BEHIND THE ZOOM: Mazda Raceway

A breakdown of the home of the 2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs with turn-by-turn, data, annotated track map, plus in-car and track walk video.

Corkscrew

The famed Corkscrew at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

For the first time in 45 years, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs will be held on the West Coast and, for the first time, at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. While West Coast racers have flocked to San Francisco Region events at the Monterey, Calif., circuit for years, for many it will be their first time to feel Turn 6 grab a car and toss it around the corner, the first time they’ll have to negotiate the tricky off-camber exit of Turn 9 and, what every racer who’s watched a broadcast of a sports car race from the former dry lake bed longs to do…take the leap of faith required to throw a car down the Corkscrew.

To help the Mazda Raceway rookies get up to speed a bit more quickly, the BEHIND THE ZOOM team – with a special guest star – have come together to provide Mazda racers with the usual cornucopia of information, from a turn-by-turn breakdown to a marked up track map and data trace, along with some in-car video to get a feel for the place.

“The one thing I wish I knew about Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before driving there was which corners you need to focus on,” says Joel Miller, driver of the No. 07 Mazda SKYACTIV Diesel Prototype in the TUDOR United SportsCar Series. “This track requires the car to be set up differently for different styles of corners and since that cannot happen, the driver must adjust his driving style accordingly. For example, setting the car up for turns such as Turn 2, which normally has understeer on exit, could hurt the high-speed corners such as Turns 6 or 9.  There are things you can do with your driving inputs to help this problem. My advice is to focus on getting the car comfortable in the high-speed sections of the track such as Turns 5, 6 and 9.”

Each of those turns has its unique quirks. All are fast, cambered in the driver’s favor – at least through most of the turn; 6 and 9 flatten quickly – and important to get right for the shortest time around the circuit. But none are generally considered to be the most important turn on the track.

“The most critical corner on the track is the final corner, Turn 11. This leads onto the longest straight with a passing opportunity at the end. Getting the car to rotate with good power-down capability is your number one goal. This may sound opposite from what I said before, because this is the slowest corner. However, for a good lap time focus on getting the car to work in the fast turns; for a good racecar focus on Turn 11,” Miller says.

 

Andrew Carbonell isn’t one of our BEHIND THE ZOOM regulars. But neither can we ignore his record at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He has won three of the last four Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner races there, the most recent with Randy Pobst. And he plans to race at the Runoffs in the Spec Miata class.
“Mazda Raceway is a track that really requires you to roll your speed and really carry speed through the corners,” Carbonell explains. “The person that slows the car down the least there is the fastest.”

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Turn-by-turn
Carbonell provides our turn-by turn breakdown, while No. 70 Mazda SKYACTIV Prototype driver Tom Long provides the track map and data and some in-car video. He’ll take us through a clean lap, plus show off a good passing opportunity. Then Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires points leader Kenton Koch shows us some more passing, along with some defensive lines in a compilation from this year’s MX-5 Cup races at the track.

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Annotated Track Map

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Data map

In addition, SpeedSource principal and Mazda SKYACTIV Diesel Prototype driver Sylvain Tremblay joins Koch for track walk of Mazda Raceway, breaking down each corner to help Mazda drivers achieve their best lap.

Finally, don’t miss the BEHIND THE ZOOM forum on Wednesday evening, Sept. 24, at 9 p.m. Eastern with Kenton Koch, who won an MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires race there earlier this year. Koch will be joined by either Miller or Tristan Vautier.