Tag Archives: Laguna Seca

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Trip Booked in October 2017

I’m really happy to say that the West Coast trip of 2017 has been booked. I had the privilege of participating in my first Miata’s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event last year followed by an exciting weekend of Pirelli World Challenge at the same facility, and this year I’m going to repeat the trip. Flights have been booked. Events registered for, the only thing left to do is find cheap accommodation.

It’s exciting!

First, I cashed in some airline miles to actually fly into Monterey (MRY) this time. No more flying to the Bay Area (SFO, OAK, SJC) and driving two hours. Instead I wanted to see the track from the air and there’s no better way than to fly into the Monterey Regional Airport which takes the final approach right over the circuit.

Second, I can’t wait to volunteer again with the organizers of Miata’s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event. It was such an amazing opportunity last year I couldn’t pass it up this year:  https://www.miatasatmazdaraceway.com/

Third, PWC is going to be a blast because of a potential race that may actually take place this year. I may sound a little skeptical because the SRO advertised a US round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge a year ago at COTA with a proposed 6 hour race, which never happened, and now the California 8 hour enduro is on schedule but suspiciously very little information is available about it. At the very least I think the PWC event will take place, and last year it was great fun to volunteer it. But as a fan of endurance racing I want to see this California 8 hour race happen. More importantly I love the concept of teams flying in their talent… race car drivers, engineers, crew and renting local vehicles to compete instead of flying all that machinery in with them (from Europe, Asia, Australia, etc.) The concept is cool, there are certainly plenty of PWC and IMSA teams that wouldn’t mind making some money from rentals in this way, but will it actually happen? We’ll wait and see.

I will have a few days of downtime between events, so my goal (besides finding cheap accommodation) is to find something to do from Monday to Wednesday in early October. I’ve done road trips up to San Francisco and down to Saint Luis Obispo last year. This time I’d like to do something different.

Can’t wait!

 

PS. as an avgeek I used some of my recently converted Virgin America miles to book a flight with Alaska Airways whom have absorbed VX… lucky for me, I’ll still get to fly Virgin’s A320’s.. and the routing I booked is a little crazy. I’ll do JFK-SFO on a VX A320, connecting to SFO-SAN on a VX A320, my first flight into San Diego, for absolutely no other reason than to connect to a puddle jumper Bombardier Q400 on Horizon Air to do SAN-MRY. It’s going to be fun arriving Monterey on a little propeller plane. On the way back I’ll fly United Express Canadair CRJ-200 MRY-LAX, connecting to a red-eye transcon Boeing 757 on LAX-EWR route. So many dots and lines for my flight map thanks to frequent flyer miles.

Get Closer to the Action! Become a Motorsport Marshal Volunteer!

Russ found a new hobby in 2011: Motorsport volunteering.

Since then he has worked in 15 different countries and for all sorts of racing from Formula 1 to MotoGP.

Russ likes to encourage others to volunteer also.

Get in touch with Russ to find out how.

 

 

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Mazda5: 1,000+ mile California Road Trip along the Pacific Coast

Another incredible road trip in the books, this time driving a Mazda5 rental along the Pacific Coast of California (cue in the theme song from the OC).

I have such incredible admiration for this state and feel truly blessed and fortunate to have had this opportunity to explore one of my favorite places in the world… The main reason for the road trip of which there were several actually, was to kill some time between events at Laguna Seca. So Monday after Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca I headed south for a few hour and several hundred mile drive to San Luis Obispo along California 1 Freeway which zig zags along the Pacific Coast… Tuesday I headed north to Half Moon Bay in the opposite direction, and Monday of the trip home I took that road again all the way to San Francisco instead of taking the more direct route along Highway 101.

The first trip south to SLO was awesome. I got to drive along the Monterey Peninsula past Pebble Beach, through Big Sur and along some amazingly scenic overlooks… visited the elephant seal beach. Had some tasty food in San Luis Obispo and also visited the dealership where my MX-5 Miata was originally sold. It was great! The only snag was realizing there’s absolutely no bathrooms along the coastal route, so I nearly exploded by the time I reached a souvenir shop/restaurant and started waiting in line behind ten antsy people like me, eager to Go!

