2012 Grand Prix of Sonoma Preview 2012 Grand Prix of Sonoma Preview 2012 Grand Prix of Sonoma Preview

So for the eighth time, the IndyCar series returns to Sonoma Raceway for the third to last round of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Championship.

The Circuit

Sonoma Raceway Circuit Map

Date: 24-26 August 2012
Lap Length: 3.696km / 2.310mi
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Fri 14:50-16:05
Free Practice Session 2 Sat 10:50-11:50
Qualifying Session Sat 14:30-15:45
Sunday Warm-Up Sun 09:00-09:30
Race (85 laps, 196 miles) Sun 13:35-16:00
Past IndyCar Winners: Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda) 2011
Dario Franchitti (Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda) 2010
  Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda) 2009
  Ryan Briscoe (Penske Racing Dallara Honda) 2008
  Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda) 2007

While not always the most able-bodied of circuits in terms of overtaking ability, the Raceway at Infineon, located just north of San Francisco in the Napa Valley, has yet to deliver a dull, boring race. With no signs of this happening this weekend, all race fans can look forward to the resumption of furious racing action and the next dramatic act in the 2011 title race to be played out.

A 14-storey climb greets the cars just as they move through Turn 1, and the blind apex through Turn 2 certainly creates a challenge for drivers. The lure of overtaking often blurs the line between that and common sense, and more often than not will lead to a collision and plenty of sandy off-circuit wheel-spinning.

The circuit has received a makeover of sorts, performed with the intention of improving overtaking and therefore improving the show for fans.

Having been lengthened a little bit, the final corner has also been modified to improve overtaking up the inside going into the final straightaway. The first corner at the bottom of the hill has been lengthened to make it wider and will subsequently encourage dives up the inside for that elusive position. It should certainly spice things up a bit but it can also give the Pace Car more to do than usual.

The Form Guide

As we reported earlier this week, a mammoth fifteen drivers remain in mathematical contention for this year’s championship crown, although realistically it is only five drivers who have realistic ambitions to claim the coveted title at the end of the season.

What we’re all but guaranteed is that Dario Franchitti won’t be able to defend the title he’s won for the last three seasons, leaving Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, Hélio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe to scrap it out for top honours.

Will Power is a two-time winner at Sonoma RacewayPower will be looking to continue an upswing in momentum after reclaiming the championship lead at the last round at Mid-Ohio. The Australian will be making his 100th IndyCar Series race start this weekend, and no doubt hoping that the century milestone will get him back into the winner’s circle for the first time since the fourth round of the 2012 season at Sao Paulo.

“It’s insanely competitive,” Power said of the 2012 season, in which he lies a scant five points in front of fellow three-time race-winner this season, Andretti Autosport racer Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“You haven’t seen anyone consistently win poles or win races. No one dominates this series. It just proves how tough it is and tight it is. You have to work on all the finer points of your driving just to be competitive.

Power is the form driver at Sonoma Raceway, and is the only multiple-winner at this twisty, undulating circuit. Both wins here have come from pole position.

The Sonoma Grand Prix begins with practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday before the 85-lap race starts at 1.35pm on Sunday (06:30am Monday AEST).

Matthew Lennon
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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.