MotoGP, the world’s premiere motorcycle racing championship, drew the attention of millions during the 2011 schedule, and for each of the 18 tracks worldwide that meant a ridiculous amount of preparation. SSB explored just how much goes into getting ready for this experience through the eyes of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Catering to over one hundred thousand spectators, media, race teams and vendors who all converge on the same weekend is a balancing act of budgets, communication and presentation. Pulling off the venue’s largest event of the year is a revolving door of activity that begins soon after the pits clear.
As the first of two American stops, Mazda Raceway sets the stage for the international onslaught of bike racing fanaticism. And if you thought booking a weekend excursion around Monterey, California requires advance notice, consider Gill Campbell, CEO/GM of Mazda Raceway and her team who gets to work 12 months ahead of time:
“It’s a huge undertaking and it’s a multi-million dollar task. While we are planning for MotoGP we are planning for five other events as well. People ask us what we do in the off-season and actually, this is my busiest time. We don’t really have an off-season. Preparing for MotoGP is kind of like painting by numbers, you know what you need to do, it is filling it in and moving from there. There are a lot of moving parts.”
Mazda Raceway may be a non-profit organization but money plays a huge role in the process. It all begins by looking at the numbers; calculating sponsorship dollars, contract proceeds and general sales help map out the following year’s plan:
“It starts with reviewing the previous year’s budget and finding out what worked, what didn’t, what prices are going to be, hospitality and sending out ticket renewals to existing customers before general sale. So in the first few months it is a lot of contract negotiations and reviews of how things worked. The various departments put together their budget numbers and we set the budget for the next year. The budget becomes our bible for what we are able to do.”
The next order of business is battling the pitfalls of operating within a facility originally built in 1957. Unlike newer facilities, Mazda Raceway lacks the level of sophistication found elsewhere. Since the raceway is history rich but luxury lacking, Gill must oversee a 21st century makeover in-between inking out PR and marketing plans:
“We are an old facility and don’t have a lot of the modern infrastructure that many [other] circuits have. Everything that happens here, we have to bring in and build—all of the offices for Dorna, the media center— everything that you see on sight. We start ordering and determining what is needed way out. All of our tents, tables and chairs come from Los Angeles while our golf carts come from out of state because no one locally can provide what we need. We need to lay miles and miles of cable, pretty much everything has to be set up from scratch. When spectators come here and they see it all ready to go it’s easy to assume it just happens. It doesn’t.
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What we learned in 2011 was that technology jumped ahead about five years. We had put in a broadband system that we felt would accommodate everybody and learned very quickly that with the way everybody is posting photos and video that we actually exceeded what we had installed. So that is something we really need to work on for next year.”
By early November, talks between Dorna and the International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA) begin. IRTA acts as the middleman between Dorna and Mazda Raceway; handling all of the race team requirements whether it is motor home, audio/visual or office related. Keeping the race teams content is a full time job in itself so even the smallest of details like a paddock layout tweak is scrutinized and debated before taking action.Piece by piece, items are checked off the list and plans are finalized leading to the actual on-site transformation.