance between the two can be tricky, and plenty of spins and accidents will be seen at Turns 1 and 5.
The Infineon event has typically provided action-packed racing. Dario Franchitti was the beneficiary in 2009, with the race being mired by a not-unexpected fracas on the opening lap.
At this event last year, Will Power suffered a near career-ending accident after heavily collecting the stricken car of Nelson Philippe, which resulted in a fractured ankle for Philippe, and two fractured vertebrae in Power’s back. Power’s path to recovery has been well-documented and in 2010 he will return in emphatic style to receive the Road-Course Championship trophy. In true Power fashion, there is every chance of seeing yet another dominant victory to further build a lead over the fast-closing Dario Franchitti in the overall series championship stakes.
Infineon is known for throwing up surprises and I would bet on seeing any number of them this weekend. Expect a thriller!
[Original images via Trackpedia and AUTOSPORT]