Monday, May 3, 2010

Laguna Seca

John Marine | 5/03/2010 06:39:00 PM |
Nowadays Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, this track has been in existence since 1957. Laguna Seca is perhaps America's premier road racing facility in the United States. It can be found in Monterey, California, USA. At Laguna Seca, you are not too far from the beautiful Pebble Beach Golf Links, which are located just over 10 miles to the west (about 10.49 miles or 16.89 kilometers). No matter what machines race this storied 2.238-mile race course, this is not an easy track. Today's configuration wasn't always like this. In fact, after Turn 2 of today's configuration, it used to be just a blast down to today's Turn 5. I've learned through Wikipedia that the changes to Laguna Seca's current configuration were made back in 1988 to potentially host the United States Grand Prix in Laguna Seca instead of at the unsuccessful street course in Phoenix. What makes this track so challenging are the many decisive and difficult corners. It has been the first real-world race track featured in a Gran Turismo game (Gran Turismo 2). It was the demo track for a few other games including (but not limited to) Castrol Honda Superbike, Forza Motorsport, and IndyCar Racing 2. The REAL joy of racing Laguna Seca is in racing the world-famous corkscrew. Many people (myself included) wished that Formula One would race at Laguna Seca for the United States Grand Prix, but after Ricardo Zonta's 1:06.309 lap time around Laguna Seca in his Toyota F1 car, you can probably see why F1 may never race at Laguna Seca- it's too short. F1 times usually last 1:30 to 1:45 lap times. F1's loss is MotoGP's gain as this track is fantastic for MotoGP. It has even played host to rounds of FIA GT back in 1997 and 1998 to host a three-hour race around Laguna Seca.

This blog entry is all about the magical little place called Laguna Seca, which is nowadays called Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (click on text to visit official page).





--- Laguna Seca Raceway ---
Here is a look at this lovely California circuit:

Laguna Seca Track Map
^ from: nfsplayers.com.ua (I didn't have to look forever to find a configuration I like. Epic win for me!)

Laguna Seca is a race track with various elevation changes. I've played this course in various games, and its challenge remains intimidating. Truly a fantastic racing course. I DARE anyone call Laguna Seca boring because it's anything but. At least it's not another cookie-cutter (so to speak) oval.

Turn 1 is a high-speed left kink that shouldn't be a problem. Turn 2, however, is a BIG problem. It is a left hairpin that widens in radius as you exit the corner. A smooth right curve follows into a medium-speed Turn 3. Under the bridge midway between Turns 3 and 4, Turn 4 dares to be taken at a high speed. Not full-speed, but can be taken nicely if you let off the throttle a bit or use some light braking. A right-hand kink follows and leads into a mid-speed Turn 5. An uphill trudge follows heading into the left-handed Turn 6. Turn 6 is tricky to me. It's like you have to hit it just right and with the right racing line to go fast. The recently-named Rahal Straight follows afterwards. Then, Laguna Seca's toughest section follows. The challenge is in the fact that this section is completely blind as you go uphill. You're blasting uphill into the right-hand kink at Turn 7. But when you reach Turns 8 and 8a, you've reached the world-famous Laguna Seca Corkscrew. Turn 8 is a sharp left followed by a sharp right Turn 8a. It is literally a downhill chicane. I could literally do an entire section on this corner alone. The biggest key to this section (at least from playing this in video games) is to try to find a decent racing line where you seem to skirt the inner edges of both Turns 8 and 8a. You seriously need to practice this section again and again to truly master it. There used to be some trees that were used as reference points as to when to break. Those trees are no more. The Corkscrew was even legendary for a move pulled off by Alessandro (Alex) Zanardi in 1996 where he made a bold pass (then legal) to win the race. If you want to see this bold pass, check out the move known simply as "The Pass" (embedding was disabled). After the Corkscrew is Rainey Curve at Turn 9. It is another corner that starts slow and sweeps out. Turn 10 is a sharp right-hander. The margin of error for this section is nothing compared to Turn 11. Turn 11 is a super-slow left-hander and almost too easy to overshoot. Get Turn 11 right, and you can just hammer down uphill to the Start/Finish line.

Here is a YouTube video lap around this great track:


And here's a bonus video offering a look at what an F1 car would look like around Laguna Seca:






Here's some bonus material! Have a look at this link from racingsportscars.com. Take a look at some of the FIA GT cars that raced at Laguna Seca during the 1997 Laguna Seca 3-Hour Race:

FIA GT at Laguna Seca - 1997
FIA GT at Laguna Seca - 1998

Honestly, I would like for today's IZOD IndyCar Series to return to Laguna Seca as this track has long been a Champ Car staple back in the former CART and Champ Car World Series days. This is a great race track. Really one of America's finest road courses. You owe it to yourself to see some great racing on TV or in person at Laguna Seca.

Thanks for reading!
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