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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a world-famous speedway housed atop the high hills outside of Monterey, California. The speedway has hosted some of the world’s biggest racing stars over various racing series, and continues to be a fan and driver favorite as the years progress.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Finding something to eat is easy to do at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as the track is home to various food vendors and beverage carts around the property. At nearly every vantage point, there is something to eat. The majority of food selections are standard burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and a few salads. One of the most popular spots, however, is a small unassuming shiny Airstream sitting in the middle of the paddock. Here, fans can get all sorts of beverages from fresh hot coffee to iced coffee, blended mocha, and smoothies. In addition, the little trailer also has various selections of desserts and sweets, including homemade cookies and brownies.
The weather in central California is almost always perfect. Rarely seeing the temperature rise higher than the low 80's, the atmosphere at Laguna Seca is nearly all-but-guaranteed to be ideal. In addition, the facility is located on the top of the coastal hills outside Monterey, giving it a perfect spot for a breezy afternoon. Large oak trees line the track at various places, giving fans somewhere to hide from the sun if it does get warm. Additionally, the fans can camp over the weekend at the track, as the property serves as a recreational park during weekends where there is no racing.
Monterey is like much of the rest of coastal California; beautiful and relaxing. Boasting the weather and the scenery of the Bay Area with the small town feel of more inland locations, Monterey features a regional airport, numerous locations to stay, and a wide variety of places to eat. In addition, the world famous Monterey Aquarium is just minutes away from the track, as are the Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row.
The locals are kind and courteous, always willing to give you directions and recommendations on where to go. No matter what time of the year you are going, there is always some form of festival or celebration going on, such as Italian Fest, Jazz Fest, or Octoberfest.
The fans in Monterey are big time race fans, having been flocking to the track for years. They all know the best places to watch from, so asking for a little advice will be met with kind suggestions for the newby race fan. They also know how to party, putting on some great cookouts overnight in the camping areas. If you want help on understanding what is going on, you can also ask anyone. The fans cheer loudly with every close pass and thrilling corner on the track, making for an enjoyable race event.
Getting to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a bit of a difficult task. While the route from either Salinas or Monterey is pretty straight forward, the roads are almost all one-lane thoroughfares, meaning one slow car can make traffic a nightmare. Additionally, getting up the side of the mountain once inside the track's gates can be daunting to those who aren't used to driving up mountains. Parking is plentiful and available at various locations on the property, with additional parking passes available for different parking lots. Once you are at the track, moving around is aided by various bridges across the track to get from the inside to the outside of the course. Just be sure to bring your hiking shoes as the hillside walks are pretty impressive.
The track itself is very challenging, making for some of the most exciting and closest racing in road racing. The famed corkscrew complex is world famous for its difficulty, giving the best of drivers fits on race days. Tickets to the races can be varied, from $20 for lower-end races to $60 for bigger events. Pirelli World Challenge and IndyLights hold their championship finales here, while IMSA visits earlier in the season. Motorcycle racing is also a highlight throughout the year, while vintage race weekends attract massive crowds.
The corkscrew is the biggest draw here, and the hillside viewing at the track gives fans the best chance to view one of the most intimidating corners in all of racing.
Spectators also have a great fan zone at the track, featuring numerous autograph sessions during the weekend.
Something that is also different about Laguna Seca is the hiking trails on site. Walking up the hills to several of the viewing spots can be a workout all to themselves.
The weather also gives the fans a beautiful backdrop with which to watch racing as the typical morning fog in California creates a dramatic vista in the mornings.
If you want to find a historically significant raceway to watch racing that features brilliantly perfect weather conditions, a culturally vibrant city nearby, and the essence of thrilling action on track, you can look no further than Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The fans will welcome you with open arms and the symphony of motors roaring through the mountains will fill your heart with joy. This is definitely a bucket-list track for true racing fans to visit.
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