Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Location Salinas, CA
Track Configuration Counterclockwise, 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course (6 lefts, 4 rights and 1 esse)
Elevation Change 180 feet
Longest Straight 0.281 miles
Other Facilities Skip Barber Racing School, Souvenir Super Store, café and food court, Yamaha Marketplace, campgrounds, pit lane premiere suites and race garages
Mazda’s commitment to motorsports in America never ceases to amaze us. Not only are there more Mazdas on American road-racing circuits on any given weekend than any other brand, this relatively small automaker is also the title sponsor of the world-famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Built around a dry lakebed in the stunningly beautiful Monterey Peninsula region of California, this 11-turn, 2.238-mile strip of motoring paradise is the spiritual home of Mazda, with every one of its road cars having undergone development work here.
Far more than just a test track, Mazda Raceway is also a very prominent player in the history of professional motorsports, with virtually every major auto and moto series in the world having turned laps in anger around this circuit. With track features like the Andretti Hairpin, Rahal Straight and Rainey Curve, it’s also pretty clear how deep the American motorsports roots are here.
It’s also a totally unique facility with regards to ownership and management. Conceived of and built by SCRAMP (Sports Car Association of the Monterey Peninsula) in 1957, the track is run as a non-profit organization managed by SCRAMP, with the land itself being owned by the Monterey County Parks Department (having had the land deeded over by the U.S. Army in 1974). Through its activities at Mazda Raceway, SCRAMP is able to donate about $250,000 a year to charities and local groups in need of support, while the major motorsports events they run (including ChampCar, MotoGP, Rolex and ALMS) at the track inject approximately $120 million into the local economy.
As interesting as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s history may be, what puts it on our top 10 list of tracks you have to drive before you die is just how smooth and flowing this classic circuit really is. The first time we visited it we were immediately struck by how well kept the entire facility is and by how smooth the driving surface is. We joked at the time that you could roll a marble down The Corkscrew and 5 minutes later it’d hit you in the ass. We also loved the fact that every turn except the Andretti Hairpin (which presents its own unique set of challenges) and the tight lefthander leading onto the front straight are fast enough to require real courage before approach the limit of available grip.
Everybody knows about The Corkscrew, the iconic “dropping off the edge of the world” esse bend (a 59-foot drop over just 450 feet of track), but for us it’s the seriously quick turn 6 leading onto the Rahal Straight and the courage-testing Rainey Curve (turn 9) that follows The Corkscrew that make this place so special. Both these turns have exit speeds approaching 100 mph in a fast road car, meaning you need commitment to attack them and major car control if you push just a bit too hard. Meanwhile, the Andretti Hairpin is a totally different kind of test, given all the downshifting and threshold braking you must do before turning into this patience-testing, decreasing-radius lefthander that sets you up for the fast and flowing section that follows.
It doesn’t hurt that Mazda Raceway is located in such a scenic part of California, with nearby towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea offering all the shopping and fine dining you could hope for when you’re not doing your best Steve McQueen impression at the track.