The American Le Mans Series will be at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., for The X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sunday, July 22. Terry Borcheller of Phoenix, Az., drives the Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7R in the ALMS and is considered one of...
The American Le Mans Series will be at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., for The X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sunday, July 22. Terry Borcheller of Phoenix, Az., drives the Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7R in the ALMS and is considered one of the favorites to take the GTS class win in the event, as well as the 2001 GTS championship. Borcheller and team owner Franz Konrad won the GTS class in the 12 Hours at Sebring earlier this year. In the following narrative, Borcheller describes his special feelings for Sears Point Raceway, as well as a lap at speed around the 2.52-mile, 12-turn circuit.
By Terry Borcheller
Sears Point is a special place and is one of my favorite road courses in North America. It was where I did my first driving school in 1989. My first time there, I had the opportunity to drive a Formula Ford and a sedan when I completed the Bondurant four-day course. It was the place for my baptism into road racing in anything but a go-kart. Sears Point is also the place that I would later be trained to be one of the Bondurant Elite. In later years, track records in World Challenge and Speedvision Cup were added to my memories, along with several class victories. Sears Point is just one of those special places.
As you accelerate down the pit lane straightaway, you are looking for the possibilities of action in the pit lane that might join you on the race track as you try to enter turn one. You're also preparing for a very simple transition that can instantly turn into excitement as you cross over the infamous drag strip section by the start/finish line. Clipping close to the edge of the end of the pit wall is a key to your entry onto the drag strip.
Typically, you're up to fifth gear by the start/finish and you can sometimes get wheel spin as you put your foot back flat from the upshift. As you approach the bridge, you're flat out until you can get parallel with the edge of the race track. Then, depending on how well you're hooked up, it's a slight lift and right back to flat out through the apex of turn one.
Most of the time, you'll need to do a touch of the brakes or a quick downshift before the bridge. The braking zone for turn one is a critical section of the race track. The elevation and the fact that you need to create a straight line while braking can be tricky. You'll apex at the end of the access road to the left while starting to brake at the same spot. Over-slowing is a classic mistake at entry.
You'll hold the apex until the curbing bends to the left, then continue braking over the crest of the hill as you aim for the inside curb. Holding onto the brakes over the hill helps keep the grip as you cross over to the apex of turn two. You utilize the width of the track to keep momentum and accelerate hard down to turn three. Turn two is usually a third-gear corner. Turn three is much faster than you first anticipate because of the banking. However, you try not to apex too early so you can set up properly for turn 3A. A proper apex for 3A will enable you to go full-throttle before you can actually see the exit. Also, when you hit it just right, you can expect the back of the car to step out slightly because of the crown in 3A.
The braking zone for turn four is very deceptive because it's downhill. Most drivers enter too hot and miss the apex in turn four. The banking again helps in turn four, but you want to make sure and clip the apex as you accelerate through turn five and into the Carousel. It's important to actually apex turn five, which will enable you to stay flat out until you start your braking for the Carousel (turn six).
There are several different methods to entering the Carousel, but I'll describe the most common. Before you enter, you'll experience the car getting really light as you crest the top of the hill. The car seems to be more stable the closer to the left side of the track you are. You wait for the car to settle off the top of the hill, then into the brakes in a straight line to about mid-track. It's important to let the car settle from the hill or else you can easily lock up the rears. I hold the inside of the track until the base of the bridge. Again, if the car is hooked up, you're flat out by the time you finish the apex. Knowing the race track really helps confidence keeping your foot down through to the exit of the Carousel. The middle straight is fairly bumpy and the newest edition of turn seven is very different from the old tricks. Going down into the esses is awesome. The key is to set up early and be very precise. An early lift or light brake at the access road to the right, a proper apex through turn eight, and, if all is perfect, flat out before the apex of 8A. Again, knowing the track is a key to being able to keep your foot down, even though you can't see the exit. You're usually in top gear as you fly through turn nine. Typically, the middle of the track is where you want to be.
For turn 10, you need to make sure you're parallel with the edge of the race track before you get to the bridge. I'm always thinking about balance as I enter turn 10. It's early light on the brakes and then flat out just before the apex. What a great turn! This sets you up for a very fast exit out of turn 10.
As you enter turn 11, you'll start your braking and angle to about mid-track. This softens the bump you'll experience slightly at the entry of 11. For turn 11, the shortest distance wins. At the second or third bundle of tires, you should be inside the painted curb and missing the last set of bundled tires by inches, then accelerating hard and back onto the straight. Sears Point is a great race track. It's very technical with its elevation changes, crowns, banking, bumps, jumps, blind exits and constantly turning circuit. Momentum is key, and passing and traffic are even more difficult to master than at most places. I can't wait!