The second trip was a bit quicker in nature, the road towards San Francisco is better and higher speed, with fewer twisties. But there’s still a lot to see especially when the waves are big and there’s surfers all along the coast doing their thing.

These trips also doubled as Foodie Tours because I used every opportunity to stuff my face with local cuisine. And I don’t just mean In-n-Out Burger which I visited a whole bunch of times on this trip. But also Phil’s seafood in Moss Landing, the Giant Artichoke in Castroville, and Sam’s Chowder Store in Half Moon Bay among others. What a pleasant experience that was.

I could go on and on babbling how awesome it was but instead I’ll just share some pix:

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Most of my trips started at In-n-Out in Seaside, CA with a double-double:

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The In-n-Out is revered in California and for good reasons, I’d say it’s far more loved than McDonalds… and McDee’s knows it!

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The beauty of the Road Trip was the fact that you got spectacular views along the entire trip… there wasn’t much waiting to see things while driving, you just saw amazing stuff

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And I took full advantage of the pull off areas to take some pix of the Mazda… Zoom Zooming along…

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Oh yeah, and plenty of Selfies too…

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Luckily I didn’t get stuck in traffic most of the time I was driving, and when I was following someone it usually was cool cars instead of slow poke RV’s chugging along

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I did check out the local wildlife also, it was so cool

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Lunch stops were the best… and I tried to go for sampler platters to taste more things on the menu

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Everything was super fresh… albeit a big pricey

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Love the Bears Crossing sign on the highway

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This place was pretty spectacular and I was very surprised to see a Hostel situated just outside of a historic lighthouse, there were several of these along the coast driving north from Monterey

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Sometimes I ordered food to go, pulled over in a scenic area and ate

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I have to say that the New England clam chowder in New Jersey is better than what I typically find, in California they seem to love adding sour dough bread to the meal, which tastes a bit weird for me

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I keep forgetting how exotic San Francisco is with all of their beautiful palm trees everywhere. This time I explored a part of SF I hadn’t visited before, mainly along the Pacific Coast, under the Golden Gate Bridge and eventually returned to one of my favorite spots: to drive down the crooked Lombard Street.

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Lunch in SF was delicious too, although I wish I had gone for some Asian food instead…

Can’t wait to come back soon!

Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 2016

Huge Thanks to the organizers of the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this year (the seventh itiration of the event) and the very first opportunity to volunteer for me. I’m super grateful!

I have already shared a few exciting posts about the individual activities from the weekend, but have yet to write a debrief of sorts, so here it goes.

The whole purpose of the trip for me was to sign the Millionth Miata. I had missed my opportunity several times earlier this year so it was now or never. I had read up about previous Miatas at MRLS (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) on the Miata.net forums and the idea of participating there was very intriguing but I figured with the difficulty I have had organizing local events in New Jersey it was never going to happen. But I was wrong. After quickly reaching out to a few folks through M.net I got a positive response and much more. Rick Welden the MAN behind the operation outlined what my skill set would benefit their project and what my reward for participation would be. A very direct and no-BS approach to the scenario that presented itself that made me super excited to go and help out.

When I landed in San Francisco I was very pleased to see that my Hertz Local Edition hooked me up with a Mazda vehicle. How appropriate? It wasn’t quite a sporty MX-5 like the hundreds I’ll be seeing at the track later, but it had a Mazda and the #5 in it’s name, and frankly having a minivan was very convenient to haul things around, especially one that handled so well. I put over one thousand miles on it over the course of ten days, 1,141 to be precise. And the only issue I ran into the whole time was catching a nail in one of the tires, which was probably entirely my fault (or bad luck rather). The car handled great, was fantastic on gas mileage and I was very pleased overall. With the expensive California fuel prices I managed to fill it only a few times, paying roughly $120 for the whole road trip. But back to the event.

