TORONTO – The Verizon IndyCar Series is closing in on a new road course home in northern California for 2019.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday to vote on approving a three-year contract to bring IndyCar to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the 11-turn, 2.238-mile track that played host to the CART series for more than 20 years.
According to a proposed agreement posted to the Monterey County website, the series would race from 2019-21 at the circuit at a date to be determined (the contract stipulates “IndyCar will exercise reasonable efforts to schedule future events during the same weekend as the 2019 event”).
The sanction fee, payable in three installments annually, will be $1.2 million for the first year and $1.5 million in each of the following two seasons.
A report for recommendation prepared by Lavonne Chin, the county’s special events manager, states that financing for the event (including the fees) will be achieved through sponsorship, concession and ticket sales.
The track apparently would replace Sonoma Raceway on the 2019 schedule. In a statement Friday, Sonoma president Steve Page indicated his track wasn’t interested in remaining on the schedule if Laguna Seca was added.
Sonoma has played host to IndyCar since 2005; the Sept. 16 race will mark its fourth consecutive season as the series’ season finale.
Laguna Seca was on the CART schedule from 1983-2003 and then shifted to the Champ Car Series for the 2004 race. After a four-year absence, it was scheduled to return in 2008, but its race was scrubbed when Champ Car merged with IndyCar.
The track, which also has hosted sports cars, currently has motorcycle races as its major events. It is managed in a joint agreement between the Monterey County administrative office and the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula.
IndyCar’s agreement calls for major upgrades to be completed at least two months ahead of the 2019 race, including improved curbing, tire barriers and additional timing loops and debris fencing.
One of the most famous passes in CART history occurred in the track’s corkscrew section when Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Zanardi went off course to snatch the lead from Bryan Herta on the final lap to win the 1996 season finale.
The news of Laguna Seca’s possible return took series points leader Scott Dixon by surprise after he led both practices Friday on the streets of Toronto. In CART, Dixon finished fourth at Laguna Seca in 2001 and sixth in ’02.
“Wow, that’s interesting,” said Dixon, who also won there in Indy Lights in 2000. “It’s quite a small track.”
Said Takuma Sato: “I never raced Laguna Seca, so we’ll find out. I would love to go there.”