By Michael Gougis
The iconic California Superbike School has canceled its final event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and says it will not book new events at the track, citing difficulties with the circuit’s new management and a deteriorating track surface.
“I feel terrible,” said Keith Code, former racer and founder of the school, which ran its first event at the track in 1980 and has operated there every year since. “I went to the first race there as a spectator, that was really fantastic. My first Superbike race was there, and I got second place – it was my first podium. I was such a proud kid!
“It breaks my heart. We have a lot of history, we have a lot of emotional ties. The situation (with current management) did not improve. It makes us feel like intruders. We are treated like second-class citizens. It’s stressful for us to be there, and I do not need the stress. We love Laguna Seca, and our classes are always full, but we do not need to be treated like this.”
“We had not been notified that they did not intend to come back, and we did not know until we looked at their 2021 schedule,” Brandy Falconer, Manager, Communications, Laguna Seca, says. “We have a long history, and they are a valued renter.”
Various issues over the years had cropped up as points of contention between the school, which has held more than 300 events at the track in the four decades since it started. The Superbike School is the oldest vendor at the track, Code said track officials told him.
According to the Superbike School, the track – in reaction to a fatal accident involving a cornerworker at a car event – required the Superbike School to hire additional cornerworkers for every event. The circuit then began requiring the school to hire an event manager from the circuit, to pay for the sound monitoring, and there were a number of instances when the school was forced to move its equipment around during the day, seemingly at the whim of track officials.
But this season, school officials and the track clashed over new issues. The track instituted a $5,000 priority day fee, charged to any organization that wanted a particular date on the calendar, the school said. And the calendar was wiped clean, meaning that the school could no longer count on the traditional dates it had operated on for years past. This was critical for logistics for the school, which tries to coordinate its own schedule to minimize travel for its staff members.
School officials were not happy when, they said, the circuit manager ejected a customer who refused to wear a face mask in the pits in compliance with Monterey County’s requirement that masks be worn on public property. (The circuit is situated on county-owned land and is part of a larger recreational facility.) School officials felt they should have been notified and given the chance to resolve the situation before the customer was removed.
And a new regulation requiring the school to vacate the premises by 6:00 p.m. – even though on-track activities were permitted until 5:00 p.m. – or face a $1,000 fine also upset school officials.
All of this was against the backdrop of the delayed resurfacing of the track itself. Due to the global pandemic, the project had been pushed back to allow track officials to rearrange the schedule for organizations that wanted to use the facility. But the surface has deteriorated over the years, becoming low-grip during the best of circumstances, and that led to a greater number of falls during Superbike School events.
The school recently released its 2021 schedule with events scheduled at 11 other circuits across the United States, but not at Laguna Seca.