Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
|Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca|
|Location||Monterey, California, USA|
|Time||UTC-8 (UTC-7 DST)|
|Record driver||Helio Castroneves|
|Record class||Champ Car|
The current racetrack is 2.238 miles in length (3.58 kilometers), has eleven turns, including the famous (and gut-wrenching) "Corkscrew" at Turns 8 and 8A, and a 300 foot elevation change. A variety of racing, exhibition and entertainment events are held at the raceway, ranging from superkarts to American Le Mans racing to music festivals.
The track was built in 1957 at a cost of $1.5 million raised from local businesses and individuals on part of the US Army's Fort Ord (a maneuver area and field artillery target range) after the nearby Pebble Beach Road Races were abandoned for being too dangerous. In 1974, the property was deeded over to the Monterey County Parks Department and continues to be part of the park system to this day.
The first race, held on November 9, 1957, was won by Pete Lovely (who still races vintage cars to this day) driving a Ferrari. In the intervening years, the track has hosted USRRC, Can Am, Trans-Am, Formula 5000, IMSA GT, Champ Car, American Le Mans Series, Grand American, Monterey Historic Automobile Races, and AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) and MotoGP motorcycle races.
The day-to-day operations of the track, along with the management and promotion of major racing events, are handled by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), a non-profit organization. With oversight by a board of local residents, SCRAMP operates with a professional staff on-site with the goal of generating income through the operations of the racetrack which is then redistributed to local charities.
The track itself has undergone significant changes over the past two decades to meet evolving safety homologation requirements of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile(FIA) and other sanctioning bodies. Changes include the addition of the entire infield area in 1988 (present day turns 3, 4, and 5, eliminating the straight that started at present day turn 2 and ended at present day turn 5) extending the track from its original 1.9 mile length to meet the minimum-track-length criteria of the FIM for MotoGp events, plus the more recent relocation of pedestrian bridges and embankments, and the expansion of gravel pits outside turns 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 for additional run off. The original media center was demolished in 2006 to make way for additional run-off room in Turn 1. Also in 2006, the 'hump' at the top of the Rahal Straight was flattened to accommodate the MotoGP riders, though some claim that this increases the wind effects that can perturb a race motorcycle.
The famous Turn 8 and 8A combination, popularly referred to as the Corkscrew, is considered one of the motorsport world's most challenging turns, due to the drop in elevation as well as its blind crest and apex on the uphill approach.
Turn 2, with its difficult and technical double-apex, has been renamed the 'Andretti Hairpin', in honor of former Formula 1 World Champion Mario Andretti, while Turn 9 has been renamed 'Rainey Curve' in honor of 500cc Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Champion Wayne Rainey, a resident of nearby Salinas, California. Also the straight that runs between Turn 6 and Turn 7 has been renamed the 'Rahal Straight' after four-time consecutive Champ Car race winner Bobby Rahal.
A Champ Car World Series weekend had been a prominent event from 1983 through 2004 when its spot on the calendar was shifted to the San Jose Grand Prix. Perhaps one of the most famous moments of racing took place at Laguna Seca's Corkscrew when Alex Zanardi passed Bryan Herta on the inside of the Corkscrew on the last lap of the 1996 CART race to take the victory. Uruguayan driver Gonzalo Rodríguez died during the practice session of the 1999 CART race after crashing at the same corner. Champ Car announced on September 11, 2007 that they would be returning the Northern California race to Laguna Seca from San Jose over the May 16-18 weekend in 2008. But the subsequent merger of Champ Car and IndyCar resulted in the race being canceled.
The track is also the site of the annual Monterey Historics event sponsored every August by Rolex that sees an extraordinarily eclectic mixture of race cars on the course. Each year features a different marque. Considered one of the two greatest historic racing events (along with the Goodwood Festival in England), attendance often rivals, or surpasses the professional racing events listed above.
There are many permanent dry and hook-up camping facilities located at the raceway, which are available year-round as part of the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, the county park in which the racetrack is set.
The track's primary corporate sponsor is Mazda, who hold some of their own events there and display their products at major racing events. As part of the sponsorship, the track is now officially referred to as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The official track record for the 2.238 mile course is 1 minute, 07.722 seconds, set in 2000 by Helio Castroneves while qualifying his Marlboro Team Penske Honda/Reynard for the CART/FedEx Championship Series Honda Grand Prix of Monterey.
The all-time unofficial lap record around the current configuration is 1 minute, 5.880 seconds, set on March 10, 2007 by Sébastien Bourdais in a Panoz DP01 Champ Car, beating the previous unofficial record of 1 minute, 6.309 seconds, set by Ricardo Zonta in a Toyota TF106 Formula 1 car during the Historics on August 20, 2006.
