New-look Sears Point awaits IMSA series

SONOMA, Calif. (May 6, 2002) -- When racing teams from the American Le Mans Series begin arriving at Sears Point Raceway for the May 19 Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters, they may not recognize the place. As part of a massive $50 million...

SONOMA, Calif. (May 6, 2002) -- When racing teams from the American Le Mans Series begin arriving at Sears Point Raceway for the May 19 Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters, they may not recognize the place.

As part of a massive $50 million modernization program, the Northern California road racing circuit has changed a great deal since the sports cars of the American Le Mans Series last competed at the track in 2001.

Changing the look of the facility in dramatic fashion is a new high-rise permanent grandstand, built on the paddock side of the race track along the start/finish line. Visible from some distance away from the track, the grandstand also contains suites and race control.

The raceway has also constructed new terraced seating above turns 7-9, similar to the popular terraced seating that opened at turn 2 last year. In addition, the previous cross-over bridges at turn 10 and at start/finish have been demolished and replaced by walk-through tunnels.

Of major interest to drivers and racing teams will be a change in the racing circuit itself, including a re-design of the frontstretch and a new shape to the first turn. Both resulted from the permanent separation of the facility's drag strip from the road racing circuit. Some sections of the track have also been repaved.

Also new is an enlarged and expanded pit road which now extends close to the entrance to the first turn, as well as increased runoff at turns 8, 8a, 9 and 10. Runoff was added at most of the rest of the turns last year. The paddock has also been expanded by nearly 80 percent, and more permanent garages have been built.

Four classes of American Le Mans Series cars will compete in the two-hour, 45-minute Grand Prix of Sonoma. The race will be televised live by the SPEED Channel beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT). Live coverage by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web can be heard online at www.imsaracing.net.

Ticket information is available online at www.searspoint.com or by calling the Sears Point Raceway ticket office at 1-800-870-RACE.

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