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The NEW Laguna Seca

Discussion in 'Motorcycle Talk' started by beansbaxter, May 25, 2005.


    The New Laguna Seca

    As the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix MotoGP event draws nearer, the Monterey Peninsula is preparing to host the return of GP racing after an 11-year absence. Much work has been done this winter at the historic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to make the track safer for the 250-horsepower machines.

    A key element in making the modifications necessary to meet FIM regulations is the generous sponsorship from Yamaha, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2005. Yamaha has kicked in about $2 million that the track is using to widen run-off areas and move a potentially dangerous bridge. As part of the deal, Yamaha is serving as the official motorcycle at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and as a "Proud Sponsor" of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix through 2007.

    "Helping bring the MotoGP World Championship back to the U.S. was an excellent opportunity for us to show our appreciation for our customers and fans," said Bob Starr, corporate communications manager, at Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA. "And since this race corresponds with Yamaha's 50th anniversary, we could think of no better way to celebrate than with over 100,000 U.S. fans."

    What follows below is an exploration of what the track has to accomplish to prepare for this highly anticipated event, plus some background on the world-famous racetrack. -Ed

    By John McCoy

    The United States enthusiastically welcomes MotoGP back to Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California on July 8-10, 2005 after a decade long absence. The track itself is either loved or hated by the riders due to the challenging layout, but spectators are expected arrive in great numbers from throughout the world.

    Laguna Seca is unique among major race circuits because of its management. Before 1957, road races in this area were held on public roads in the beautiful Pebble Beach area, just as they were in Europe. There were terrible accidents and concerns for the safety of both the racers and spectators ultimately were their demise. In fact, movie star James Dean was killed while driving his Porsche 550 Spyder on public roads at racing speeds on his way to one of these particular races.

    In 1957 the huge army base at nearby Fort Ord offered land bordering the public highway for use as proper race track. The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) was formed with original donations of $10,000 each from five car dealers to administer the events and succeeding in such a popular way that the land was given by the U.S. government to the County of Monterey Parks Department in 1974. The army base was later closed and the rest of the lands are slowly being converted to uses that benefit the public.

    SCRAMP is directed by a 25-member volunteer board and maintained by 20 regular paid employees. Thousands of volunteers donate labor during the events and the profit from the events is returned to more than 70 charities. Over $10 million has been given to local charities over the past 44 years, and race fans contribute $125 million per year to the local economy. The track's problem is when it comes time to find the money when expensive renovations are required for changes to the circuit. If the management of the race track was private then the profits could be spent for the changes. But there are no profits when the extra money is always given to charity at the end of the year. The answer comes from loans with sympathetic banks and private benefactors who know that the money will be spent in a good way.

    MotoGP organizer DORNA recognizes the limits of what SCRAMP is able to accomplish within the time before the MotoGP circus comes to town and it set goals for changes to the circuit. We visited with SCRAMP's Laguna Seca Press Officer Ed Nichols to find out what changes to the track needed to be made before the race.

    "Changes to the actual race track must be a compromise so that the facility can be used for both auto and moto racing," explained Nichols. "The alterations include the amount of runoff room from the edge of the track to fencing, the design of the curbing, and the transition from the edge of the pavement to the gravel that slows the race vehicles. The curbs will have a less abrupt drop on the outside edge. Turn 9 has never had a serious crash but has always bothered the competitors. The pedestrian bridge over the turn was moved further up the hill and an additional 150 feet of runoff room will now be available.

    "Turn 2, known as the Andretti hairpin, will have the gravel trap starting 10 feet from the edge of the track to slow the bikes sooner instead of the existing 20 feet that the auto drivers prefer, because the wall at the outside of the high speed entrance to the turn can be pushed back only another 30 feet due to the shape of the hillside and the road that passes close to the edge of the track. Turn 4 has had no serious accidents but will receive a gravel trap to make it even safer. The front straight will be widened 10-15 feet by moving existing concrete barriers to the outside of the pavement to provide extra room for passing on the fastest part of the track."

    Nichols also noted that Laguna Seca originally had no permanent pit garages for the race teams, so previous World Superbike races involved using tents and metal storage containers. He added that 20 proper garages and race suites would not enough for MotoGP, so DORNA will allow the remaining garages to be temporary while SCRAMP seeks further money and permission to build more permanent buildings.

    Laguna Seca has been closed to all activities since May 2 while work on the track takes place. It is expected to re-open for general use on June 15. DORNA officials will return to inspect the track four weeks before the race, but all the work is expected to be completed on time.

    "The total cost of renovations to the track surface will cost $2 million, not including the long-term project to build more garages," Nichols elaborated. "This is money that will not be given to the charities now but should result in higher race attendance and spending in the communities as more race fans arrive to see MotoGP. So the funds spent for improvement to the track are seen as long-term investment, as the contract for MotoGP at Laguna Seca covers five years."

    Instead of the usual 125cc and 250cc GP support classes, the Laguna event will incorporate three of the four AMA Superbike series classes: Superbike, Supersport and Superstock. An additional draw will be an exhibition Super Kart race, in which former World and AMA roadracing champions Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Doug Chandler will compete in 250cc V-Twin go karts.

    The final race concern is the noise of the 130 db MotoGP bikes. Laguna Seca is allowed just five weeks per year without noise restrictions, so that the surrounding expensive neighborhoods of homes aren't bothered regularly. Other activities outside of race weeks are limited to the USA Federal motorcycle noise limit of 92 db.

    Producing the race is so much more than only welcoming the teams to the track, but Laguna's Press Officer says the work is rewarded when the fans arrive. The MotoGP race is expected to be one of the largest events ever held at the long-serving track, so you'd better start your preparations now if you haven't already.

    Nichols suggests that fans wishing to make reservations to attend have a look at the website, but spaces are filling fast. (The author suggests booking a hotel in Santa Cruz, which is about 45 minutes away and has lower costs, smaller crowds, and local sites of interest to tourists.) For further information check and

    The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) was formed with original donations of $10,000 each from five car dealers to administer the events and succeeding in such a popular way that the land was given by the U.S. government to the County of Monterey Parks in 1974.

    Ed Nichols: "Turn 9 has never had a serious crash but has always bothered the competitors. The pedestrian bridge over the turn was moved further up the hill and an additional 150 feet of runoff room will now be available."

    This will be the first time American's have seen Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden in action since he won the 2002 AMA Superbike Championship.

    Turn 9 construction included the removal of tons of earth and the relocation of the pedestrian bridge.
  2. Damn! I really want to go!

  3. If you can scrape up about $600 you can ride down with us. Although you'd have to meet us at our first stop 'cuz we're in Spokane. :/ Truly, that's all it'd cost assuming you can get a ticket now. I have a breakdown if anyone's interested. :)

    1. How do they MC racers feel about the closer gravel runoffs? Isn't it kinda dangerous for them? I understand how it can be beneficial for the car racers, but please explain the reasoning for the MC racers.

    2. Go-karts. Are they talking about the 4-wheel variety or the Sidecar variety I saw on the Isle of Man races? My curiousity is piqued. :)
  4. jabstar17

    jabstar17 Le Bitch

    Go-Carts... 250cc alcohol go carts. They'll do speeds up to 100+ mph, and spin off faster lap times then the motorbikes!
  5. Gravel-
    It slows them down much faster than hard dirt. When you have a wall to run into you want to be as slow as possible.
    If you are concerned about losing control; if they are 10 feet of the track, they already lost it.