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When I arrived at the hotel where many of the participants were staying Friday night, they fed me first and then put me to work helping out with the food line. I kept the soda’s cold and made sure everyone got what they were looking for. One of the event sponsors paid for the BBQ and that was really impressive to me because it seemed like there was an endless supply of food to be had.

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The next morning bright and early I showed up to help with the merchandise store. We were set up in the next garage from registration which meant everyone that came to sign on at least took a sneak peak at what swag we were selling. Most people bought something which was a fantastic way to support this whole operation because the amount of clothing, hats and posters to buy (not only from the current year but also many left overs from previous years) was a solid investment on the part of the organizers to have this event properly stocked. I did my best selling what was there especially promoting the vintage stuff that was sold for a very reasonable $5 bux per t-shirt or $15 bux per sweatshirt and looked pretty awesome to boot. The posters were a hot seller and even Mazda North America chipped in with some freebies to give away so whenever folks bought something they got to draw a cars to see what they’ve won in addition to their purchase. That was awesome.

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About mid-day on each day of the event I was whisked away to a different part of the track to help line up the cars for the big photo shoot as well as parade laps that followed. That was great! While at the merchandise garage I got to meet a lot of the Miata owners, now I could actually see what it is they were driving, and pretty much everybody had something really special they brought. (obviously I was most interested in NC’s because that’s what I got) but pretty much everything from other generations caught my eye and I took pix of the cars, from NA’s to Exocets. I even managed to catch a ride for the parade lap with one of the NC owners who turns out is also a Motorsport volunteer and lives in Salinas so we later met up for lunch to chat more about cars and racing. Another fella that ran the merchandise stand and was lining up cars for the parade actually gave me an opportunity to drive his NC around Laguna Seca and I will be forever grateful to him for that experience. Awesome! simply awesome!

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It seemed to me the majority of people participating in the event, chose to do so on Saturday while Sunday was a bit more low key day with plenty more opportunity to drive on track whether during the various skill sessions or the parade laps. I think in total something like 700 cars showed up, with about 300 of them participating in the parade laps that I was involved in. I noticed a number of foreigners in attendance besides the Canadians that drove down, there were Aussies and several Europeans in attendance whom I believe rented Miatas to drive on track. That was really neat. I was also very happy to see so many sponsors participating and having a separate display and shop area set up to sell their wares. That was cool as hell. I just wish I wasn’t travelling with a carry on during this trip I would have definitely bought something.

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Instead I got to do what I wanted. I got to sign the 1,000,000th Miata. I got to check out the Miata RF up close and personal. I got to get a parade lap as a passenger around Laguna Seca and even drive one lap by myself. And then I spend another weekend marshaling Pirelli World Challenge which had a ton of Miatas racing in the series which was simply a cherry on top moment for me.

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Once again I’m super grateful to the organizers and my co-volunteers. I’m so happy I got to meet so many West Coast Miata owners whether they were locals from California or from the neighboring states. And since my car was originally sold in California not too far from Laguna Seca, I even went on a road trip to San Luis Obispo to check out the dealership that sold my NC new.

Freaking amazing trip!

I would highly encourage anyone that likes Mazda’s, Roadsters and specifically MX-5 Miata’s (or Fiata’s 124 Spiders) to add this event to their list in the future. The dates were already announced for next year and I pray that my situation is such that I could come back and do this fun event all over again. What a blast!

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Thank you!

PWC Season Finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca the debrief

What an amazing way to end my racing season!

I don’t know if things could have gone any more perfectly than they did, but I’m certainly grateful for the awesome outcome. My station assignment was fantastic. I got to sneak in the day before the event to take lots of pictures which I wanted to do. The weather was picture perfect. We had plenty of incidents to keep us busy over the weekend. And I even got a Mazda rental car which I put over 1,000 miles on road triping the central coast of California… how appropriate for dual Mazda-centric events at a place called Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I am blessed!

