Infineon Raceway, formerly known as Sears Point, is one of the more dramatic racing circuits in America. As much as this track’s name makes us want to dress up like Buzz Lightyear and shout, “To Infineon and beyond!” the track itself makes us want to throw on our racing shoes and do our best Gary Sheehan impression around this twisty masterpiece carved into the hillside terrain of Sonoma’s wine country.
Speaking of Gary Sheehan, he recently set a Limited AWD time attack track record at Global Time Attack’s event at Infineon while piloting the meticulously prepared and maintained LIC Motorsports ’04 Subaru Impreza STI. So rather than doing a Sheehan imitation (which would involve renting a Steve Carell mask and a hobbit-size racing suit), we went directly to the man, the myth, the legend himself for some insight on his home track:
Location Sonoma, CA
Track Configuration 2.52-mile, 12-turn, clockwise circuit
Elevation Change 160 feet
Other Facilities Quarter-mile NHRA dragstrip, Motorsports Business Park (more than 70 motorsports-related shops), RV park, Cougar Mountain campground, Grandstand and terraces, NCK Kart racing school, Simraceway Performance Driving Center
“Infineon has to be one of the most picturesque and challenging circuits in North America, and it also happens to be my favorite. In my mind, it has everything a driver could want: a beautiful flow, massive elevation changes, challenging high-speed corners and, yes, a distinct element of risk in some of the most daunting parts of the circuit. And when you are not on the racing surface, the track facilities are absolutely fantastic. It’s a perfect place to practice the art of racing.
“Infineon means business from the very start, beginning with the rollercoaster ride that is the turn 1–2 complex. It starts with a long straight leading into the very-fast uphill left-hand turn 1. This is exactly the high-risk element that makes this place such a wild ride! The entry to the corner is a slight left-hand kink, meaning you have to bleed speed with the car partially loaded up to the right, making braking tricky at such a high speed. Then as you crank in more left steering and really get into the corner as you head steeply uphill, which catches the car and compresses the suspension even more. You have to take a wide line in to avoid the big bump on the left side, but still hustle the car left to set up for the tight turn 2 right-hander. A miscalculation or slow hands will send you off the right side of the track into the hillside at a very high rate of speed.
“Turn 2 is exactly the opposite, but equally sinister. It’s a medium-speed, blind right-hander at the very top of the hill. After battling to get all that front-straight speed bled off in the fast uphill sweeper and muscling the car over to the left, you find yourself staring into the face of a mountain and the track completely disappearing over the crest. Because there are so few visual queues, this is a corner that must be learned and earned through practice. When you turn-in, you still can’t see the apex, so you’re doing it on faith. But if done right, you get the car to climb all over the ultra-wide apex curbing right at the crest of the hill. You still can’t see the apex, but now is the time to get on the throttle to maximize your exit speed. As the hill flattens out, the car gets light and your grip goes away. It’s only then that you can see your exit, but by that time you’ve played your hand and it’s up to physics to decide if you stay on the track or paint your car with tire wall.
“And that’s just the first two corners of a 12-turn track! The rest of the circuit is just as demanding, with breathtaking chicanes cresting hills, daunting blind corner entries and exits, high-speed sweepers with beckoning barriers and tight hairpins that punish the brakes going in and the tires coming out. Getting the most out of a 550+ whp beast like LIC’s awesome STI on this track is not for the feint of heart, but when it’s done right, it is an incredibly rewarding experience.”