Laguna Seca was once a home track for IndyCars, but a long layoff and one year of COVID-related restrictions in California mean that open-wheel cars have raced at the track just once since 2004. With so few recent chances to see an open-wheel car at one of America's most beloved race tracks, you may have forgotten just how extreme its legendary elevation changes look at open-wheel speeds. Let Scott McLaughlin's onboard footage from a recent IndyCar test refresh your memory.
While the track may seem somewhat pedestrian in a slower car, an IndyCar's pace shows just how extreme the modern layout actually is. The highlight is the absurd elevation change happening in the corkscrew, but the most difficult part of the lap is actually what follows immediately afterward. After a driver trusts that the blind drop is not hiding anything, they turn into a complex of fast, sharp downhill corners that build up quickly to turn 11, the tightest corner on the track, before flying down the start/finish straight. There, they take the flat downhill turn 1 into the steep Andretti hairpin before flying through the relatively new 90-degree infield corners, returning to the original track layout to climb through turn 6, and reaching the corkscrew complex all over again.
It is one of the most dramatic laps in motor racing. Laguna Seca may be a relatively small track, but its dimensions actually amplify what makes its best moments so unique. In a well-adjusted sports car, that's interesting elevation changes and challenging corners. In a visceral IndyCar, that's just under one minute of high-speed cornering at the edge of control.