This week’s Behind the Zoom blog is from Jonathan Bomarito, who explains what it was like to grow up within earshot of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Here are some of his fond memories – and recommendations on the best locations to watch this weekend’s Continental Tire Grand Prix powered by Mazda.
The race this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. is a special one for me because Monterey is my home town. I grew up between the race track and the town of Salinas in a small housing community nestled up to the hills of the Fort Ord Army post which surrounded the track. I could hear race cars from my home and school and I could not wait to get home after class because I knew my dad would take me to the track so that we could watch the cars testing!
What an amazing time to be a fan watching some of the world’s best drivers at one of the best tracks. Andretti, Rahal and Tracy. Vasser, Zanardi and Herta. Unser Jr., Mears, Pruett and Fittipaldi are just some of the legendary names that come to mind. Driving up the huge hill to get into the track, I remember getting to shift my dad’s manual pickup truck as we hit every apex up the winding road. Cresting the hill and finally seeing the track, we would go straight to one of my favorite spots. Right up to the fence between Turns 4 and 5, just before they got on the brakes for Turn 5. It was incredible! We would stand in the back of the truck to get a better view. The smell, sounds and of course the speed had a hook on me, and all I wanted to do was experience those sensations from inside the cockpit someday.
Another childhood memory that stands out is being able to walk right up to the pit lane. It was testing, and there were only a few cars, but I was shocked nobody was telling us that we couldn’t be that close to the teams and cars. Bryan Herta was in the car (he was the man around Mazda Raceway), and he would drive a few laps and then pit again. The crew was always ready for the next change, and they would hand him a water bottle as they went to work. I could hear him describing the handling of the car and what he needed the car to do better in the corners. When it was time for him to get out, he hopped over the pit wall and made eye contact with me and said a simple “hello.” That moment has stuck with me forever. You never know what a smile, hello or handshake will mean to an impressionable fan!
I encourage everyone to join us at this weekend’s Tudor United SportsCar Championship race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Make sure to watch for the Mazda Prototype No. 70 that I’ll be driving with my teammate Tristan Nunez. I recommend watching from the top of the hill at the Corkscrew and the braking zone for the Andretti hairpin (also known as Turn 2).
I am so blessed to be living my dream at the very spot where it all started for me. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you at the track!