International Speedway Corporation won't take over Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

International Speedway Corporation won't take over Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
By: Steven Cole Smith
Sep 16, 2015, 6:23 AM

ISC declines the invitation to submit a proposal to Monterey County.

Laguna Seca's paddock
Laguna Seca's paddock
Turn one at Laguna Seca
Turn one at Laguna Seca
Sun getting low over Laguna Seca
Scenic view of Laguna Seca
Morning fog at Laguna Seca

The International Speedway Corporation has declined to make a proposal to take over the management of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, according to a report in the Monterey Herald newspaper.

Which ends -- for now -- a contentious struggle over who runs the iconic track.

The move was announced by Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter, who had been spearheading the effort to attract ISC, which owns more than a dozen tracks including Daytona International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Talladega Superspeedway . ISC had been in a 90-day “due diligence” phase with the county, but apparently decided to pass on the opportunity.

ISC has issued no formal statement, and likely won’t, given that the last press release the company issued was July 2. It’s possible that the flood of bad publicity regarding the effort colored the decision to pull out. Many California race fans were upset with the idea of a major corporation coming in to take over the track, which has been run by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, or SCRAMP, since 1957.

The track was long a cash cow for Monterey County, but income has declined, and it appears that the loss of Moto GP spurred Potter and other board members to look at ways to make more money. According to sources at the track, Moto GP’s rates had risen to the point where it is a money-loser for the facility.

The track also lost the Skip Barber Racing School as a permanent tenant over an issue regarding payment of rent money, which came on the heels of the formal parting of the ways between Barber and longtime partner Mazda.

Tough controls limit opportunity

In addition, stringent controls on the track have limited what events can be held there – curfews and sound controls, along with a limit on the dates the track can operate – have made booking it for major events difficult. Next up at the track is Porsche Rennsport Reunion V, a semi-annual celebration of all things Porsche scheduled for September 25-27.

Some suspected ISC’s interest in the track was ultimately to try to buy it, but it apparently can’t be sold, given the complex public ownership of the road course.

Exactly what ISC had planned to do with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is unclear. Mazda officials suggested that even the track sponsorship deal was made through SCRAMP, and may not have continued had there been a change in management.

SCRAMP is a largely volunteer group, and given the heavy-handed manner in which the county has been dealing with the organization, it seemed very unlikely that a majority of SCRAMP volunteers would have been interested in volunteering their time and services for a for-profit company like ISC.

SCRAMP’s deal to operate the track has been renewed on a month-to-month basis, making it impossible for the group to formulate long-term plans, and difficult to justify any investment.

The media center, for instance, is several welded-together steel containers stacked on top of each other. SCRAMP paid for many of the track’s facilities, and how that would have been handled had ISC or some other for-profit company come in to run the facility remains unclear.

Potter and the Board of Supervisors have handled the negotiations with ISC in a flat-footed, secretive manner, and the botched process has no doubt left an uncomfortable relationship between the county and SCRAMP, which now may be the county’s only option to continue managing the track, given the fact that with ISC pulling out after exclusive due-diligence research, similar companies may lose interest. It will be interesting to see what happens next, and whether hurt feelings on both sides can be mended.

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About this article

Series Road racing
Author Steven Cole Smith
Article type Analysis