Laguna Seca Raceway

Laguna Seca Raceway

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Laguna Seca
Location Monterey County, near Monterey, California, USA
Time zone UTC-8 (UTC-7 DST)
Owner Monterey County Parks Department
Operator Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula
Opened 1957
Construction cost $1.5 million USD
Major events United States motorcycle Grand Prix
American Le Mans Series
Monterey Historic Automobile Races
Surface Paved
Length 2.238 mi (3.602 km)
Turns 11
Lap record 1'05.786 (Marc Gené, Scuderia Ferrari, Ferrari F2003-GA, 2012, Formula 1)

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, originally constructed in 1957 near both Salinas and Monterey, California, USA.

The current racetrack is 2.238 miles (3.602 km) in length with a 180 feet (55 m) elevation change.[1][2] It has eleven turns, including the famous "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 lagoon". The area where the track is was originally a lake. 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.[3]

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 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, 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.[4]

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. 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.[5] 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.


Major events each year include the U.S. Sports Car Invitational featuring the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, Monterey Sports Car Championships featuring a six-hour endurance race for the ALMS, Monterey Historics for classic racecars, and the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix featuring both the MotoGP World Championship and the U.S. AMA Superbike Series. In 2006, the A1 Grand Prix brought international open-wheel racing back to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Formula One

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 made in part to lure the F1 race. In the final decision, Laguna Seca was thought to be too remote and too small for an F1 crowd, and so Phoenix was granted the Grand Prix.

Lap records

On August 20, 2006, Toyota F1 test driver Ricardo Zonta set an unofficial lap record of 1'06.039.[6] The previous record time was 1'07.722, set by Helio Castroneves in a Penske Champ Car during qualifying for the 2000 CART Honda Grand Prix of Monterey. The unofficial 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. The unofficial record was again re-taken by a Formula One car on on May 19, 2012 by Marc Gené, who lapped in 1'05.786 in a Ferrari F2003-GA during the 2012 Ferrari Racing Days.[7]

Officially, Castroneves is still the recordholder as the times of Zonta, Bourdais and Gené were set during exhibition and testing sessions, and official records can only be set in race conditions (either in practice, qualifying, or during a race).

At the 2008 Monterey Sports Car Championships, David Brabham set a pole position time of 1:10.103 in a Le Mans Prototype.[8]

The fastest lap at the 2006 A1GP race was 1:17.951, set by Nicolas Lapierre.

At the 2012 United States motorcycle Grand Prix, Jorge Lorenzo set a pole time of 1:20.554 on the Yamaha. During the 2001 Superbike World Championship season, Ben Bostrom set a time of 1:25.704 on the Ducati.[9]

Motor Trend uses Laguna Seca as a benchmark in much the same way Car and Driver had used Virginia International Raceway in recent years. The track was the site of their "America's Best Handling Car" and "Best Driver's Car" comparisons. In total, over 30 street legal cars have set laps on the track in the hands of Motor Trend. The 2014 SRT Viper TA is the current leader, with a lap time of 1:33.620.[10]

Other use


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 raceway has also played host to prototype testing of the Nissan GT-R in 2007.[11]

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 Gran Turismo 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.[12] However, both he and the track instructor agreed that it is possible to complete the course in 1:41 in a Honda NSX if the driver were sufficiently experienced, talented, and most importantly fearless.

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.[13]

Other non-automotive events

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.

Several times each year, bicycles are permitted on the track for 2 hours. The admission fee is $10 per bicycle rider.

On September 17, 1987, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at Laguna Seca Raceway, where 72,000 people had gathered to see him.[14]

Laguna Seca has proven popular in computer games in simulations, with over twenty popular packages containing interpretations at the venue.

Laguna Seca was featured in the movie The Love Bug, where Herbie competes in a fictional Monterey Grand Prix, as well as the qualifying sequences in the sequel film Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.

On June 24, 2011, John Mueller of Muellerized Suspension Systems married Sheila Stone on the top of the corkscrew at Laguna Seca. This is the location where the ashes of Lee Mueller (4 time SCCA National Champion, IMSA GTU Champion, 3 time winner of the 24 hours of Daytona, and 12 hours of Sebring winner), John Mueller's father, were spread.[15]


Major events

Other events

A1 Grand Prix

Season Sprint Race Winner Feature Race Winner
2005–2006 Mexico Salvador Durán Mexico Salvador Durán

Superbike World Championship

Year Races Winners Team Bike
1995 Australia Anthony Gobert
Australia Troy Corser
Muzzy Kawasaki
Promotor Ducati Corse
Kawasaki ZX-7R
Ducati 916
1996 United States John Kocinski
Australia Anthony Gobert
Ducati Corse
Muzzy Kawasaki
Ducati 916
Kawasaki ZX-7R
1997 United States John Kocinski
United States John Kocinski
Castrol Honda-HRC
Castrol Honda-HRC
Honda RC45
Honda RC45
1998 Australia Troy Corser
Japan Noriyuki Haga
Ducati Corse
Yamaha World Superbike Team
Ducati 916
Yamaha YZF750
1999 Australia Anthony Gobert
United States Ben Bostrom
Vance & Hines Ducati
Vance & Hines Ducati
Ducati 996
Ducati 996
2000 Japan Noriyuki Haga
Australia Troy Corser
Yamaha World Superbike Team
Yamaha YZF-R7
Aprilia RSV1000
2001 United States Ben Bostrom
United States Ben Bostrom
L&M Ducati
L&M Ducati
Ducati 996
Ducati 996
2002 Australia Troy Bayliss
United States Colin Edwards
Infostrada Ducati Corse
Castrol Honda-HRC
Ducati 998
Honda RC51
2003 Italy Pierfrancesco Chili
Spain Rubén Xaus
PSG-1 Ducati
FILA Ducati Corse
Ducati 998
Ducati 998
2004 Australia Chris Vermeulen
Australia Chris Vermeulen
ten Kate Honda
ten Kate Honda
Honda CBR1000RR
Honda CBR1000RR

