Legends of Laguna
Notable Laguna Greats
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca marked its 50th anniversary in 2007 with the introduction of the “Legends of Laguna,” to honor some of the legends who have made Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca one of the world’s most historic and important motor racing circuits.
Santa Ana, California
Dan Gurney’s career at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca spans more than 40 years of winning as a driver, manufacturer and team owner. Gurney drove in the first professional race ever held at the track–the 1960 Pacific Grand Prix. He competed twice more in that event, piloting a Lotus 19B to victory in the first of the two-heat race in 1962. Gurney raced in several Monterey Grand Prix Can-Am races in the late sixties, before his worldwide racing ambitions kept him away from the track for several years. He returned to Monterey with his All American Racers team, building and entering race cars in both IMSA sports car and CART Indy car racing. Gurney’s Toyota sports car racing program had great success in Monterey, winning four times–1985 IMSA GTO: Dennis Aase; 1988 Camel GTO: Chris Cord; 1992 IMSA GTP: Juan Manuel Fangio II; 1993 IMSA GTP: P.J. Jones). Gurney was inducted during the season-opening U.S. Sports Car Invitational May 2007, where his son Alex was driving a Daytona Prototype driver in the Grand-Am race.
Eddie Lawson won the first world championship motorcycle race ever staged at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca when he beat the world’s best riders to win the United States Grand Prix in 1988. His victory wasn’t totally unexpected, as the California native had demonstrated his mastery of the challenging track during his AMA national racing career in the early 1980s. Lawson won the 1980 and 1981 AMA 250 Grand Prix races and the 1981 and 1982 AMA Superbike Championship races. Lawson retired from motorcycle racing after winning four world championships and four AMA national championships, but he did not retire from racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He returned to race Indy Lights and CART Indy cars in the early ‘90s, and has also competed and won in World SuperKart races. Lawson was inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca during the 2008 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.
On Nov. 9, 1957, Pete Lovely overcame long odds to win the Pebble Beach Road Races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the very first race for the recently completed track. He was driving a 2-liter Ferrari Testa Rosa against bigger-engined cars driven by bigger-named drivers like Carroll Shelby. But Lovely’s perseverance and keen race strategy earned him the historic win and permanent place in the record books. Lovely’s career continued both as a team owner and driver for many years, including several Formula One races. A regular visitor to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca over the years, he continues to compete in historic racing events including the Monterey Historics in 2007, where he was inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca.
Mooresville, North Carolina
Roger Penske’s racing career began at an early age and by 1960, was given the honor of Sports Illustrated SCCA Driver of the Year. Between 1961 and 1963, he won races in the Zerex Special including Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to win the USAC road racing championship. He returned in winning fashion in 1964 for the Chaparral team.
In the Trans-Am series, he switched from his championship-winning Chevrolet Camaros and entered AMC Javelins in 1970, winning again at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In 1971, the Penske/Porsche 917 efforts in the Can-Am series left a lasting imprint on American road racing history. Penske-led teams won here in 1972 and 1973, going on to win the Can-Am Championship both years. Penske Racing competed in open-wheel racing with Champ Car/CART and won six times at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Penske was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. He was inducted in to the Legends of Laguna Seca in October 2008.
New Albany, Ohio
When you consider his record as a driver and car owner, Bobby Rahal is certainly one of the most successful racers to ever compete at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He was a regular competitor in IMSA and Can-Am sports car races in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, winning the 1978 Can-Am race. But his greatest achievement was winning the annual Grand Prix of Monterey Indy Car race four consecutive times from 1984-87. His success in that event continued as a car owner, taking wins in 1999 (Bryan Herta) and 2001 (Max Papis). In 2003, the back straight between Turns 6 and 7 was renamed Rahal Straight in his honor. Rahal was inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca during the season-ending Monterey Sports Car Championships October 2007, where he owned a Porsche team competing in the American Le Mans Series.
The Monterey resident’s on-track record at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is peerless: three consecutive U.S. Grand Prix wins between 1989 and 1991, victories in the 1983 and 1986 AMA Superbike Championship races, and the 1984 AMA 250 Grand Prix race. Off-track, Rainey was instrumental in returning the MotoGP World Championship to Monterey for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. Turn 9 was named Rainey Curve in his honor in 1995. Long considered one of the greatest of all time, Rainey was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in April 2007. Rainey’s Legends of Laguna Seca induction ceremony occurred during the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 2007.
Kenny Roberts Sr.
This California motorcycle legend is the most influential American motorcycle racer of all time. “King Kenny” was the first American to win the 500cc Motorcycle World Championships and went on to garner three consecutive World Titles, along with three victories at the Daytona 200. When he retired from active racing, Roberts was the successful manager of Team Marlboro Roberts Yamaha and played a key role in bringing the world championship back to this track in 1993.
Roberts has been inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) named Roberts a Grand Prix Legend.