Travel: How To Get The Most From Laguna Seca

How To Get The Most From Laguna Seca

By Benjamin Shahrabani
August 11, 2015
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Photography by: Yoav Gilad, Jonathan WC Mills, Otis Blank

A favorite of drivers and motorsport enthusiasts alike, the picturesque Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca nestled in the Monterey Peninsula will once again go retro, and play host to hundreds of historic race cars which will compete during the Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion during August 13-16.

Founded by Steve Earle in 1974 as the Monterey Historic Automobile Races and held at the circuit ever since, its eleven turns and 2.24 miles are regarded as one of the most challenging layouts in the world. Fast corners, a low grip surface, and its signature turn, “The Corkscrew”—a blind crest with an elevation drop equivalent to five and half stories.

In other words, the perfect place to race priceless historic vehicles from around the globe.

As part of Petrolicious’ guide to this year’s Monterey Car Week, we were privileged to talk about the famous track with race car driver, Patrick Long, one of the most successful sportscar racers of his generation, co-founder of one of the coolest air-cooled Porsche events on the planet—Luftgekühlt—and all-around nice guy. Long certainly knows the track well*, and has taken incredibly close victories there in the past.

Both on- and off-track, Long was kind enough to offer some personal and professional observations of the track. Whether you’re racing or watching at Laguna Seca, get the most out of your visit.

Visiting Laguna Seca

First, let’s learn a bit of background on Long’s experience at the track. How many years have you been driving Laguna Seca for? When did you race there for the first time?

Patrick Long: I first raced at Laguna in 1998, in my transition to go-karts to cars. I won a scholarship to Skip Barber, and the prize was a credit to go through their school and do a bit of racing.

How many laps total do you think you’ve driven on the track?

Long: Too many to count. I’ve been racing there regularly since 2004, and I try to make it every year for the Historics and all the activities around the Monterey car week. Put another way: I’ll take any excuse I can find to drive at Laguna.

Why is Laguna Seca so beloved among drivers? What makes the track and setting so special to you?

Long: It’s an icon of a track with varied elevations and cambers. The historic corkscrew is one corner that every driver wants to experience. It’s also in a really cool part of the world and there is usually a great event experience in town connected to anything on the track.

What are some of your tips for being a spectator?

Long: Wear good all-terrain, comfortable shoes and walk the different sections of the track. You can get to tons of different viewing points, and it’s just a super picturesque place.

More practically, there’s a great craft beer stand at the very top of the hill, which is worth the walk. Get a beer there and you’re right there on drivers’ left as the cars enter the Corkscrew. You’ve got this great 360-degree view, but you can also walk down the outside of the Corkscrew, find some shade and get very close to the action.

What are some of the other highlights of Laguna Seca, as a track and as a facility?

Long: One of the best parts are the local fans and enthusiasts–those people are lifers, and they’re just so knowledgeable and fired-up for anything to do with any type of sportscar racing. I wouldn’t say it’s a drawback, but one of the challenges for drivers there is that the sand in the natural terrain tends to get blown onto the track when wind picks up—which is pretty frequently because of the proximity to the coast—so the conditions of grip on the track change regularly and quickly. It can be a very low-grip surface which makes setup a challenge, but also makes it a lot of fun to drive.

 Continue through to the Petrolicious Guide To Monterey Car Week Presented by Michelin to read about driving the Laguna Seca track.

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