Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (previously known as Laguna Seca Raceway) is a paved road racing track in central California used for both auto racing and motorcycle racing, built in 1957 near both Salinas and Monterey, California, United States.
The racetrack is 2.238 miles (3.602 km) long, with a 180 feet (55 m) elevation change. Its eleven turns are highlighted by the circuit’s signature turn, the downhill-plunging “Corkscrew” at Turns 8 and 8A. A variety of racing, exhibition, and entertainment events are held at the raceway, ranging from superkarts to sports car racing to music festivals.
The name Laguna Seca is Spanish for “dry lake”: the area where the track now lies was once a lake, and the course was built around the dry lake bed. After the course was reconfigured, two artificial ponds were added.
The earliest development of the local area occurred in 1867 with the founding of the nearby Laguna Seca Ranch,
which has operated continuously for 140 years with grazing and equestrian uses. The first race, held on November 9, 1957, was won by Pete Lovely driving a Ferrari. In the intervening years, the track has hosted USRRC, Can-Am, Trans-Am, Formula 5000, IMSA GT, CART, American Le Mans Series, Grand American, Monterey Historic Automobile Races, Speed World Challenge, AMA (American Motorcyclist Association), WSBK Superbike World Championship and MotoGP motorcycle races (but 125 and 250 are not admitted).
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 (3.1 km) 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 runoff. 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. Remnants of the old configuration can still be seen from the parking lot between turns two and five. They are found underneath a road leading to the parking area for entrant trailers and RVs. 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. On the last lap of the 1996 CART race, Alex Zanardi passed Bryan Herta on the inside of the Corkscrew to take the victory. Uruguayan driver Gonzalo Rodríguez died during the practice session of the 1999 CART race after crashing at the same corner. Because of the incident, runoff was installed at the end of the Rahal Straight.
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 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, formerly known as the Monterey Historic Automobile Races. The event features 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.
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