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Mazda opts not to renew naming rights agreement with Laguna Seca

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A trio of Porsches and a BMW M1 mix it up during the 2013 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by author.

Since late 2000, the road course nestled in the hills of Monterey County, California, has officially been known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a partnership that delivered benefits to both the track and the Japanese automaker. After March 31, 2018, the circuit will revert to its original name, Laguna Seca, as Mazda has opted not to extend its naming rights agreement.

The transition comes at a time when the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) – the organization that’s managed the facility since its opening in 1957 – is finally enjoying a (relatively) harmonious relationship with Monterey County, after years of acrimony between the two parties. SCRAMP and Monterey County have invested heavily in improvements to the track and its grounds, which host variety of professional and vintage racing series throughout the year, including the annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, a highlight of Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula.

Jeremy Barnes, Mazda North American Operations director, public relations and brand experience, called the move “part of an ongoing and regular review of all our sponsorship and marketing programs.” The company’s full statement on the decision reads,

After 17 seasons as the title sponsor for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mazda has chosen to end its naming rights agreement with the storied race facility.  We will continue to participate in key event weekends, as racing is a part of our DNA.  The relationship between Mazda, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) and the County of Monterey has been a wonderful one, and this decision was not reached easily. We wish the facility, the management team and the millions of fans who love the track as much as we do many more successful racing laps into the future.

As Barnes pointed out to us, the Japanese automaker remains heavily involved in both club and professional racing, recently announcing its plans to run a pair of Daytona Prototypes in the full 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, under the Mazda Team Joest banner. Announced drivers include long-time Mazda racers Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nuñez, who will be joined by Oliver Jarvis and Harry Ticknell. For endurance events, the team will also include IndyCar driver Spencer Pigot and current German Touring Car champion René Rast. quotes Steve Fields, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s executive director of corporate development, as saying, “This has been an expected transition, and we’ve been working to prepare for it in advance.” While the most obvious naming sponsor would be a rival automaker, a luxury goods manufacturer with ties to racing – like Rolex, already the title sponsor of one of Laguna Seca’s premier events – also seems like a strong possibility.

To the fans that flock to the track each season, such detail is of little importance: The circuit is, was, and always will be just “Laguna Seca.”