What could be better than a late summer weekend of racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca? How about two weekends in a row, featuring North America’s top sports car and open-wheel race series? That’s exactly what’s on the bill for Monterey Speed Week, Sept. 13 through Sept. 22, when the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the NTT IndyCar Series race on back-to-back weekends at the famed track nestled in the hills above Monterey Bay.
While the Californian rollercoaster, with its awesome Corkscrew, has been a fixture on major-league sports car racing calendars in recent years, it’s not hosted top-level open-wheel racing since way back in 2004. IndyCar fans have long been clamoring for the series to visit the track and not only do they finally get their wish, but WeatherTech Raceway will also be the season finale – and if past form is anything to go by, expect the title to still be on the line.
“Laguna Seca is just one of those tracks that everyone loves coming to,” says Ryan Hunter-Reay who, along with Sebastien Bourdais, is one of the two active NTT IndyCar Series drivers who competed in the 2004 race run under the Champ Car World Series banner. “There’s just so much history at the track – all the elevation changes that make it fun and challenging and, of course, the location…”
Hunter-Reay’s résumé isn’t limited to IndyCar. The 2014 Indy 500 winner has also spent plenty of time behind the wheel of a sports car of late. Last time out in an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, Hunter-Reay teamed with Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande to win the 2018 Motul Petit Le Mans in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac DPi-V.R. When it comes to Monterey Speed Week, Hunter-Reay says that fans will be treated to exciting competition from two very different forms of racing.
“Sports car racing is very aggressive, and it’s flat-out every lap,” he says. “But at the same time there’s four classes of car out there at once, so managing traffic is a real challenge. In the DPi car you’ll want to get by the slower classes before getting to The Corkscrew. That’s a really big deal. Also, getting a clean run through Turn 5 will really improve your lap time. A DPi can really make up a lot of time there and is spectacular to watch.”
In addition to Hunter-Reay and Bourdais, IndyCar aces Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan have also raced top-level open-wheel machinery at Laguna Seca, but Hunter-Reay says that every driver is coming in with a clean slate.
“For the IndyCar race, consistency over the life of the tire will be key,” he explains. “The cars that are stronger on an older tire will have an advantage. But you can’t hold back with so much on the line. It will make for great racing.” The contrast between IMSA sports cars and IndyCar’s open-wheelers is something not to be missed, enthuses Hunter-Reay.
“With sports cars you have the four classes of varying speeds, so there’s always traffic, and the multiple strategies playing out up and down the field can be really fascinating,” he says. “With IndyCar, there’s so much history and the series and track just go together so well. From a racing standpoint, anyone can win on any given weekend, so predicting a result is almost impossible.”
Monterey Speed Week
Can’t get enough racing? Monterey Speed Week is a unique opportunity to catch two of America’s best series within a week, all while enjoying one of the west coast’s top destinations.
As a special Speed Week ticket offer, purchase a 2- or 3-day general admission pass for the IMSA race weekend and save up to $20 on the same ticket for the NTT IndyCar Series race weekend.
Price is per person. Children 15 and under are free for general admission and paddock with a paying adult. All tickets include open grandstand seating (first come, first served) and complimentary general parking.
Hospitality options are available for those who want to upgrade their experience.
To find out more, go to weathertechraceway.com