As I’ve mentioned before the trip to Cali this time involved two back-to-back events at Laguna Seca. First a massive Miata get together followed by the Pirelli World Challenge season finale which has a huge field of NC Miatas exactly like the car I own (except maybe more racey).

My buddy Ron whom I talked out of booking a hotel during his visit to Watkins Glen and instead convinced him to utilize the RSI campground came through big time by introducing me to some folks (not directly Mazda Miata owners but closely associated nonetheless) who put me up for the full 10 days of my stay. That certainly brought my expenses down and under control… the trip wasn’t cheap though, I paid $129 for the flight out, $159 for the flight home, $196 for the car rental, $120 for fuel, etc. So at the very minimum I dropped $600 bux but it could have been worse. It was totally worth it though.

I had missed the Bay Area and Monterey Peninsula. I missed Laguna Seca so this trip was good for my soul.

The racing was outstanding. We were kept busy. Had some big crashes and spins and cars getting stuck in our gravel. Luckily no one was seriously hurt. The people I worked with were amazing. Super friendly from day one and I really appreciated such warm hospitality.

I was impressed royally with the way the San Francisco Region operates. Including a post I made on facebook that made all the marshals around the world jealous when SFR put on a Steak and Lobster dinner one night for us. What was more impressive was the fact that the dinner was paid for by recyclables. Something so ordinary that any other club in the nation or the world could do themselves, it’s just a matter of implementing the idea.

So after 1,141 miles on my Mazda 5 rental. One trip to San Luis Obispo along the scenic California 1 route along the coast south, and then two trips along California 1 north… first to Half Moon Bay and the other all the way up to San Francisco’s Golden Gate area along the coast. I am really impressed with this experience. There were hiccups along the way to be sure… lick catching a huge nail in the tire on the rental the night before the racing started which got me  a bit worried. But after doing some quick decision making and a $10 purchase at local AutoZone I was all set and secure.

I love this part of California and would love to come back again and again. Hopefully my next trip to Laguna Seca won’t be 3 years away.

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View over the paddock from Turn 2

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SFR folks seem to take great pride in their region, certainly far more than I do with Guam

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And there’s the lobster!

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for those that didn’t want lobster tails there was plenty of chicken

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It was delicious!

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and so were all the lunches

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and other dinners which were served every night

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I brought a whole stash of nibbles for the station… I called this area the mini bar although with all the food provided I hardly relied on mine

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my favorite drink in California!

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I even contributed to the next feast by donating all my empty cans

During the morning meetings we were constantly reminded that 9 out of 10 times we will not respond to incidents. But I was lucky enough to be able to do it… running out on track to pick up a hood that blew off the #37 Mustang in GTS class

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Really happy with that experience, especially on such an iconic track with all it’s elevation changes, high speed corners and lots and lots of dust everywhere which caused some serious incidents

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For the last dinner of the event my bud Ron and I went to the other iconic place in the area, Baja Cantina with all it’s mementos and motorsport memorabilia on the walls, it was righteous!

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After such a great experience for the two weeks spent at Laguna Seca I didn’t want to leave California

I will be back!

Second Post Card from Turn 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Flagging PWC Season Finale

Is there a better spot to be at a race track than one so close you can look the drivers in the eye?

I don’t think so.

I got lucky at Laguna Seca this weekend, because the powers that be allowed me to stay for the duration of the event (all four days) at the amazing Turn 2 hairpin and I loved every minute of it.

I had requested a “first or last” turn when registering thinking I could sneak away during our downtime to take some grid pictures of all the different classes… the GT/GTA/GT-Cup; Spring X: GT/GTA/GT-Cup and GTS, or GTS class by itself or the TC/TCA/TCB event featuring all the Miatas… but that wasn’t practical at Turn 2. So instead I took advantage of the downtime (offduty when pix were taken) and snapped a few close ups as the cars were leaving pit lane on their first sighting lap.

Enjoy:

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and some other cars:

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The Touring Car class was all Mustangs and Camaros just a few years ago, and now it’s become real exotic with the entry of KTM Xbows, Maserati Gran Turismo, Aston Martins, Porsche Caymans, Ginettas and Sin R1’s.

