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Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca California. The iconic Corkscrew, how do you drive it like a boss? We asked Grand Am Continental Cup Bimmerworld driver Gregory Liefooghe for some tips.
Living in San Francisco, Infineon Raceway is my home track, I’m working there every week but Laguna is very close to home.
Laguna has a few quirks, some interesting and at least one, very annoying: aside from a few official race weekends, the sound limit is 92 db! Yes, you read that right, 3db less than what is street legal in California.
If you’re going for a track day, anything goes to pass that sound limit, from "lift and coast" as you’re passing next to the sound tower between turn 5 and 6 to adding an extension to your tail pipe directing sound to the left side, away from unforgiving track workers. If you are coming from far away, make sure you are below that sound limit because the track has a strict 3 strikes and you’re out rule
One of the key elements here is using the whole track width including the curbs. There really is only one rubber line that you have to use in order to get the maximum grip out of the track. What makes it tricky is that you have to come close to the red motorcycle curbs without hitting them because if you do, you will bend your wheels enough that they can eventually fail a few laps later.
BY THE NUMBERS
The fame corkscrew is a very particular corner. There is nothing quite like it. On a cool down lap if you look far enough, and it’s a clear day, you’ll see the ocean, which is quite a sight from a racetrack! Other than that, the only technical part is the braking zone. The rest is slow speed and the banking is working in your favor, making it an easy corner. No matter what car you drive, you will have to start braking before the little hump. Don’t forget to set up all the way to the left side of the track as you are going up the hill out of T6, then aim for a straight line braking across the track. Braking pressure wise, you want to hit the pedal hard, release a good amount of pressure over the hump, and get back to a harder brake pressure, before doing your final brake release. Going down the hill is completely blind, and once again, some people like to look at a tree off the track, I just go with a mental picture here again. On the downhill right-hander, you’ll have to make sure not to ride too much curb, otherwise your right front will catch some air, and the landing can be rough.
Laguna is a handling track. Torque will come at a premium as well because the track goes uphill from T11 to T1, from T5 to T6 and from T6 to the corkscrew. Set up wise, you will have to look for maximum grip, which means soft sway bars, probably softer springs. Usually all those changes make the transition (combination corners) handle poorly, but fortunately there are none around this track. If you are fighting a loose car, don’t hesitate to unhook your rear sway bar, and adjust the front one to get you balance back. Tire and brake wear are brutal around that track as well.
RACING AT LAGUNA SECA
Laguna is a one-lane track. It is very difficult to pass around this track if you are racing against someone who runs a defensive line. The best example would be T2, which on paper looks like a great place to pass with a hard braking zone. The problem is that a defensive line is still a fast enough and that makes it very hard to pass in that corner. The best places to pass are going into T5 and T11, for which you will have to focus on a good exit in the corner leading up to them if you want to make something happen. On all the other corners, it is possible to sneak by someone if your competitor made a mistake, but you will have to be very assertive.
VIDEO CAR INFO
The car I’m driving in the video is our #81 BimmerWorld Grand-AM E90 BMW 328 ST car. Due to the series regulations, the car is kept close to stock: mandated Grand-AM 2 way adjustable shocks, adjustable sway bars, very limited power modifications, and an enormous amount of engineering to make everything work together. Also, we have to run stock calipers and stock rotor sizes and with races lasting 2.5 hours, it puts a tremendous amount of stress on the brakes. We use Performance Friction brake pads and rotors, and we get the best braking performance and endurance out of the whole field even though we run the heaviest car. Race pace around Laguna will be around 1:41.5.