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Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Bends Over Backwards to Keep MotoGP Racers Happy

Rumor has it that Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca had its biggest financial success ever when it hosted the 2005 U.S. round of the MotoGP championship last summer. The return of the top tier roadracing class to the U.S. continent was a massive success . . . so much so that traffic congestion for spectators was horrendous. Basically, the place was overwhelmed with enthusiastic spectators, and the track was delighted.

As you will see in the press release re-printed below from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, plenty of money is being spent by the track to address concerns expressed by riders who participated earlier this year in the inaugural event. Those concerns were somewhat controversial, because representatives of the MotoGP Riders Association had previously visited the track and approved the track from a safety perspective. When other riders arrived to practice and then race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the event, however, much discussion ensued concerning safety issues (including but not limited to a lack of run-off in certain corners, perhaps most notably at the top of the famous corkscrew).

Somewhat ironically, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was one of the critics of the track — indicating many changes were needed to improve its safety. Rossi, of course, is the most famous employee of Yamaha . . . the corporation that underwrote most of the costs associated with preparing the track in the first place.

In any event, here is the press release from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca concerning changes underway prior to the 2006 event.

Construction is set to begin on nearly $7 million of improvements to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, part of an ongoing safety and facility upgrade for the world-renowned circuit. These improvements are scheduled for completion in time for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 21-23, 2006.

The most dramatic improvements include an entire surface repaving, as well as creating additional run-off at Turn 1. Adding runoff at the fast first turn requires removing a portion of the hillside as well as the former media center building that sits atop it. A state-of-the-art hospitality center will replace the former media center building. Additional runoff will also be added at turns 3, 4, 6, and 7.

The improvements are being made with input from the Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme (FIM) and the MotoGP Rider Safety Commission. These new changes follow a Yamaha Motor Corporation-funded $2 million upgrade that occurred one year ago making it possible for MotoGP World Championship to return to the United States for the first time since 1994 as the 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is the only racetrack in the United States to receive Grade A homologation from the FIM, as well as Grade 2 homologation from the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The FIM and the FIA are the world’s governing bodies for motorcycle and automobile racing, respectively.

“This is a significant upgrade for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and continues to push us toward our goal of leading racetrack safety, not only compared to tracks in the United States but around the world,” said Gill Campbell, CEO/General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “These changes are only possible through the assistance and support we get through our partners and sponsors like Red Bull, Yamaha and Mazda.”

“While these changes were made in conjunction with Dorna and the MotoGP riders, it will also increase safety for everyone who runs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, from track rentals and club competition to our other professional events like the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series,” Campbell said.

John Pinio, Director of Parks for Monterey County states, “The County of Monterey, who own the 542 acre recreation area that is home to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, has a 31-year relationship with SCRAMP through a concession agreement. As a County Park facility, we greatly appreciate the commitment of SCRAMP, Mazda, Red Bull and Yamaha to not only bring this world class motorcycle event to our community, but also provide the financial resources to fund the improvements needed to keep the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the forefront of the racing industry.”

Necessary permits to complete the work have been acquired, and demolition of the existing media center will take place December 27 at 8:00am.

The 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix drew a weekend attendance of 153,653, the largest event attendance in the 49 seasons of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Tickets for the 2006 event went on sale on September 1. General Admission tickets, general camping, and grandstand seats are still available for the July 21-23, 2006 event weekend at www.laguna-seca.com or by calling (800) 327-SECA.

Tickets for the remaining Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca events will go on sale January 9th, including the U.S. Sports Car Invitational featuring the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series May 5-7, the 33rd Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races August 18-20, and the Monterey Sports Car Championships featuring the American Le Mans Series October 20-22.