MONTEREY, Calif. — WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, its fans and racers are heading into uncharted territory.
On Tuesday, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a four-year contract with A&D Narigi to take over as managers of the race track and adjacent recreation area, which is owned by the county.
That effectively ended the 62-year reign of the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula as managers of the legendary road circuit that opened under the direction of SCRAMP in 1957.
The county inked a three-year management deal with SCRAMP in 2016 and that contract expires at the end of the year.
County supervisor Luis Alejo was among those who spoke out against the financial and operational difficulties faced by SCRAMP.
“When it comes to the SCRAMP people who know the (auto racing) business they’ve shown they don’t know how to run the business,” Alejo said as reported by the Monterey Herald. “This is that crossroads where we have to move forward in a different direction.”
According to the Herald, Supervisor Mary Adams said she felt “between a rock and a hard place,” noting a great deal of respect for Laguna Seca’s employees and volunteers. But in the end, she praised A&D Narigi top dog John Narigi and acknowledged it was time for a change.
“We have to make a change, we simply have to,” Adams said, according to the Herald.
A&D Narigi had the winning bid with SCRAMP and Laguna Seca Management, led by longtime Grand Prix of Long Beach promoter Chris Pook, also submitting bids.
According to the Herald, Narigi, who is the longtime general manager of the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa, referred to himself as a “coach,” while promising that Laguna Seca’s active employees would have the opportunity to interview to keep their jobs.
But as reported by the Herald, SCRAMP didn’t go down without a fight. Its CEO, Tim McGrane, argued that Assistant County Administrative Officer Dewayne Woods was guilty of trying to eliminate SCRAMP from the picture.
The Monterey Herald’s report also said that McGrane indicated SCRAMP would be receptive to negotiation.
Several SCRAMP supporters spoke on the organization’s behalf, with some calling for county supervisors who received political backing from Narigi to remove themselves from the process.
Pook was among those who argued that motorsports knowledge is essential to operating the race track while pointing out that A&D Narigi is lacking in that area.
McGrane and Pook told the Herald they didn’t feel they were given a fair opportunity to present their case to the county.
Board chairman John Phillips said with the current contract near expiration, Woods had expressed concerns about SCRAMP’s management for months. The Herald reported that Phillips acknowledged Woods would be challenging to work for, but said it’s important for the county to protect its investment in Laguna Seca.
It’s an unexpected ending to a 62-year motorsports institution and the dawn of a new era for one of the country’s great race tracks.
What remains to be seen is if current contracts with IndyCar and IMSA will be retained and what the future of one of the world’s most revered circuits will be.