Thinking of Laguna

Henny Ray Abrams | June 10, 2009

The 2009 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix will ultimately be remembered for what happens on the track. Tens of thousands of fans will arrive hoping to witness a repeat of the epic battle between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner that was the turning point in the 2008 MotoGP World Championship. But the race only  takes up 45 minutes on Sunday, so Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has worked hard to find ways to keep their fans entertained for the three-day weekend. And they have, beginning with a go-kart race on Saturday pitting Yamaha’s World Champions against one another.The Legends of Laguna Seca and Yamaha World Champions, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts Sr., will join current Yamaha MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi for a SuperKart Exhibition on July 2 on the eve of the GP. The Grand Marshal will be Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards. The race is billed as an exhibition, but put four racers on a track and something’s bound to happen.The most diehard race fans will show up on Friday and the crowd will grow on Saturday, maxing out on Sunday for the eighth round of the MotoGP World Championship, plus all three solo classes of the AMA Pro Road Race series. Getting fans in and out of the race track, as well as providing for their entertainment and safety while on-site, has kept MRLS busy for the past year. And they have no doubt that the traffic plan instituted after severe problems the first year will ensure easy access to and from the track.”One big difference is we have dropped the price of parking on-site,” Gill Campbell, MRLS CEO/General Manager, said. “We dropped that to $30 from $50. And one thing we haven’t done before is offer one day parking. That will be $20 on Sunday.”Encouraging more vehicles would seem to fly against the track’s public transportation policy, but what they’ve learned is that they’ve been able to add 1000 more parking spaces that don’t impact the traffic flow.”Even with the CSUMB (California State University Monterrey Bay)  shuttle buses, as well as MST (Monterey-Salinas Transit) buses, there are still people who want to drive on-site.”We know that our traffic system works. The problems were compounded in year one by having motorcycles and cars together. You have 20 motorcycles pass you, you’d be stopped, you couldn’t go anywhere. Splitting up the roads to having one motorcycle-only and a car-only entrance was the key to making everything work and flow, plus having the shuttle buses. The main message is that the traffic issue was resolved and has been working really well over the last two years.” Twelve agencies, state, city, and county, had to sign off on the track plan. “It’s pretty all inclusive. It’s what made things work.”The entertainment leading up to the race is also all inclusive. In addition to Thursday’s go-kart race, there will be a bicycle race which is open to the AMA riders and teams, and a Riders for Health an auction.For the first time ever, there’s going to be a pub in the paddock. The pub has yet to be named, but it will join a classier restaurant with more than typical race track fare in the paddock.Also new for 2009 is the “Rev Limiter Zone” where fans will be able to watch MotoGP practice and qualifying on Friday, July 3 and Saturday, July 4 just a few feet away from the race track on the start/finish straight. “Rev Limiter Zone” passes are available for fans with a paddock pass as an upgrade for $50 per day.The Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix will continue to allow fans access to the riders, a treat that’s unique to the Monterey circuit.Friday night from 5 to 7:00 p.m. there’s a fan party in the Parts Unlimited area on the inside of turn five. Then follows Bike Night in downtown Monterey, which kicks off at 7.Regardless of how he performs in Saturday qualifying, James Toseland will perform on stage Saturday evening with his band, “Crash.” Toseland, a classically trained pianist, and the band will celebrate July 4 with a concert in the Yamaha Marketplace.Unfortunately, there won’t be fireworks. Because the track is in a county part, fireworks aren’t allowed. The fireworks will be saved for the race track on Sunday.

Red Bull U.S. GP schedule (Updated 6/2/2009)Friday, July 38:30am 10:30am Manufacturer parade laps

10:30am 11:00am Track inspection

11:00am 1:00pm Pit Walk

11:10am 11:50am VIP Pace Car Rides

11:50am 12:20pm Rider Presention Laps

12:30pm 1:20pm Practice AMA Supersport

1:25pm 1:55pm Track Inspection

1:55pm 2:55pm Free Practice 1 MotoGP World Championship

3:10pm 4:00pm Practice AMA Daytona Sportbike

4:10pm 5:00pm Practice AMA American Superbike

5:00pm 5:30pm Broadcasters Bike Laps

5:00pm 7:00pm MotoGP Fan Party

5:30pm 6:30pm Ducati Track WalkSaturday, July 47:30am 8:00am Track Crossing Start/Finish & Red Bull Arch

8:10am 8:40am Practice AMA Supersport

8:50am 9:30am Practice AMA American Superbike

9:30am 9:55am Track Inspection

9:55am 10:55am Free Practice 2 MotoGP World Championship

11:05am 11:25am Qualifying AMA Supersport

11:35am 12:05pm Practice AMA Daytona Sportbike

12:05pm 1:00pm Lunch

12:10pm 12:35pm VIP Pace Car Rides/BMW M Laps

12:35pm 12:55pm Fan Parade Lap

1:00pm 1:30pm Qualifying AMA American Superbike

1:30pm 1:55pm Track Inspection

1:55pm 2:55pm Qualifying Practice MotoGP World Championship

3:00pm 3:30pm Track Crossing Start/Finish & Red Bull Arch

3:40pm 4:10pm Qualifying AMA Daytona SportBike Group A

4:20pm 4:50pm Qualifying AMA Daytona SportBike Group B

5:00pm 5:30pm RACE AMA Supersport – 18 Laps – 40 Mi

5:30pm 6:00pm MotoX2

6:00pm 7:30pm Track Crossing Start/Finish & Red Bull Arch

5:30pm 7:30pm Free Concert in Yamaha MarketplaceSunday, July 57:30am 9:00am Track crossing Start/Finish & Red Bull Arch

9:00am 9:30am Track Inspection

9:40am 10:00am Warm-Up MotoGP World Championship

10:10am 10:30am Warm-Up AMA Daytona Superbike

10:40am 11:00am Warm-Up AMA American Superbike

11:00am 1:30pm Lunch

11:10am 11:50am VIP Pace Car Rides/BMW M Laps

11:50am 12:25pm MotoX2

12:25pm 1:15pm Track crossing Start/Finish & Red Bull Arch

2:00pm RACE MotoGP World Championship

2:45pm 3:15pm Track Invasion – Podium Ceremonies

3:30pm 4:00pm RACE AMA Daytona Sportbike – 23 Laps – 50 Mi

4:15pm 4:45pm RACE AMA Superbike – 23 Laps – 50 Mi

5:15pm 6:30pm Track Crossing Start/Finish & Red Bull Arch

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.