Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte shared his insights on Sears Point Raceway prior to practice Saturday morning from behind the wheel of a van. Below are a few of Labonte's thoughts on the racetrack and the technique it takes to be...
Interstate Batteries Pontiac driver Bobby Labonte shared his insights on Sears Point Raceway prior to practice Saturday morning from behind the wheel of a van. Below are a few of Labonte's thoughts on the racetrack and the technique it takes to be competitive around the 11-turn, 2.0-mile road course.
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
Labonte: "You're in high gear, you come around the corner (heading to Turn 1) and you're hauling the mail pretty good. You hug the left side, drift out and gets real tight. It looks like it's probably not all that tight, but it gets real tight. Now, you're up against the wall (on the right side). You're still in fourth gear, you kind of 'blip' the gas pedal a little bit, come down and cut this corner (Turn 1) - using a lot of wheel input - and you're like, 'Whoa, I'm going to run out of racetrack.' It's all you can do. You use up all the racetrack right there to get around this corner. It's a real tight, tight section. You almost make another turn over what you used to make. If there is going to be a problem there, we're probably going to stack them all up because it'll be so hard to get slowed down and so hard to get by."
Turn 2 (Right-hander)
Labonte: "Obviously, there is a big elevation change from Turn 1 up to Turn 2. You're in second gear [entering the turn]. You drift out to the rumble strips. A lot of people spin out right here (exiting the turn). What happens is the car gets real light in the back because you're on the brakes, over the hill and turning at the same time, so it does get a little loose right there."
Turn 3 (Slight left-hander)
Labonte: "You're pretty hard on the brakes. You can see a lot of scrapes in the racetrack here because the car rolls over a bunch. You get your left-side tires up. Usually the left-side tires aren't really on the ripple strips. They're almost above it because your left side is up in the air."
Turn 3a (Slight right-hander)
Labonte: "You ever see those pictures that they take here with the cars on two wheels? This is where they take them, right here. You come around this corner and you hit this curb - 'Bang!' The car gets a little bit airborne right here.
(EXITING THE TURN) "You're still in third gear here. You use up all the racetrack you can. This is a part like it was back there (Turn 2). You get real light and the car has a tendency to spin the rear tires. If you're not careful, you can lose a lot of forward bite here."
Turn 4 (Hard right-hander)
Labonte: "This is one of your first true passing points. Entering the corner - and I don't know if it's from the construction that went across here throughout the re-building [process] - but, there is a dip right here, so you have to be kind of careful. You shift down to second gear here. It's pretty tight right here (at the apex), but you try not to get too much bump on [the ripple strips] because it shoots you out [to the left -side of the track]."
(EXITING THE TURN) "You're still in second gear. You turn a lot of RPM here. This comes up to another passing point up here (Turn 7).
Turn 7 (Hard right-hander)
Labonte: "You try to hang it out as wide as possible (entering the turn). This is real hard braking here - real hard braking. The thing about 7 is that it's not just a right-hand turn, but it's a right and then you've got to get back to the left, so it gets real tight there. People use up a lot of racetrack. You'd like to be able to exit the corner and [stay to the right] with some speed, instead of coming off to the left. You'd love to be able to go over [the rumble strips] and get as straight a shot as you can (exiting the corner)."
Turn 8 (Slight left-hander)
Labonte: "You might have to 'blip' it (the throttle) a little bit over the bump (heading to 8). [Entering 8] You're off the gas, on the brakes pretty hard. You've really got to get some [steering] wheel input in here to get the car to turn. It kind of loses grip right here because the track is worn out. You get your left-sides up on the curb a little bit right here - it looks like they painted them last night. Then, you've got to get set up."
Turn 8a (Slight right-hander)
Labonte: "It's real critical to get through this corner here because you've got to get set up to the right for [Turn 9]. What happens is, if you hit [Turn 8a] wrong, it screws you all the way up to Turn 10. You'd love to be able to come off this corner kind of low.
(EXITING THE TURN) "You're still in third gear. What happens is a lot of people come out and they use up all the racetrack. The ideal place would be to not even get over to the left."
Turn 9 (Slight left-hander)
Labonte: (ENTERING THE TURN) "You go to fourth [gear]. This is almost one of the fastest places on the racetrack besides the frontstretch. You're in fourth gear and you're just kind of hugging the left side of the racetrack. You could pass somebody. It's not a passing point, but you could pass somebody."
Turn 10 (Right-hander)
Labonte: "You downshift back to third and you're heavy on the brake. You've got to get your car set up. You usually try to hit the apex late. You've still got a lot of wheel input, so you can keep turning and get off this corner straight."
Turn 11 (Hairpin right-hander)
Labonte: "You drift out, still in third gear. The track kind of has a little dip [setting up for the turn]. It's a little rough. Hard, hard braking, of course; you downshift to second, stay out as wide as you can without clipping [the water barrels]. You can use a late apex like most of the road racers do, but most of us, we get down in here and try to get the left-side tires on the 'red and white' (rumble strips) because there is grip right there. The track is worn out there, but that paint gives you grip. A lot of times you'll hit the tires on the right side of your car (with the door of the car).
"You drift out wide and you've got to get set up for the front straightaway."