AMA Grand National Roadrace

Season Winner Team/Entrant Bike
1972 United States Calvin Rayborn II Harley-Davidson Motor Co Harley-Davidson
1973 United States Gary Nixon Erv Kanemoto/Kawasaki Kawasaki Heavy Industries
1974 United States Kenny Roberts Yamaha Factory Team Yamaha
1975 United States Kenny Roberts Yamaha Factory Team Yamaha
1976 United States Steve Baker Yamaha Factory Team Yamaha

AMA Superbike

Season Winner Team/Entrant Bike
1976 United Kingdom Reg Pridmore Butler & Smith BMW BMW
1977 United States Steve McLaughlin Yoshimura Suzuki
1978 United States Wes Cooley Yoshimura Suzuki
1979 United States Freddie Spencer Kawasaki Factory Kawasaki
1980 United States Freddie Spencer American Honda Honda
1981 United States Eddie Lawson Team Muzzy Kawasaki
1982 United States Eddie Lawson Team Muzzy Kawasaki
1983 United States Wayne Rainey Team Muzzy Kawasaki
1984 United States Fred Merkel American Honda Honda
1985 United States John Ashmead Ashmead / Gary Meadley Honda
1986 United States Wayne Rainey American Honda Honda
1987 United States Bubba Shobert American Honda Honda
1988 United States Bubba Shobert Shobert/Honda Honda
1989–1991: No race
1992 United States Doug Polen Fast by Ferracci Ducati
1993 United States Doug Polen Fast by Ferracci Ducati
1994 Canada Pascal Picotte Fast by Ferracci Ducati
1995 United States Freddie Spencer Fast by Ferracci Ducati
1996 United States Doug Chandler Team Muzzy Kawasaki
1997 United States Doug Chandler Team Muzzy Kawasaki
1998 Canada Miguel Duhamel Erion Racing Honda
1999 Australia Anthony Gobert Vance & Hines Ducati
2000 United States Nicky Hayden American Honda Honda
2001 United States Eric Bostrom Kawasaki Factory Kawasaki
2002 United States Eric Bostrom Kawasaki Factory Kawasaki
2003 Australia Mat Mladin Yoshimura Racing Suzuki
2004 United States Ben Bostrom Parts Unlimited American Honda Honda
2005 United States Eric Bostrom Parts Unlimited MotoAustin Ducati
2006 United States Ben Spies Yoshimura Racing Suzuki
United States Ben Spies Yoshimura Racing Suzuki
United States Ben Spies Yoshimura Racing Suzuki
Australia Mat Mladin Yoshimura Racing Suzuki
Australia Mat Mladin Yoshimura Racing Suzuki
2009 United States Aaron Yates Michael Jordan Motorsports Suzuki
2010 United States Ben Bostrom Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha
2011 United States Tommy Hayden Yoshimura Racing Suzuki

Rolex Sports Car Series

Season Winning Drivers Car Team
2005 Mexico Luis Díaz / United States Scott Pruett Riley Mk XI-Lexus Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
2006 Italy Max Angelelli / Denmark Jan Magnussen / South Africa Wayne Taylor Riley Mk XI-Pontiac SunTrust Racing
2007 United States Patrick Long / Germany Jörg Bergmeister Crawford DP03-Porsche Alex Job Racing
2008 United Kingdom Ryan Dalziel / United States Henri Zogaib Riley Mk XI-BMW SAMAX Motorsport
2009 United States Jon Fogarty / United States Alex Gurney Riley Mk XI-Pontiac GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing
2010 Event not held
2011 United States Jon Fogarty / United States Alex Gurney Riley Mk XI-Chevrolet GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing
2012 United Kingdom Richard Westbrook / Spain Antonio Garcia Coyote-Porsche Spirit of Daytona Racing


Year Class Driver Car
1969 Over 2000cc
Under 2000cc
United States Mark Donohue
United States Peter Gregg
Chevrolet Camaro
Porsche 911
1970 Over 2000cc
Under 2000cc
United States Parnelli Jones
United States Lee Midgley
Ford Mustang
Alfa Romeo GTA
1971 Event not held
1972 Under 2500cc United States John Morton Datsun 510
1973–1977 Event not held
1978 Category I
Category II
United States Bob Tullius
United States Greg Pickett
Jaguar XJS
Chevrolet Corvette
1979 Category I
Category II
United States Bob Tullius
United States Peter Gregg
Triumph TR8
1980 United States Greg Pickett Chevrolet Corvette
1981 United States George Follmer Chevrolet Camaro
1982 United States Elliott Forbes-Robinson Pontiac Trans Am
1983–1999 Event not held
2000 Canada Kenny Wilden Chevrolet Camaro
2001 United Kingdom Justin Bell Chevrolet Corvette
2002–2003 Event not held
2004 United States Tommy Kendall Jaguar XKR


Further reading

"Laguna Seca Raceway: 40 Years Through the Corkscrew: 1957-1997" (David and Mary-Ellen Wright-Rana, 1997) — ISBN 0966024818

External links

  • Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca official site
  • Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca official Online Store
  • American Le Mans Series
  • Sea Otter Classic
  • Trackpedia's guide to driving Laguna Seca
  • Steve McQueen raced at Laguna Seca in 1959
  • Laguna Seca – A Look Back
  • 1963 course map

Coordinates: 36°35′05″N 121°45′10″W / 36.58472°N 121.75278°W / 36.58472; -121.75278