DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The photos on social media are intriguing, the construction videos a play-by-play appreciated throughout the racing community. Two of the sport’s iconic venues – Wisconsin’s Road America and California’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – are being repaved after providing decades of history-making racing.
And race fans can’t seem to get enough of the process.
“It was a lot of fun actually,’’ John Ewert, Road America’s director of communications, said of installing real-time cameras to show the work being done at the track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
“We realized a lot of people had interest in watching not only the live cams but the other stuff we did on Facebook Live. There were more than 40,000 minutes viewed of people watching the track be paved. We noticed the attention and interest, so we just kept (providing live feeds),” Ewert added with a laugh.
No need for purists to worry. The repaving is more akin to a fine facelift on these historic facilities. The character and historic quality remain intact. But the racing potential gets an injection of new excitement.
This is only the second full-course repave for the 4.048-mile, 14-turn Road America since it opened in September 1955. The last came in 1995.
Similarly, it’s the first complete repave since 2007 for the 2.238-mile, 11-turn WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which opened on California’s Monterey Peninsula in 1957.
Not only is the WeatherTech Raceway surface getting some care, but the overall facility is receiving updates, too. The famous 50-year-old walkover bridge crossing the start-finish line was removed last week to “kick off” the project and will be replaced by a modern structure better facilitating the varied traffic the iconic venue sees.
“All these projects will benefit the racer and the fan,’’ track president and general manager John Narigi said. “We are very excited as it is a commitment to the future of WeatherTech Raceway and Laguna Seca.’’
The WeatherTech Raceway repaving project will start after the new year, with the goal of unveiling the new look in time for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race weekend, the Motul Course De Monterey from May 12-14.
The work at Road America is already done – amazingly completed in a month’s time from removal of the old surface (requiring 800 dump truck loads totaling more than 8.5 tons of the old surface) on Oct. 3 to the ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 3 commemorating the project’s conclusion.
The storied facility has already received a thumbs-up on the improvements from a veteran IMSA driver.
“Road America is one of the best tracks to race at, period,’’ Andy Lally said. “So, if there’s a little grip, a lot of grip, rain or dry, it’s set up and laid out as one of the best tracks on this planet to actually have a really good battle. I’ve driven there in prototypes, GT cars, NASCAR, touring cars, just about everything, and it’s never not an exciting race. So, looking forward to that.
“When you get four miles of new asphalt, it’s certainly going to be quick and there will absolutely be more track records there. And hearing from a couple people who have looked at the asphalt in Wisconsin, they’ve done a really nice job. … When the LMDh cars go there, I think we’re going to see some pretty amazing lap times.’’
Ewert said Road America listened to driver and fan feedback to keep the track’s same nuances.
“The most fascinating thing we had feedback-wise from competitors and fans was ‘don’t change it,’ so we made sure and put it back exactly the way they found it,’’ he said.
“It’s just kind of where they placed it in 1955 is where it’s been, and the feedback from the drivers from pretty much every series is they love the idea of the rolling hillsides, the elevation changes, the off-camber turns, how it emulates road racing from how it began.
“We wanted to make sure everything sort of stays the same so people will still have that element of what they remember it being, and also anyone who is new will still have an exciting experience when they come and race it. … It’s a nice problem to have when everybody just loves the place.’’
The careful planning and intricate work involved was impressive. From drone camera shots to topographical surveys, to preserving the parabolic crown in the middle of the track, to finding just the right asphalt mix that provides improved drainage and stands up to the harsh Wisconsin winters.
“They did topographical surveys and laser surveys and they put in all these grade points to make sure the curbing location, camber angles and width – all that – was within a tenth of an inch (of the original surface),” Ewert said.
Meanwhile at WeatherTech Raceway, the track repaving is part of a $14.9 million project approved by the County of Monterey Board of Supervisors that oversees the facility owned by the county. It follows previous undertakings to enhance the overall fan experience.
“Our intent is to provide experiences that can be enjoyed by non-race fans as well,” track president Narigi said. “We began this year by dramatically upgrading the Champions Club and Legends Club with popular local caterers to provide a more refined dining experience. Expanding the Kids Zone with games, activities, a Ferris wheel and go-karts proved popular for families, and we will continue to refine and improve the guest experience for all ages in 2023 to heighten the experience.”