Is the REFUEL event at risk if Monterey County changes Laguna Seca management agreement?

It appears the Laguna Seca Raceway is about to change management because The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) appears to have run into financial trouble.  SCRAMP sent out an open letter today calling on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to conduct an open process to resolve the management of the raceway.  Instead, the Board has conducted a closed-door process and recently announced a deal with the for-profit International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to manage the track.

Where this is important to green/electric transportation folk such as myself is that the Laguna Seca Raceway has been home to quite a lot of electric racing activity since 2010.  It is at Laguna Seca that the records documenting rapid advances in high-end electric motorcycles occurred.  It is at Laguna Seca that we’ve been able to enjoy seven years of the REFUEL event.

As can happen with any change in management, the new managers could cancel support for events like these.

According to a report in the Monterey Herald from June 2015, SCRAMP has been “managing the raceway on a monthly renewal basis since early last year while the county considered the facility’s long-term future”.   SCRAMP has been struggling financially in recent years, and lost franchises with the Indy Racing League (formerly known as Champ Car) and MotoGP.  The last MotoGP event at Laguna Seca was in July 2013, for example.

That event was the last time major electric motorcycle racing came to Laguna Seca.  The eRoadRacing series, which supplanted both the TTXGP and e-Power series, came as part of the MotoGP weekend, and held a very important race.

The REFUEL event is a yearly time trial race organized by Speed Ventures.  That company runs a racing school primarily focusing on gas powered race cars.  Starting in 2009 they made room for electric racing during one weekend a year they operated at Laguna Seca.  The REFUEL event is open to everyone, and has given electric car, electric motorcycle and electric go-kart owners a chance to experience “racing” with electric cars on a real race track.

At REFUEL 2009 the field was of course dominated by home-brew electric car conversions, with a couple Tesla Roadsters.  Over the years the field has switched itself around, and is now dominated by manufactured EV’s with the Tesla Model S and Tesla Roadster contingent taking center stage.  (The electric motorcycles and electric go-karts are faster, however)

While International Speedway is the group behind NASCAR, the Monterey Herald report says there’s no plan to bring NASCAR racing to Laguna Seca.  It also says the Board of Supervisors don’t plan to change the use permit.

An issue with that track is limits on noise pollution.  The use permit requires that race vehicles run below certain noise levels, and allows a limited number of weekends where there’s no noise limits.  The MotoGP and other race weekends were always scheduled for those weekends.

If Laguna Seca were to embrace electric racing – such as make a deal with Formula E – they could hold a quiet racing event without using up one of the no-noise-limits weekends, and still draw in ticket-buying crowds.

The following is an open letter to the public from Gregg Curry, SCRAMP Board President:

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) built what is known today as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1957. Laguna Seca was created by a Federal Land grant to provide a safe and dedicated facility for racing. The land was originally a part of Ford Ord but was deeded to the county in 1974 to administer the land with a concession agreement to operate the facility with SCRAMP.

SCRAMP is a non-profit organization that has served the community for nearly 60 years, which annually donates more than $250,000 of its proceeds to 60-70 local charities and civic organizations. SCRAMP has grown from presenting a single motor sports event in 1957 to annually producing five major events which generate a $200 million economic benefit forMonterey County.

More than 300 local community members annually commit thousands of hoursvolunteering at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the love of motorsports in Monterey County. We are a local, active and highly visible member of the community dedicated to bringing world-class racing events to the Monterey Peninsula — benefitting our race fans, sponsors, charitable organizations and our community.

SCRAMP has invested more than $50 million in the Laguna Seca facility, and we continue to be committed to upgrading Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to enhance the overall experience for spectators, sponsors, participants and visitors.

Since January 2014, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors has conducted closed-session meetings to discuss a new Concession Agreement without SCRAMP’s knowledge. These closed-session meetings resulted in the Board of Supervisors entering into a 90-day due diligence agreement with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to take over management and operation of the raceway.  ISC is a for-profit, publicly traded corporation based in Daytona Beach,Fla., whose primary business is the ownership and management of NASCAR race tracks.

SCRAMP is requesting a fair and open process where we be given equal consideration to continue to improve and manage operations of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and that this process be held in the open with the benefit of public participation and review.

We urge you to contact your Monterey County Supervisor to support and request consideration of SCRAMP to keep revenue local for the benefit of our community and to continue the legacy SCRAMP established in 1957. We, your neighbors and friends, ask for your support.

For more information please visit www.mazdaraceway.com

Sincerely,

Greg Curry
SCRAMP Board President

Monterey County Board of Supervisors:

District 1, Fernando Armenta
district1@co.monterey.ca.us
(831) 755-5011

District 2, John Phillips
district2@co.monterey.ca.us
(831) 755-5022

District 3, Simon Salinas
district3@co.monterey.ca.us
(831) 755-5033

District 4, Jane Parker
district4@co.monterey.ca.us
(831) 883-7570
(831) 755-5044

District 5, Dave Potter
district5@co.monterey.ca.us
(831) 755-5055
(831) 647-7755

 

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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