WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Track Guide
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has earned its place among the great names in American motorsport. Legends have been forged here and now you can take on this legendary circuit for yourself, following along in the tracks of racing icons like Zanardi, Andretti, Rahal and Montoya.
In 1957, a Legend Was Born
After the local Pebble Beach dirt track race was cancelled over safety issues, local businessmen raised $1.5 million to build Laguna Seca race track on a dried out riverbed near Monterey and Salinas. The name literally translates into English as ‘Dry Lagoon’ and this 2.238-mile circuit rose from the arid dirt in just two months to become one of the jewels in the crown of world motorsport.
Laguna Seca staged its first race on November 9, 1957, when Pete Lovely took the honors in his Ferrari. Since then the track has changed almost beyond recognition as it evolved to meet the regulations for elite level car and motorcycle racing, but the foundations of its success were laid more than 60 years ago and the circuit is steeped in tradition. It’s a tight, narrow and technical track, with massive elevation changes that create their own challenges and several high-speed sections that test the nerves. Due to these exciting features professional coaching will certainly help shorten the learning curve. It’s the near perfect trackday circuit, then, and a ready made arena for the warriors of world motorsport.
Best Moments at Laguna Seca
Laguna Seca was always one of the highlights of the CART/IndyCar seasons and MotoGP and World Superbikes have made the Californian circuit their American home from home.
Sportscar racing has become a fixture and the Monterey Grand Prix is a serious prize in the racing community. The Monterey Reunion, meanwhile, brings classic racing cars from around the globe to duke it out one more time in this famous setting.
Inevitably, then, legends have gone wheel-to-wheel, swapped paint and ignited the crowd round the iconic track and here are some of our favorite moments.
1. Alex Zanardi vs Bryan Herta - 1996 Toyota Grand Prix of Monterey
In 1996, with everything on the line, Alex Zanardi launched such an utterly spectacular move that it is now simple known as: The Pass. It’s all about the final moments, but in the build-up to this intoxicating move Zanardi ran off the circuit, almost crashed and gave absolutely everything to chase the leader down.
With the title at stake and needing the win to take the title from Jimmy Vasser, Zanadi launched down the inside of Bryan Herta at the Corkscrew on the final lap.
It was everything motorsport is meant to be about: courage, the will to win and automotive gladiators leaving it all on the line. It’s one of the greatest moments in racing history.
IndyCar has produced a 90-minute special, if you want to relive this moment in all its glory.
2. Valentino Rossi vs Casey Stoner - 2008 MotoGP US Grand Prix
This race long duel in the MotoGP US Grand Prix remains one of the most famous battles in MotoGp history. Rossi and Stoner are both legends of the sport and on that day in history, neither was prepared to give an inch. It will go down as one of the greatest bike races of all time.
What Sets Laguna Seca Apart?
Laguna Seca is part of American racing folklore. So what is it that sets this track apart from the crowd?
It’s a combination of things that include one of the most dramatic landscapes on the racing calendar. From the top of the Corkscrew, you can actually see the ocean in Monterey Bay.
This small city, a luxurious fusion of Spanish and American culture, is just 10 miles down the road from the Laguna Seca Recreation Area. It is a jewel on the Central California coastline, pockmarked by golf courses, and a tourist destination in its own right. Seafood restaurants and nightlife are part of the scene at Laguna Seca’s biggest meetings and the Monterey party scene is the stuff of legend.
Natural beauty is all around you in this marine conservation area and the track itself is carved into the rocky hillside. Even the circuit itself is a triumph of the human spirit, as these elevation changes were a constant challenge for construction crews throughout the ages.
Rumor has it, the construction crew simply wanted to finish when they hit the Corkscrew and created the snaking corner that became an icon simply because it was the only way through the trees, rather than the best corner the world could imagine.
The ‘construction crew’ were two bulldozers, with a man named ‘Wally’ Holm following the lie of the land and producing the cheapest, most entertaining race track possible.
Cars and Drivers Created the Laguna Seca Legend
All of this is simply the stage and what really marks Laguna Seca apart are the battles between the stars. The circuit became an absolute lynchpin of the US sportscar scene, provided a spiritual home for CART and IndyCar and is a cornerstone of the World Superbike Championship.
With these top-flight racing series coming back year-after-year, bringing the most advanced cars and the best drivers on the planet, Laguna Seca was always going to be a central pillar of America’s motorsport history.
IndyCar racing did take a 15-year hiatus, but has announced its return in 2019 to an international fanfare.
Corners are named after Mario Andretti, local boy Wayne Rainie, and there’s a Rahal straight. Great such as Valentino Rossi, Zanardi, Dan Gurney and Roger Penske became legends to the American crowds with their heroics at Laguna Seca.
That’s the magic of this track.
Safety Standards at Laguna Seca
Safety standards in international motorsport are second to none, so there are gravel traps and run-off areas to catch you if you get too ambitious.
The Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) and Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) have some of the toughest standards in the world. Protection for the driver and the crowd is the number one priority and that means Laguna Seca is one of the safest tracks in North America. It simply has to be to maintain is position on the racing calendar.
That means you can come and drive this track safe in the knowledge that it has passed the strictest inspections possible and that we have taken every single step to ensure your personal safety.
To the instructors, marshals and engineers at the track, you’re every bit as important as a Valentino Rossi, Alex Zanardi or even Dan Gurney. It’s their job to make sure you have fun, but the first thing is to make sure you stay safe.
Car Set-Up Tips
Laguna Seca is a medium speed circuit without long straights, so top-end speed is less of an issue and you need to go looking for balance in the high-speed bends. You’ll get more from Laguna Seca if you focus on handling than speed.
Torque is also worth more than horsepower thanks to the uphill sections. It’s worth bearing in mind if you’re fixing gears.
The low grip surface means your normal set-ups might feel totally out and you have to start again, or learn to live with the circuit’s quirks. A slightly softer set-up can pay off with more traction here.
Unfortunately Monterey County's sound limit ordinance for Laguna Seca requires most track day events to adhere to a strict 90 dB sound limit. While the sound limit is 90 dB for "standard" days, the track gets a certain amount of >90 dB days per year. Keep your eyes open for rare 103db+ track day experiences that pop up from time to time.
If you are driving a standard day, it's worth doing a little bit of research to find out what others have been doing for your make/model to adhere to the sound limit. For those who drive Laguna Seca regularly, aftermarket exhausts and SuperTrapp mufflers are a popular modification.
Insider Driving Tips From The Experts
You can find out more about driving on Laguna Seca from the people that know it best here:
One of the best ways to get to drive Laguna Seca is with Exclusive Track Days. You can join Exclusive Track Days at Laguna Seca for a safe and fun-filled day. They offer three groups with a max limit of 25 cars per group at their events and drivers are able to enjoy 140 minutes of on-track driving! You can check out their season schedule here.