When not being used by the major events the track can be rented. Approximately twice a year the Sports Car Club of America holds regional club races for the San Francisco Region. Various clubs rent the track throughout the year for informal high performance driving schools that allow the public to drive their own cars at speed.
The track is featured in video games such as the Gran Turismo series (including the bike version Tourist Trophy), Forza Motorsport, and the MotoGP series. In a bid to compare real life versus video games, Jeremy Clarkson of the British automotive show Top Gear attempted to beat his GT4 time of 1:41.148 in a Honda NSX by racing the real track in the same car in 2005. During the trials, Clarkson determined that the game omitted a few details of the track, and the game's physics allowed him to brake later when coming into turns than he could in real life. As a consequence, reality prevailed and he managed a best time of only 1:57 on the real course. However, both he and the track instructor agreed that it is possible to complete the course 1:41 if the driver were sufficiently experienced and talented.
Laguna Seca is home to a branch of the Skip Barber Racing School, which conducts race and street driver training in the paddock area and on the circuit itself on a year-round basis.
Laguna Seca and the part of the old Fort Ord that is now Bureau of Land Management land annually host the Sea Otter Classic "Celebration of Cycling". As the first major event of the year - typically held in April - it kicks off both the road bike and mountain bike seasons.
In addition, each summer the track and its environs are given over to a large outdoor Christian music festival, Spirit West Coast.
In 2006 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca hosted the world's first all-female Formula racing team, which was put together by producer, Todd Baker. The group was an assemblage of drivers from different racing disciplines, and formed for an MTV reality television pilot.
The German automobile maker BMW named one of its colors for the E46 M3 (production years 2001-2006, although this particular color was only offered as a standard option from 2001-2004) Laguna Seca Blue, in honor of the Laguna Seca raceway.
Champ Car Marlboro Challenge
|1989||October 14||Al Unser, Jr.||Lola||Chevrolet||Galles Racing|
|1991||October 19||Michael Andretti||Lola||Chevrolet||Newman/Haas Racing|
American Le Mans Series
A1 Grand Prix
|Season||Sprint Race Winner||Feature Race Winner|
|2005-2006||Salvador Durán||Salvador Durán|
|2005||Nicky Hayden||Repsol Honda RC211V|
|2006||Nicky Hayden||Repsol Honda RC211V|
|2007||Casey Stoner||Ducati Desmosedici GP7|
In 1989, the year following the last Formula One race in Detroit, choices for a new location for the United States Grand Prix came down to Laguna Seca and Phoenix. The aforementioned 1988 improvements to the track were in part made to lure the race. In the final decision, Laguna Seca was thought to be too small for an F1 crowd and too remote, and Phoenix was granted the Grand Prix (which was highly unsuccessful and only lasted three years).
On August 20, 2006, Toyota F1 test driver Ricardo Zonta set a new lap record of 1'06.309. The previous record time was 1'07.722, set by Helio Castroneves in a Penske Champ Car during the 2000 CART Honda Grand Prix of Monterey. The record was re-taken by a Champ Car on March 10, 2007 by Sébastien Bourdais, who lapped in 1'05.880 during Champ Car Spring Training.
Since Zonta's time and Bourdais' times were set during an exhibition and testing (respectively) and official records can only be set in race conditions, either in qualifying or during a race, they are unofficial times. The official record remains 1:07.722 set by Helio Castroneves in qualifying for the 2000 race.
- Laguna Seca Raceway official site
- American Le Mans Series
- Sea Otter Classic
- Trackpedia guide to Laguna Seca
- Steve McQueen raced at Leguna Seca in 1959
|Champ Car Tracks|
|Atlanta • California • Chicago • Gateway • Homestead • Las Vegas • Loudon • Michigan • Milwaukee • Nazareth • Ontario • Phoenix • Pocono • Sanair • Texas • Texas World • Trenton|
|Cleveland • Edmonton • Laguna Seca • Mid-Ohio • Montreal • Mont-Tremblant • Portland • Riverside • Road America • Watkins Glen|
|Belle Isle • Denver • Detroit • Houston • Vegas G.P. • Long Beach • Meadowlands • Miami • San Jose • St. Pete • Tamiami Park • Toronto • Vancouver|
|Assen • Brands Hatch • EuroSpeedway • Jerez • Mexico City • Monterrey • Motegi • Rio • Rockingham • Surfers Paradise • Zolder|
Hermanos Rodríguez •
Laguna Seca •
Lime Rock •
Watkins Glen •
|ALMS (American Le Mans Series) circuits|
|A1 Grand Prix Circuits|
Current circuits (2008)
Phillip Island •
Salt Lake City •
Brands Hatch •
Donington Park •