Infineon Raceway at Sears Point - Novice Notes

Infineon Raceway has a unique poetic quality to it. The track flows like classical music in the Sonoma hills. It's a fantastic place to hone your consistency, since one false move will at best slow you down for the next couple of turns, and at worst put you into one of the many walls that loom trackside.

These notes are geared for the beginning driver at Infineon. They intentionally lack fine details. Rather, they are intended to lay down a basic foundation for driving the track, with detail to be filled in by in-car instruction.
Location
29355 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, CA [map] [satellite]
More Info
The Track

NOTE: it's a good idea to follow along with a track map and in-car video opened in another window. Links for both are above.

Turn 1 - Uphill Left

Turn 1 is a slight kink just after the start/finish line. You should be flat on the throttle through here, likely in 4th gear. The goal here is to make a smooth arc that starts before Turn 1, and ends just before turn-in to Turn 2. Once the car takes a set, look up the hill to find your exit point. A slowly tightening arc that leaves you parallel to the end of berm on the left side of the track at the top of Turn 1 is ideal, and may take several sessions to find. There is usually a flagger in the grandstands just beyond the top of the hill that you should look at each time. As you straighten the wheel along the Turn 1 berm, apply the brakes a bit and downshift to 3rd gear to prepare for Turn 2.

Turn 2 - Uphill Right

Turn 2 is a blind, over-crest right hand turn. Turn-in at the very end of the berm on the left side of the track. The apex is just out of view from the turn-in point. A sufficiently late apex will allow you to power through the turn. Look through the hill and have faith that the exit is there. Keep a bit of steering angle dialed in as you exit the turn to set you up for Turn 3.

Turn 3 - Uphill Left

Turn 3 is a really really really fun turn. The g-loading just after turn-in is one of the high points of the track for me. Exiting Turn 2, keep a slight amount of steering angle dialed in. Powering down the slight incline, the road will help you find the right amount of steering to lead you to a little pocket on the right side of the track that sets you up nicely to turn in for Turn 3. A bit of brakes as you enter the pocket will help the car turn up the hill. Look to the end of the berm on the right side of the track, get back on the throttle a bit, and enjoy. The dip in the road creates a feeling of compression that is unique to this track. The apex and exit points are at the end of the berm on the left side of the track.

Turn 3a - Uphill Right

At the apex/exit of 3, hold the wheel straight for half a beat, then turn in to 3a . This is also a blind-exit turn, so finding the right turn-in and apex points are critical. Power all the way through the turn, looking through the hill to pick up the exit point.

Turn 4 - Downhill Right

After powering down the hill from 3a, you will need to brake heavily for Turn 4. It's a downhill, off-camber, blind exit turn so you will need all the help you can get! The most common mistake that novices make here is not slowing down enough, particularly in a street car with understeering tendencies, so make sure to start braking before the "2" marker. Turn in just before the "1" marker, and get back on the power. If you find yourself missing the apex of 4, try to move your mental apex in to the inside of the berm, or try a bit of trail braking. Chances are that it will help you to find the right line. Track out to the left edge of the track to set up for Turn 5.

Turn 5 - Slight Downhill Right

Turn 5 should be taken mostly flat-out. The car is still in 3rd gear, and it's downhill so acceleration comes quickly. Even though it seems like just a kink, make it a real turn, with a slightly late apex. This turn is a great lesson in how unwinding the wheel a bit at the apex can help the car put the power down better. Brake as you exit the turn headed up the hill. Let off the brakes a bit as you crest the hill, then back on the brakes to settle the car to prepare for the entry to Turn 6. The car should be just to the right of mid-track before turning in to 6.

Turn 6 - Long Downhill Left - "The Carousel"

Turn 6 is a long downhill left-hander that exits to one of the fastest parts of the track, so getting this turn right has big benefits to overall lap time. It's a great place to practice throttle-steering, since you should hold a constant steering angle all the way through the turn, adjusting the position of the car on the track with the gas pedal. The apex is nearly at the bottom of the hill, which is out of view, so look through the hill as you proceed through the turn. About halfway through the turn, focus on getting the car to the apex. Start feeding in the power as soon as you know that you will achieve the apex. You should be flat on the gas as you pass the apex, slowly unwinding the wheel to help to put the power down. It may feel that the rear end won't hold through the exit of the turn, but it will.

Turn 7 - Right

Accelerating out of Turn 6, you will need to shift to 4th gear fairly soon. Continue accelerating to the braking markers for Turn 7, with the car all the way to the left of the track. Your speed approaching Turn 7 is as fast as you will be going on this track. Brake HARD and downshift to 3rd gear to prepare for 7. This is a good turn to work on trail braking, because of the generous runoff to the outside of the track. Don't worry so much about the first berm, instead look through the passenger window and aim for the second berm on the inside of the turn. A good apex is toward the end of that second berm, which will set you up for a series of late apexes in the esses. You should end up in the middle of the track after apexing. Short-shift into 4th gear here to keep things mellow.

Turns 8 and 8a - Right/Left

I won't go into too much detail here. Just don't get too excited through here because of the limited runoff, and work on consistent late apexes through each turn of the esses. Work on smooth right-left-right transitions, working with your car to find the optimal tempo of changing directions. Each car is different in this regard. The exit of 8a is blind, so work up speed here slowly. You will get to a point where you can work toward feeding in more throttle coming out of 8a and unwinding the wheel to bring you all the way to track-left. Be sure to keep looking ahead to the next turn to help you find the best line.

Turn 9 - Long Left

Turn 9 is taken flat on the gas. Hold the steering wheel in one position and let the car follow its natural line through here, which is basically holding on the left side of the track. Take a breath to prepare for Turn 10.

Turn 10 - Fast Right

Turn 10 can be a dangerous turn. It's very high speed, and has limited runoff room all around. It can also be very fun and rewarding! Coming out of Turn 9, line up the car with the entry berm on the left side of the track. As you straighten the wheel, get on the brakes lightly to scrub a bit of speed and give the front tires some bite. Ease on the gas and and turn in with authority to make a somewhat late apex on the inside of 10. You should giving full throttle well before the apex of the turn. Look down the track toward Turn 11 to help you through the turn. It can be scary if you focus on the apex berm. This is the best example of how your eyes can help pull you through a turn faster. Use all of the track at the exit, even if you don't need it. You will eventually, and so it's good to build the habit. The pit entrance is at the end of this straight.

Turn 11 - Hairpin Right

You will likely be carrying significant speed into Turn 11. Have the car lined up on the left side of the track and brake HARD in a straight line. Downshift to 2nd gear, and set the car up for a classic late apex. You can likely drive in the generous paint on the inside of the turn, just be careful accelerating out of the turn because of the torque available in 2nd gear. Ease on to the gas as you exit the turn, finding the right balance of applying throttle and unwinding steering, to end up close to the wall on the left side of the track . Accelerate through 2nd and 3rd gears and shift into 4th as you complete a lap of Infineon Raceway!