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Also it’s been a long while since I saw a Flying Lizzard Porsche sporting their classic livery:

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Fantastic post to work at Turn 2 and I could highly recommend others request it. I think it’s much better than the Corkscrew.

Pirelli World Challenge Season Finale at Laguna Seca Day 1 at Turn 2

So after a week of enjoying California’s Central Coast and all it’s got to offer I ran into my first snag… almost literally. The rental car got a flat tire… but it was pretty lucky how it happened and where it happened. After already getting about 850+ miles on the odometer I noticed the dash light lit up last night as I was leaving the scenic overlook at Pacific Grove after enjoying a wonderful sunset. Oops… I pulled over checked the front tires, they looked OK… then the right rear and voila… big nail head smack in the middle of the tread! Go figure… I went straight to AutoZone to pick up a fix-a-flat kit and returned to my host’s house in Salinas where for the next hour myself and my host labored over a seemingly simple task of removing the nail and sealing the tire. After about 20+ miles drive with the nail deeply seated in the tire the head of the nail got ground off, but we eventually managed to pull it out and reseal the tire. I’m so happy this misfortune happened the way it did, because if it were to happen on the drive down to Big Sur or San Luis Obispo or even to Half Moon Bay a few days earlier I would have been screwed. A lot of roads were too tight to pull over and change a tire and most places had no phone reception to call for help either. Hard to believe that in California it’s difficult to get signal, but along Route 1 there were plenty of dead zones on my Verizon phone.

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Happily we fixed the tire the night before the races started at Laguna Seca and what a wonderful start to the races it has been. For my first assignment I got the amazing Turn 2 hair pin at the end of the front straight. And for a quiet first day we sure had a ton of action. Lots and lots of spins. Some contact between cars. Some passes under our local yellow. Both myself and the communicator stayed pretty busy. And we were very lucky because the fields in this PWC season finale were huge. The GT/GTA/GTC field was big, the GTS field was big, the TC/TCA/TCB field was big and the Sprint X field of GT/GTA/GTC/GTS cars that only saw a few cars in Canada was the biggest field of them all.

I had such a great time, I can’t wait to come back for more!

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I really liked working off of this elevated station at Turn 2, mostly great visibility and very convenient to see around the whole corner.

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At the end of the day I went to hang out with Ron who I first met at Watkins Glen and who also hooked me up with my host in Salinas. Got to check out his Miata and got to shake him down for some guest passes that he wasn’t going to use so I can offer them to my host. Excellent day for sure!

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Post Card from Pirelli World Challenge at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Greetings from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the season finale of the SCCA Pro Pirelli World Challenge series. Amazing event at a beautiful facility… today I snuck in at the track to take some pix of the cars as the paddock was being set up:

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I have to say this is the most diverse racing series in the US right now, with cars from BMW, Bentley, McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ginetta, KTM, Sin, Porsche, Ford, Chevy and of course lots and lots of Mazda Miata’s. I would even go as far as saying this is my favorite series right now… can’t wait for this weekend to unfold!

Woo Hoo! Got to do a Parade Lap in NC2 MX-5 During Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Probably the most unexpected thing that happened the weekend of Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event was me ending up behind the wheel of a beautiful gray NC2 MX-5 doing a closing lap at the end of the parade lap session on Sunday… Yep, I got to freaking drive Laguna Seca and it was mighty awesome!

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For a weekend that will be remembered for it’s sensory overload, I think this is by far the highlight of the whole trip! Thanks to everyone that made this possible!

Mazda MX-5 RF: Finally Caught the Retractable Fastback in Person during Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

The Mazda MX-5 Miata RF has been as elusive for me as the Millionth Miata but I finally caught a glimpse of it in person at the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event in Monterey, Cali this weekend… What a pretty car!

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Somebody left it overnight at our Merchandise garage so I got some up close snaps of it before it was rolled out on display outside…

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I do like it!

Maybe this thing will replace my current NC1 GT PRHT… Hmm!