Track Day! Scorching Laguna Seca
Last weekend was cool and clear in Salinas, California — perfect weather for one hundred cars to tear up the track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
As with most track days, the day started long before the sun came up. We heard that Trackspec Autosports was meeting in Fremont at 5:30AM for some coffee before heading south to the Monterey Bay, so we made sure to stop by and cruise down with them.
The track day was hosted by OnGrid Track. It’s a younger group of guys that offer some of the cheapest track time you can find. Best of all, it’s a beginner-friendly crowd that has instruction available as well as your normal run groups based on experience and lap times.
We showed up at the track with enough time to comfortably set up before the first drivers’ meeting.
If you’ve never been to Laguna Seca, it’s a beautiful track nested on a hilltop overlooking the bay; on a clear day you can make out the coast of Santa Cruz on the opposite side. Our buddy Sal was out giving his built ’06 Mustang a righteous shakedown. There’s no better place to find a weak spot in a build or an area that needs some tweaking than a road course like Laguna Seca.
The track layout itself is quite nice, to say the least. There’s a long, swooping “straight” which takes you uphill and then town through turn one, which is more of a kink than anything else. Turn two is a left-hander double apex where inexperienced drivers can leave a lot of time on the table.
From there, you have a few lefts and a right before you make your way up the back straight into turns seven and eight. These aren’t just your average corners, though.
Turn 7 is the highest point on the circuit, while turns 8A and 8B make up the legendary corkscrew. From the entrance of the turn to the exit, you shoot down a six story stop at an 18% slope!
The turn-in is a sharp left-hander and as you hit the apex, the track disappears from under you.
You’ve got to get your car positioned just right to hit the apex on 8B before flying into turn nine. Watching the course on a TV really doesn’t do it justice; the vertical drop from turn eight to nine is a staggering 109 feet.
With this much elevation change, it’s easy to make mistakes coming into, going through, or leaving the corkscrew. The driver of this Miata told us it was a simple mistake of not keeping the power down in an oversteer situation that sent him heading straight for us out of the corkscrew!
The car bounced over the drainage ditch and luckily was unscathed short of a curbed wheel — he was back out later in the day. Sporting near-stock trim, the driver pulled a 1:50.2 early in the day before this mishap.
While a track day isn’t nearly the same as a race day, most drivers out on course are still looking to improve their personal bests. Track cars are under a constant evolution, and there’s always something more to be done to squeak out a few more tenths of a second.
The most significant factor being the driver themselves. You can easily shave 5 to 10 seconds off your lap time after learning the proper braking points and lines through the more technical corners, without even touching car.
As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean we packed up our camera bags as track addicts loaded their cars back onto trailers.
Another successful day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the books. It made for great fun and cool photos!