Inaugural class of the “Legends of Laguna Seca”
The 50th anniversary celebration continues at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with today’s announcement of the inaugural class of the “Legends of Laguna Seca,” honoring five competitors who played significant roles in the colorful history of the Monterey track that opened in 1957.
Five legendary racers – Dan Gurney, Wayne Rainey, Pete Lovely, Eddie Lawson and Bobby Rahal – are the first inductees into the recently announced “Legends of Laguna Seca” program. Each will be honored on their own race weekend during the 2007 season’s five major races.
Following their induction at this year’s races, a permanent “Legends of Laguna Seca” walk of fame tribute is planned for the Corkscrew area.
“The rich history of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is one of our greatest assets,” said Gill Campbell, CEO/general manager of the facility. “And that history was made by legendary competitors who have thrilled fans for 50 years, so it is only natural that we begin honoring them for their unique and invaluable contributions.”
LEGEND EVENT DATE
Dan Gurney U.S. Sports Car Invitational May 18-20
Wayne Rainey Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 20-22
Pete Lovely 34th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races Aug. 17-19
Eddie Lawson AMA Superbike Championships Sept. 15-16
Bobby Rahal Monterey Sports Car Championships Oct. 19-21
Santa Ana, California
Dan Gurney’s career at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca spans over 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 competed 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 will be inducted during the season-opening U.S. Sports Car Invitational May 18-20, where his son Alex is a leading Daytona Prototype driver in the weekend’s headline race.
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, and victories in the 1983 & 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 is set for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 20-22.
On Nov. 10, 1957, Pete Lovely overcame long odds to win the Pebble Beach Road Races at 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 this year's 34th Annual Rolex Monterey Historic August 17-19, where he will be inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca.
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 Laguna Seca. He returned to Monterey to race Indy Lights and CART Indy cars in the early 90’s, and has also competed and won in World SuperKart races. Lawson is being inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca during the AMA Superbike Championship weekend September 15-16.
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 will be inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca during the season-ending Monterey Sports Car Championships October 19-21, where he owns a Porsche team competing in the American Le Mans Series.