There is one corner that gets all the attention at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: The Corkscrew. It is known around the world because of its steep and dramatic drop, some five and a half stories in just 450 feet of track length.
But there are more challenging and — let’s be honest — terrifying corners on this storied 2.238-mile belt of asphalt nestled in a low spot in a Monterey County Park.
Take Turn 4, which is sometimes taken flat or with just a little lift off the throttle. This particular turn has no camber to help you and there are consequences for getting it wrong, namely tire walls lurking not far from the racing surface.
Turn 5 is tricky, too, because it is faster than it looks at the entry point, but drivers who don’t use due caution can find themselves sliding back across the track and into a tire wall on the inside. One look at the streaks of rubber slashing across to the track will remind even the most fearless driver to hit his marks.
That leads to Turn 6, a double-blind left hander that is one of the most important on the track for fast lap times. You can’t see the turn-in point on approach and you can’t see the apex until you are supposed to be turning in. It’s fast and fun and the rhythm of your moves is critical to staying out of the gravel trap and off the tire wall.
Of course, once you exit The Corkscrew, you go barreling headlong into Turn 9, a hair-raising, fast downhill left-hander that conceals its apex until late in your approach. Turn 9 has its own special groove and the dramatic loss of camber at its exit makes that groove critical to finding good grip.
That’s the way it is at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of those tracks that takes 20 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. It’s difficult enough to drive fast laps there. Add in the scope and grandeur of the NASA Western States Championships Presented by Toyo Tires and you have a recipe for some challenging conditions and, of course, great racing. We hope you enjoy the coverage from this year’s Championships event. – Reza Arsham and Rob Krider