Night Time in the Switching Yard ... A few words with Laguna Seca’s
Possibly the most anticipated ALMS race of the year has to be this final round
upcoming at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Track Honcho Gill Campbell explains
how it came to happen along with a few thoughts about next season at the
famous Monterey peninsula circuit.
SCP: Who came up with the idea for a ALMS "it's ends at 8 in the evening" four
hour race ?
GC: It was a result of a discussion between Scott Atherton and myself regarding
|how to create a||"promotional hook" for this event and whether Saturday|
|races would pull better than Sunday. (So far so good!)|
SCP: Usually the main event is on Sunday, why the format change to Saturday ?
And what can be expected for Sunday ?
GC: We are promoting this as a "Double Header", Racing into the darkness with
the American Le Mans Series on Saturday and then on Sunday the season
finale of the Speed World Challenge Series. Obviously, Saturday works
better for a later race.
SCP: Recent accounts in the news had Laguna Seca in financial trouble and then
you were able to turn things around with the return of the FIM championship
for next season. Can you give a view of what is planned for the circuit and
facilities for the next three seasons ?
GC: Just like many other companies, we suffered as a direct result of the
failing economy, 9/11 and the pre-bankruptcy decline of Champ Car. As a
non-profit organization, this meant a long and tough road to recovery.
But, we have turned the corner with new financing and a new series. The
MotoGP will be here for the next five years and has enabled us to put Mazda
Raceway Laguna Seca back on the map.
We will undergo some major track safety improvements in order for the
facility to be homologated by the FIM. Thanks to the support of Yamaha,
without whom this would not have been possible. This includes expanding
the run-off areas, increasing the size of the gravel beds, installing new
curbing on every turn and moving the turn 9 bridge to create additional
run-off. This does mean that the track will be closed down for 45 days
from May 2nd through June 15th
SCP: Laguna Seca has always suffered from a limited amount of dates due to
restrictions, aside from the Monterey Historics and the Moto GP, are there
any major changes ?
GC: No, as we are owned by Monterey County Parks with whom we have a
Concession Agreement, we are limited to five major events a year. As of now we
scheduled the American Le Mans Series, the Red Bull ( Moto ) Grand Prix, the
Monterey Historic Automobile Races and the U.S. Sports Car Invitational for next
SCP: And Champ Car ?
GC: That is an ongoing discussion.
SCP: Grand Am has been doing well this season in presenting a large field of
their version of prototypes while the ALMS field has been shrinking. Both
series have their supporters and detractors, has there been any discussion
between you and Grand Am on a possible race at Laguna ?
GC: We have actually been talking about including Grand Am on the schedule for
a couple of years, unfortunately our schedules have had conflicts.
SCP: On the recently inked deal with Yamaha, what else will this mean for the
GC: It means that we can have MotoGP in 2005 and beyond.
SCP: There has been some criticism that while races at Laguna Seca are known
throughout the motorsports world, there is not enough support in promoting
the events for the locals. Any comment ?
GC: It's called golf! While we have one of the most renowned race tracks in
the world, we work hard to make our presence known here. We are well
supported by our local community especially over the past couple of
years. Our major draw is actually from the South Bay area. This Wednesday
before the ALMS event we will once again stage a Mini Le Mans with several top
race cars in the area around Downtown San Jose's Plaza de Cesar Chavez.
A temporary race track is set up for a demonstration during the noon hour.
This have proved to be very popular with the public as they get a opportunity
to speak with the drivers and crews.
SCP: The recent addition of extra fencing near the corkscrew has limited the
view for the fans that flock to the hill, what was the reason for the extra
fencing and the mandate behind it ?
GC: Champ Car safety requirements. Accommodations have been made for
photographers since the Champ Car race. There will be a few changes to the
fencing for next season.
SCP: Several European teams have expressed interest in a possible return of
the FIA GT Championship, which was well received in 1997 and 1998... is this
a future possibility ?
GC: It has not been discussed. Have them call me!