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A Brief History of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Take a look into the legendary circuit’s storied past

Laguna Seca wasn't always the iconic and bustling race circuit we know and love today. On the eve of the 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, let's take a dive into the history of California's world-class race venue.

Initially, all motorsport local to the Pebble Beach area was held during the Del Monte Trophy, a road-race staged among the local winding roads that snaked through developed areas. At its zenith, the Del Monte attracted nearly 50,000 onlookers who stood alongside the dusty forested course. As cars became faster and risks became greater, the roads were less and less suitable for motorsport. Racer Ernie McAfee died when his Ferrari smashed into one of the many trees lining the course in 1956, signaling the end of the Del Monte Trophy.

To augment the momentum of the Del Monte's popularity, ground was broken for the track now known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1957, funded by $1,500,000 raised by local businesses and citizens on a portion of the Ford Ord army base. Ownership of the track has since been handed over to the Monterey County Parks Department, and operates under legislation of the U.S. Parks department.

Since the first race in 1957, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has remained a landmark venue for some of the greatest cars, drivers, and teams in the past half-century, including Can-Am, Trans-Am, IMSA GT, CART, American Le Mans Series, and MotoGP. To remain up-to-date and competitive, the track has gone through a series of renovations and layout changes, the most major of which occurred in the late 1980s, when a large infield was added, along with the elimination of a straight portion.