Laguna Seca Raceway | Racing History

Laguna Seca

The Monterey Peninsula’s love affair with world-class racing traces its beginnings to the inaugural running of the Pebble Beach Road Races in 1950. Those sports car events quickly outgrew the public roads of the Del Monte Forest and a beautiful new road racing facility was born. Laguna Seca Raceway opened on November 9, 1957.

Since then Laguna Seca Raceway has been visited by some of the most prestigious racers in history: Roger Penske, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Kenny Roberts, Bobby Rahal, Wayne Rainey and Valentino Rossi to name a few. The late 1960’s and 70’s may be remembered as the "Can-Am Years," but it was also the debut of Trans Am, IMSA and AMA Superbikes. CART Indy Car racing, Grand Prix (GP) motorcycles and World Superbike racing put their stamp on the track in the 1980’s and 1990’s. More recently, the huge growth of MotoGP has created a phenomenal global following for Laguna Seca.

Located near-by California’s beautiful central coast, Laguna Seca Raceway is a jewel of a road course and a fantastic destination. While the track is a favorite of racers and fans worldwide, many focus on one specific section. Officially named Turns 8 and 8A but more commonly known as "The Corkscrew", this is true marvel that makes this Laguna Seca so special.

The Corkscrew is one-of-a-kind in motorsports. What makes it so spectacular is that the apex to Turn 8 (the lefthander and entry to The Corkscrew) has a 12% elevation drop. By the time a racer reaches the apex of Turn 8A (the right-hander), the elevation is at its steepest – an 18% drop. The Corkscrew drops 59 feet between the entrance of Turn 8 to the exit of Turn 8A – the equivalent of a 5 ½ story drop – in only 450 feet of track length. From Turn 8 to Turn 9, the elevation falls 109 feet, or just over 10 stories.

Laguna Seca Raceway | Historical Timeline

1962 – Pacific Grand Prix had a starting grid with Roger Penske, Bruce McLaren, Innes Ireland, Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Jim Hall and Jack Brabham.

1963 – Jim Clark made his only appearance at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the Arciero Bros. Lotus 19 and led the USRRC Championship road race until he had to pit with steering and brake problems after 31 laps.

1965 – A young, almost unknown Jackie Stewart makes his U.S. debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca driving in the USRRC in a factory Lotus Cortina and finished 13th overall.

1966 – First Can Am race has Jim Hall, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, Mark Donahue, Denis Hulme, John Surtees, George Follmer, Parnelli Jones, and Sam Posey on the starting grid in various Chaparrals, Lola T70s and McLaren’s. Phil Hill gave Chaparral its only victory in the Can Am series here.

1967 - Bruce McLaren won the first Monterey Grand Prix Can Am Race here in 1967.

1972 – Cal Rayborn riding a Harley Davidson was the winner of the first AMA national race run at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

1973 – NASCAR came to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Grand National West Tour. Mark Donahue was the winner of the last Can Am race at Laguna Seca.

1974 – Kenny Roberts on a Yamaha scores the first of his many wins at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Kawasaki Superbike International.

1975- Mario Andretti in a Lola T332 wins the Monterey Grand Prix featuring the F5000 series.

1981 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca hosts its first NASCAR race with the Winston West and has Bobby Allison on the grid. Paul Newman races in the Monterey Triple Crown in a Datsun Turbo.

1983 – The first CART Indy Car race was held with Teo Fabi won in a March-Cosworth. Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Mike Baldwin and Randy Mamola – four motorcycling racing legends at the top of their game and on equal machinery race together at the champion Spark Plus 200.

1984 - Bobby Rahal captured the first of his four consecutive CART victories at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Kenny Roberts had won 3 world championships, 32 AMA national wins, 24 Grand Prix wins and 7 wins at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

1988 – The track was lengthened from 1.9 to 2.214 miles and then to 2.238. The change was accomplished by creating two more turns, carrying the track into the old lake area and then back out to rejoin the old course at what is now turn 5 and lengthening the straightaway from turn 11 to the start/finish line. This was done to accommodate the International Motorcycle Grand Prix.

1988 – USGP was in fact the first one in twenty years and the first USGP at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Eddie Lawson who was riding against Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Mike Baldwin and Randy Mamola won the race.

1989 – Wayne Rainey won from pole in his first of three USGP wins in a row for him at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

1990 – Wayne Rainey’s second consecutive win at the USGP at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca helped propel him to his first of three World Championships in 1990. Sidecar road racing hit a high point with the inclusion of the World Championship for sidecars at the USGP. The sidecar engines were limited to 500 cc two strokes. Seen in person the three-wheeled marvels were absolutely awesome on the racetrack as they negotiated the circuit.

1992 – Michael Andretti wins his second Indy Car race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Mario Andretti was third, making it the second year in a row that both Andretti’s were on the podium.

1994 – Mario Andretti makes this CART race his last race and retires.

1995 – The track hosted the World Superbike Championship (WSB) for ten successive years. The first American rider to win WSB at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was John Kocinski who took victory on a Ducati in 1996.

1996 - On the last lap of the CART race, Alex Zinardi overtook Bryan Herta in the Corkscrew with an unprecedented and unforgettable move known as "The Pass."1997 – The FIA GT Championship came to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Mercedes, Porsches and Gulf McLarens.

2004 – The last time the Californian circuit was the venue for a World Superbike race when Australian Chris Vermeulen scored a double win. After the season ended, numerous track modifications were done including the widening of turns 9, 10 and 11 to accommodate MotoGP.

2005 – MotoGP returns to Mazda Raceway with American Nicky Hayden winning the race and then taking is father around the track on the back of his bike. This year also marks the first time that the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Championships is at the track.

2008 – At the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, Valentino Rossi overtakes Casey Stoner in the Corkscrew to win the race. It is very similar to Zinardi’s pass. It is Rossi first win in the U.S. He celebrates by kissing the Corkscrew in front of 150,000 spectators.

2009 – The Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races are in their 36th year here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It started with 66 entrants and now more than 1,000 entry requests are received for the 380 spots. Juan Manual Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Phil Hill, Jack Brabham, Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal and along with many others notable race car drivers.

Today – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has five world-class race weekends each season, with elite road racing series from around the world visiting the Monterey Peninsula. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a non-profit organization run by the Sports Car Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP). Each year SCRAMP donates approximately $250,000 to charities and groups in the area. Along with these donations it is estimated that Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca brings in about $120 million dollars to the local economy with the help of its major events scheduled annually.

Casey Stoner hold the lap record for a motorcycle with the fastest race lap of 1’22.542" 2007 and fastest lap overall of 1’20.700 2008.