Before You Sip Champagne At Laguna Seca, You’ve Got To Twist The Corkscrew

“…the transition from left to right is so quick that just flicking the bike hard from one side to the other can get it airborne for a moment, but it will point you in the right direction.”Wayne Rainey

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is an 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course on California’s Monterey Peninsula, and the track is a favorite of racers and fans worldwide.

Three-time 500cc Grand Prix World Champion and two-time AMA Superbike Champion Wayne Rainey won a grand total of six races at WeatherTech Laguna Seca, including the 1983 AMA Superbike race on a Kawasaki, the 1984 AMA 250GP race on a Yamaha, the 1986 AMA Superbike race on a Honda, and three consecutive 500cc GP races in 1989, 1990, and 1991 on a Yamaha. According to Rainey, “Laguna Seca is like no other track in the world, and The Corkscrew is like nothing else in the world. It’s unique and special.”

Turns 8 and 8A, more commonly known as “The Corkscrew,” are a spectacular hard-left, hard-right downhill combination. Riders approaching The Corkscrew see nothing but sky in the distance as they head uphill through the Rahal Straight. They enter the Turn 8 left-hander blindly, and at the apex of the turn, there is a 12-percent drop in elevation. By the time they reach the apex of Turn 8A (the right-hander), there is an 18-percent drop in elevation. The Corkscrew drops 59 feet from the entrance of Turn 8 to the exit of Turn 8A, which is the equivalent of a five-and-a-half-story drop in only 450 feet of track length. From the top of the hill, which is the crest at Turn 8, down to Rainey Curve, which is Turn 9, the elevation drops 109 feet. That’s about 10 stories, or the same height that the deck of the Golden Gate Bridge is from the surface of San Francisco Bay.

And here’s how to ride it, according to Rainey:

Wayne’s Way Through The Corkscrew

“To get Laguna Seca right, the trick is not to turn where your eyeballs and brain tell you to turn, but a little after that. Every corner on the track gives you the impression that you need to turn, but you wait a blink, and then turn.

“I figured out that there is really only way for me to get through The Corkscrew, and that’s with everyone behind me (winks).

“As you’re going up the back straightaway, you lean to the right, get hard on the brakes, and clip the curb on the right. As you clip that curb, while braking, and backshifting a couple of gears, the top of 8 comes into view.

Wayne Rainey wheelies his 250 through the Corkscrew in 1984.

“It’s very important to turn in at the right moment or your angle down the hill will be all wrong, and if you turn in too late, you’ve blown The Corkscrew.

“So turn in a little late at the apex of 8 so you can point the bike straight down the hill. Between 8 and 8A, the transition from left to right is so quick that just flicking the bike hard from one side to the other can get it airborne for a moment, but it will point you in the right direction. That hard transition from left to right will put you on the right line going into 8A, the right-hander of the Corkscrew. You’re leaned to the right and going downhill, but you’re accelerating hard with the throttle while also upshifting.

“You need to get through The Corkscrew quickly, but just don’t lose time there. If you get it wrong, you’ll not only blow Rainey Curve after The Corkscrew, but it’ll ruin your entire lap. So, just be sure to get it right on the next lap…and every lap after that.”