Laguna Seca – A Signature Event
Gary Horrocks explored the thinking behind the revised timing and schedule for this year’s Laguna Seca ALMS event.

In a departure from the normal ALMS schedule, this year will see the season finale take place in California at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, instead of the traditional year ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. And to add a further twist, the race will be a four hour race on Saturday, starting at 4:00pm and running into the dark.

According to Gill Campbell, General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, “Scott Atherton and I were discussing the schedule and the challenge of finding a promotional hook. We wanted to have a signature event for sportscar racing, as sportscar racing is the foundation of SCRAMP. The big races are the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 12 hours of Sebring and the 10 hour Petit Le Mans. We tossed some ideas around and came up with a four hour race that goes into the night.”

dailysportscar.comIt may seem odd, but this is the only time that the ALMS will run a race longer than the standard 2 hours and 45 minutes on the west Coast, and it will also be the only time in recent memory that a big-time sportscar race has run into the night on this side of the country too. With sunset officially occurring at 6:59pm in mid-October, we will get in three hours of daylight running, but still have sufficient time in the dark to enjoy the unique sights of big time sportscar racing in the dark, at one of the premier tracks in the States.

Since this is the first time for a race under the lights at Laguna, it is being “viewed as an experiment to see how it works. We can anticipate how it will work, but until it actually happens, you never know,” says Gill Campbell The lighting will not be overpowering, but will be more like “ambient lighting”, which will make the conditions safe for racing, but still be able to showcase the sights and sounds of what racing into the darkness is like.

dailysportscar.comWe who follow sportscar racing, understand and appreciate what the sport offers. But it can be difficult for those who are new or not acquainted to the sport. Gill Campbell: “I feel that once someone finds out what sportscar racing is all about, they’ll be hooked, but it is a difficult sport to explain, especially with the four classes racing at a time. We have well known drivers in the sport, but they are not household names like an Andretti. That is all part of the challenge of promoting.” Clearly, it is hoped that having something different will help bring in the fans. So far, it seems that it may, as advance ticket sales are up 25% over the previous year’s pace.

Later, after the season is over, more changes will occur at the track. The first will focus on turn 9, where the run off area will be increased, and the pedestrian bridge will be moved from its current location to an area between turns 8a and 9. Later changes will include the widening of the front straight and increasing the run off in several other areas of the track. Funding for this is coming from Yamaha Motor Corporation, and are part of the changes required for the track to be able host the MotoGP World Championship in 2005. According to Gill Campbell, “these changes are mainly for the bikes, but our partners in Champ Car and the ALMS also welcome the changes.”

 

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