With the announcement by Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca that World Superbike will return to the dry lagoon in 2014, it's seems pretty much set in stone that MotoGP will, unfortunately not... at least for 2014. And, thus, ends a nine-consecutive-season reign of the United States Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. The string has been broken, but will the USGP return to Laguna? History shows that the event has been dropped by Laguna only to return twice before.
The very first USGP at Laguna Seca was held in 1988 when Marlboro Agostini Yamaha rider Eddie Lawson won the inaugural race.
It had taken an enormously collaborative effort for the GP to return to the USA. Honda and Yamaha split the costs of updating and modifying Laguna Seca so that it could pass FIM muster.
The USGP continued at Laguna Seca through 1991 with Wayne Rainey's unprecedented hat trick of three USGP wins in a row for Yamaha. However, after four USGPs, fan attendance had dwindled so the event was put on a one-year hiatus in 1992.
In 1993, Kenny Roberts brought the USGP back to Laguna Seca with a vengeance, promoting the event like no other U.S. race--and arguably no other race anywhere in the world--with topnotch event programs, posters, apparel, memorabilia, and more. But, the King's protege, Wayne Rainey, had suffered a career-ending crash at the Italian GP just prior to the USGP, and a noticeable pall was cast over the proceedings that September weekend in 1993. Another American, John Kocinski, won the race, this time on a Cagiva. And who can ever forget the "WAYNE WISH YOU WERE HERE" sign that JK, Mick Doohan, and other riders on the starting grid held up just before the start of the race?
The 1994 USGP marked the first time that a non-American rider won the race at Laguna Seca, as Italian Luca Cadalora took the checkers, again, aboard a Yamaha.
Someone Has Taken My Place
There have been 15 USGP races held at Laguna Seca, but you may wonder, has the USGP ever been held anywhere else?
The answer is "yes" and, as inconceivable as it sounds in this day and age, the only other venue that has held a USGP was Daytona International Speedway back in the 60s.
For a five-race span from 1961 to 1965, the "World Center of Racing" hosted the USGP on its famed high banks. The race was held one week prior to the Daytona 200 during that time period, and such notable racers as Mike Hailwood (twice on an MV Agusta) and Don Vesco (once on a Yamaha) won the USGP 500cc race at Daytona.
And then, the USGP at Laguna Seca went away again, this time for an entire decade. During that time, 500cc Grand Prix became MotoGP and, in 2005, the race returned with an American once again poised to dominate, which Nick Hayden did for two years in a row on a Honda.
Yamaha wrote large checks--twice--to pay for the movement of bridges and earth so the track could yet again be made FIM legal.
Of the 15 USGPs that have been held at Laguna Seca, Yamaha has won the race seven times, Honda has won it six times, and Ducati and Cagiva have each notched one USGP a piece. Rainey won three USGPs in a row for Yamaha; Casey Stoner won it three times, but not consecutively and not all on the same brand of bike (twice in a row for Honda and once for Ducati); Hayden won it twice in a row for Honda, and Lawson (Yamaha), Kocinski (Cagiva), Cadalora (Yamaha), Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), Dani Pedrosa (
Yamaha Honda), Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), and Marc Marquez (Honda) each won the USGP once.
For many, Laguna Seca remains the sentimental home of Grand Prix racing in America, and that it is located in bike-mad California doesn't hurt. For many a casual fan the news that Laguna Seca is off the MotoGP calendar is just landing now, and few locals seem pleased with this outcome. It's slightly ironic that Californians who wish to see a GP in 2014 will have to get on a plane and fly east, to Austin or Indy, after so many years of fans flying to California to see that race.
So, the USGP at Laguna Seca is gone for 2014. Will it be back? Only time will tell, but it's gone away before, so don't count it out completely just yet.