The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) has been operating for over 50 years and created what the racing circuit.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is today.
Before the first of the fabled Pebble Beach Road Races over 50 years ago, the Monterey Peninsula was not the destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world that it is today. It was hardly known outside of California, other than by soldiers who got their Army basic training at nearby Fort Ord.
The races on roads winding through the trees of Del Monte Forest changed that. Sports car fans flocked to the Monterey Peninsula to watch the Pebble Beach Road Races. Their friends followed year round after hearing of its wonders. Jobs and tax revenue to fund community projects grew as tourists from around the world were drawn to the Peninsula. When the Pebble Beach Road Races ended in 1956, because cars had become too fast for open road racing, the potential impact was enormous.
A group of local businessmen did not, however, see catastrophe. They saw opportunity. They had a vision of a permanent race track where the Pebble Beach Road Races tradition could be continued, preventing the potential loss of jobs and tax revenue.
They founded SCRAMP on November 1, 1956 with a charter to, “benefit local charitable and non-profit organizations and to promote the economic vitality of Monterey through the encouragement, solicitation, organization, sponsorship and perpetuation of motorsports events in the vicinity of the Monterey Peninsula.” They conceived and built Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and today SCRAMP continues to organize races at the track true to its charter.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE
The results have been nothing short of hugely successful. Almost twelve million dollars ($12,000,000) have been distributed to over 100 Monterey Peninsula charitable and service groups over five decades. Groups such as the United Way, Special Olympics, Boy and Girl Scouts, Rotary, and Lions provide volunteer workers for race events to raise funds for their activities. In 2008 alone, $317,751 in net proceeds from five race events were distributed by SCRAMP.
On top of all this is the positive impact of the more than one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) in revenue that has been generated for Monterey Peninsula businesses by events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2009’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, featuring the return of the MotoGP World Championship, benefited the Monterey Peninsula to the tune of an estimated $100 million in economic impact.
SCRAMP today is the most important economic and charitable organization in Monterey County.
It also stands out from all other organizers of world-class sporting events because of the way and why it operates. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is unlike every other major professional sports facility in the USA, or anywhere else.
Racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is for people, not for profit.
There are now nearly 2,500 registered volunteers who help make events at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca successful. They are organized and managed by 200 volunteer Assistant Directors and a paid staff of just over 20 full-time employees, who are guided by a corporate board of 25 volunteer Directors made up of Monterey Peninsula community leaders.
The numbers though are just convenient measures of what racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is about. Far more important is the way lives have been touched.
Everything at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca happens because men and women from all walks of life work together cooperatively year after year to make each event successful. They have done this, and they continue to do it, in the spirit of a time-honored American tradition. They are people working together to make their community a better place to live and to help their neighbors, as Americans have done since before the days of frontier barn-raisings.
SCRAMP WAS WAY AHEAD OF ITS TIME
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was the result of the vision of SCRAMP’s founders that led to exploratory discussions with the U.S. Army about using land on Fort Ord for a track. These meetings led to a truly unique arrangement. The Army leased SCRAMP land for the track and the Army Corps of Engineers helped with its construction. This was more than 30 years before innovative community use of military base land was made a necessity by base closures.
It was a win-win situation. Everyone in the Monterey Peninsula community gained – business owners, workers, taxpayers, soldiers at Fort Ord and people who needed a little help from their friends, local charities and service groups.
IT BECAME WORLD FAMOUS ALMOST INSTANTLY
A year and eight days from the day SCRAMP was chartered and two months after SCRAMP was granted construction approval, Pete Lovely won the first race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca driving a Ferrari. That was on November 9, 1957.
Almost over-night, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca became world famous and now it is the premier road racing track in North America. Worldwide, it is mentioned in the same breath with other historic tracks like Le Mans, Indianapolis, Monaco, Monza, Brands Hatch, Road America, Spa-Francochamps, Watkins Glen, Riverside and the Nürburgring.
The track in 2011 is a physically different Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca than in 1957. Originally 1.9 miles long with nine turns, it now has 11 turns and it is 2.238 miles around. Gone are the haybales that once lined turns, replaced by wide open runoff areas that allow for spins, without contact. Gone is the original Turn 2 that whitened knuckles because driving through it was like trying to thread a needle at 130mph, replaced by infield turns that are challenges of another kind and bring racing closer to more spectators. Gone is the pit area outside the final turn, replaced by grandstands that make watching dashes to the checkered flag and pit lane action as comfortable as spectating at any professional sports event.
In character and spirit though, Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca is very much the same as it has always been. The hillsides are still fabulous for spectating, picnicking and the many other activities that go on there. Still easily accessible is the paddock where racers, their race bikes or cars, crews at work, and celebrities can all be seen up close and personal. The atmosphere of events is still like that of a family reunion.
What will never, ever change at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is the Corkscrew. All legendary tracks have signature turns talked about in awe by those who have dared to race through them as fast as humanly possible: the Nürburgring’s Flugplatz, Paddock Bend at Brands Hatch, Monza’s Lesmo curves, Turn One at Indianapolis. But nowhere in racing is there anything like the Corkscrew.
THERE IS REALLY NOTHING QUITE LIKE IT IN RACING
The Corkscrew is approached going flat out up the backside of the hill that overlooks Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s namesake dry lake. A heartbeat after blue sky and gnarled oak trees pop into view dead ahead, you are on the brakes and turning hard left. Suddenly you are going downhill rapidly. The track seems to have disappeared from underneath you. You’re in the Corkscrew. No rollercoaster ride on the planet is like it. The pit of your stomach is empty. You are being forced right towards disaster. After a nano-second of fear, the tires grip the pavement. Again, you breathe, plummeting into a right-hand turn. You swing left and, just before you fly off the track, you dive right into it. Through the turn, you’re through the Corkscrew. If you got it right, you went from top to bottom in less time than it took to read this paragraph, and you’re on your way to a fast lap.
Every driver or rider who takes the wild ride through the Corkscrew takes it because SCRAMP and the Army had agreed that the land which would be Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca should be changed as little as possible to construct the track, thoughtfulness that pre-dated environmentalism by nearly 20 years. When the bulldozer cutting the path for the track back in 1957 crested the top of the hill, the operator saw the same sky and trees that drivers and riders see today. Then he turned left and became the first driver to go through the Corkscrew and undoubtedly the slowest.
Recent Article in Carmel Magazine about SCRAMP: