The gorgeous views of the San Francisco area, paired with the tastes of America’s top-notch wine, makes the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma one of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ top destinations for a fun-filled race weekend.
Though the surrounding atmosphere is enticing, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) is eager to head west for more than vineyards and the Golden Gate Bridge. The young and prosperous team is eager to deliver results with a two-car team for the first time in 2013. Full-time driver Josef Newgarden will be joined by five-time American Le Mans Series (ALMS) champion Lucas Luhr, and together SFHR hopes for success.
“It’s a huge opportunity to have Lucas (Luhr) in the car,” Newgarden said. “I think it will be great for the team in general. He is quick, knowledgeable, experienced and he is going to be an incredible asset to the team. It will be a big help for myself to try and help push forward. I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
Luhr believes he will also benefit from Newgarden’s behind-the-wheel experience in an IndyCar.
“It is for sure a help to have a guy around you that’s done this the whole year,” Luhr said. “Someone who knows the team and knows how the race weekend itself will play out. It’s a totally different format than sports car racing and everything for me is an unknown until I get there.
“For the team I think it’s good to have four eyes compared to two. I think two drivers feel more than one can, and that’s a general benefit for the entire team — two drivers giving their comments, sharing information, and collecting different kinds of data.”
Newgarden and Luhr got a glipse of the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course last week in an unofficial test at Sonoma Raceway.
“[Driving in an IndyCar for the first time] was nothing totally unexpected,” Luhr said. “I didn’t have too much seat time, but for the amount of driving I did I feel quite comfortable already. I don’t know every reaction the car is going to make, but that just comes with more laps. Overall I’d have to say I’m very positive from my first impression.”
The 34-year-old Germany-native, who will drive the No. 97 SFHR/RW Motorsports Honda-powered entry, is looking forward to gaining more kowledge from today’s test at Sonoma Raceway.
“After Wednesday’s test it’s going to be a lot better and a lot more comfortable for me,” Luhr said. “[Last week] I avoided traffic because it was my very first time in the car.”
Both Newgarden and Luhr believe the 85-lap race will be physically demanding.
“It will be physically tough in Turns 3A, 3B and 6,” Luhr said. “That’s where you really feel the downforce on the car and where the steering gets heavy. It takes a little time to get used to, but I’m used to the downforce level and the braking performance from LMP1 in ALMS, so it isn’t anything shocking.”
“The track is slippery and it’s a tough one to master,” Newgarden added. “It’s very technically challenging. It’s a great venue though, which makes it a fun weekend and a tough weekend at the same time.”
Whether fans choose to spend the entire weekend at the track, or make their way into the city, Newgarden thinks Sonoma is a spectacular spot for racing.
“It’s a beautiful area,” he said. “It’s wine country so anyone that comes out likes to take in that experience. There is usually great weather and awesome restaurants and you are right next to San Francisco, so it’s fun to go into the city and see some of the views. I love that aspect of going out there.”
Open testing for Newgarden and Luhr at Sonoma Raceway begins today at 1 p.m. ET. For live coverage of the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma, tune into NBC Sports Network on Aug. 25 at 4 p.m. ET, and for the latest updates from the No. 67 and No. 97 cars, follow @SFHRindy and @RWMotorsports on Twitter.