Monterey County at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
The 2018 Amgen Tour of California finish in Monterey County at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is sure to spark attention. The track is instantaneously recognizable to motor sports race fans. According to the Los Angeles Times, the track is known as “one of the most important race facilities in American motor sports.” Internationally, it is regarded as “one of the world’s most technically challenging race venues.” The result is a world-class facility that draws the biggest names in Formula 1 and Superbike racing. Only six miles inland from the always charming Monterey Bay, the course combines the best of this marine atmosphere with the distinctive California central coast bronzed and tree-dotted hilly landscape. The eleven-turn, 2.238-mile course hosts five annual world-class race events, including the exhilarating Superbike World Championships.
Racing at Laguna Seca started sixty-one years ago in 1957. The previously held Pebble Beach Road Races were seen as too dangerous, prompting the community to band together and create a dedicated track facility. The track today is a Monterey County Park but operated by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula. One of the course’s signature characteristics is “the corkscrew.” A quick left into a right is topped by an 18% slope that results in a total drop of 59 feet. Coming off a long straightaway, racers are forced to slow from speeds of 130 to 50 miles per hour just to stay in competition. This dive in elevation is then augmented by another drop of 109 feet before the next turn. The result is a windy and undulating course that demands the most of its riders before crowning a champion.
Perhaps the Amgen Tour of California started a trend when it finished Stage 4 of the 2016 race in Monterey County at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Peter Sagan won then, just ahead of other all-around riders like Olympic gold medalists Greg Van Avermaet. The following year, two of cycling’s Grand Tours also integrated renowned raceways as unique venues for the peloton and fans. The 2017 Tour de France raced through the Belgian Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps while the Vuelta a Espana started an individual time trial at the Circuito de Navarra. The Amgen Tour of California keeps this momentum going in 2018 with an exciting finish to end Stage 3.
Monterey County has plenty of other adventures to offer race fans. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is often cited as one of the world’s pre-eminent aquariums. In fact, the Aquarium is just the latest in a legacy tied to the sea. The Spanish first set eyes on Monterey Bay in 1542, but it took explorers more than two hundred years to return and establish the presidio stronghold and mission. While Junipero Serra founded the Carmel Mission to take advantage of prime farmlands, the Presidio of Monterey overlooked the crucial Monterey Bay. Thus, Monterey became one of California’s most important ports. Fishing and canneries exploded into the early 20th century, resulting in distinctive places like Cannery Row and the Monterey Wharf. Both are now must-see attractions that convey the seafaring heritage and importance of Monterey. Stroll the wharf to sample sumptuous clam chowder before boarding a whale watching cruise or relax along Cannery Row while visiting the Aquarium. If those don’t fit the bill, Monterey County has plenty of adventures to thrill any enthusiast.