Can-Am returns to Laguna Seca

Top paying series attracted the best race-car drivers in the world

Published: March 19, 2017, 3:00 AM
Updated: March 22, 2017, 3:25 PM

1973 Laguna Seca Can-Am race with Vic Elford leading Mark Donahue.

It’s been nearly a half century since the fabled Can-Am cars competed at Laguna Seca, but they’re coming back this spring.

The Can-Am Series for Group 7 type sports racers started in 1966, created by a partnership between the Canadian Automobile Sports Club (CASC) and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). With a lucrative sponsorship deal from Johnson Wax, it became the best paying series, and attracted the best race-car drivers, in the world — just about every acclaimed driver of that racing era, including Jody Scheckter, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Mark Donohue, to name a few.

“The Can-Am group is a popular one for fans and participants alike as they represent the true definition of win at any cost,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “These cars retain their characteristic look and certainly sounds and they are a welcoming site in their spiritual home.”

The series was probably the closest a major racing series ever came to “anything goes,” with unlimited engine sizes, turbocharging or supercharging, and unrestricted aerodynamics. As with Group 7 cars, they had to have two seats, enclosed wheels and basic safety items, but that was it. Everything else, you could tinker with, constrained only by money.

Laguna Seca spectators first saw the Can-Am cars on October 16, 1966, with names such as Bruce McLaren, John Surtees, Jim Hall, George Follmer and Sam Posey taking the green flag. Phil Hill took the checkers in a Chaparral. Mark Donahue won the last race at the California racing circuit almost 7 years later, to the day, driving a Porsche 917/30 for Roger Penske.

Their return to the track, now Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, is marked for the weekend of May 19-21 (maybe ironically, the Canadian Victoria Day weekend). Also on tap at the inaugural Spring Classic are 1967-1972 Formula B, 1973-1984 SCCA Production GT Cars, 1966-1972 Trans-Am, 1973-1979 Formula Atlantic, 1966-1972 Trans-Am 2.5 Liter, 1983-2007 World Sports Car – Le Mans Prototype, 1979-2006 Historic Stock Cars, and 1967-1984 Formula 1.

Anybody owning a car matching the above series can still enter the festival, at