2024 Track Reviews

Seeing as how two of my local tracks have recent repaves, I thought it might be kind of fun to add some reviews and highlight some of the things I like about each of the tracks I regularly ride.

Sonoma RacewaySonoma-Petaluma, CA2.27 milesF, G, RYes
Thunderhill EastWillows, CA2.85 milesF, C, P, RNo
Thunderhill WestWillows, CA1.64 milesF, C, P, RNo
Thunderhill 5-mileWillows, CA4.50 milesF, C, P, RNo
Weather Tech Laguna SecaMonterey-Salinas, CA2.22 milesF, G, RYes
Buttonwillow (#13)Buttonwillow, CA2.75 milesF, G, RNo
The Ridge Motorsports ParkShelton, WA2.47 milesG, RYes

Amenities: Fuel, Canopies, Power, Garage (daily with power), Restaurant

Photo from Sonoma Raceway site

Sonoma Raceway
This is my home track, it’s about 20 minutes from my driveway to the gates. It’s one of the more expensive tracks in the country, probably because it’s ~45 minutes from San Francisco, a close and convenient location to Marin County, Petaluma, Sonoma, wine & cheese country. It is a busy track, used by a lot of high-end car clubs, Nascar, and used to host AMA & MotoAmerica racing. It is an older track that has a lot of elevation and is considered highly technical. It’s a super busy track with very little time to catch your breath. There are areas where degree of roll off makes a difference, rapid direction changes, and not a ton of great passing areas. It had gone unpaved for 20+ years and even in that time, repairs were minimal. It was repaved early 2024 and having ridden it once so far, it was exceptional. The only thing that wasn’t repaved was the motorcycle-only turn 1. It is considered a dangerous track for motorcycles because there isn’t a lot of run off. It’s my personal favorite California track and with the repave, it may be my favorite track I’ve ridden. The climate here is generally pretty nice–you can see the Bay from the track. It’s often cool in the morning with a marine layer that usually burns off mid-morning. It’s rarely hot but not unheard of. Garages are included when the provider rents the track and then some providers will rent them to customers themselves, one provider includes them in the price of registration. Several flavors of non-ethanol fuel are available. Of these tracks, this one has the most even tire wear. Originally known as Sear’s Point, then Infineon, currently Sonoma Raceway. More than 30 bikes on track in a given session starts to feel crowded. The track works great with any size bike, liter bikes don’t have a huge advantage over supersports and plenty of 400s are able to run just a few seconds off big bike pace.

* Destination track
* New asphalt (2024)
* Very technical with elevation
* Great fun with all sizes of bikes
* No power outside of the garages

T-hill has effectively 3 different tracks. There’s the 3 mile East track which is the original track and there’s the West 2 mile track. There are connectors between the two so we occasionally see it run as a single giant 5 mile track. The two tracks have a very different feel to them. East favors high speeds (several sections where 100 mph+ is normal on a 600 or bigger) and only a couple of moderately hard braking sections. This track is hugely popular with the providers and motorcyclists alike and see a lot of action. The town of Willows has a good number of okay motels and limited dining options. There are no daily garage options but there are canopies (though most of them don’t have shore power), several power poles, and a cafeteria on the East side with a large menu. Lots of fuel options available on the East side. It is often very hot in the summer months. Big left-side tire wear here. The flowing corners are super fun on a little bike but you will get passed on the two bigger straights with a very significant speed differential. There are no restrictions to the number of bikes on track and I’ve seen providers with around 200 registered bikes on a day (over 60 per group). Decent showers and a nice clubhouse. The water has a sulphur smell to it so a lot of people will shower on the West side which must have a different well.

West on the other hand is a very tight and twisty track with several slow corners and a couple of blind rises. It can be run as a 7 or 10 turn track with both CW & CCW options. I personally prefer the 10 turn configurations with a smaller bike, like a 400. With this configuration big bikes lose most of their advantage as the front straight you’ll barely hit 100 mph with even a liter bike. Much more than 20 bikes on track per session feels crowded.

5-mile is kind of weird to me since the two different tracks have such a different feel and it’s run so infrequently I’ve never gotten into a groove with that configuration, but I know some people love it.

* Classic and super popular, lots of track days available
* Middle of nowhere (sorry Willows)
* Power and hard canopies everywhere, best paddock in this list
* Generally well-maintained
* East and West tracks are very different
* HOT in the summer
* No daily garage options
* Some providers pack in a lot of riders on track

Weather Tech Laguna Seca
It’s just Laguna to most of the regulars but this is the most iconic track in California having hosted MotoGP and World Superbike and continues to host MotoAmerica. The track dates back to the 1950s and is in one of the prettiest areas in California. The track itself has very significant elevation and is wide and flowing. While it has a ton of pedigree, it’s not a terribly difficult track to figure out. Honestly you can just go and ride curb to curb and have a great time. While it is home to the Corkscrew, the scariest part of the track (with a middleweight or larger bike) is T1, which, while really only being a kink, is a blind rise with a wheelie bump at ~120 mph+. Daily garage rentals are very expensive ($175/day). The cafe is expensive but really good. You can typically camp in the paddocks and there are some really nice campgrounds right outside of the paddocks (rented separately). This track probably has the most reasonably priced 91 octane fuel for a racetrack and it is V.P. non-ethanol. This is also probably one of the best maintained tracks in the US with very detailed cleaning each day and patches are really clean. It’s located about halfway between Monterey and Salinas, both of which have loads of hotel/motel and restaurant options. Salinas is kind of up and coming with more entertainment and dining options than it’s probably ever had. While I have seen small bikes go crazy fast here, for your average rider at least a supersport bike is best suited, particularly considering the big elevation climbs. Many track days are limited to 92 dB sound levels so check with the provider, the quieter days are quite a bit less expensive. Track management only allows for a maximum of 36 bikes on track at a time so you’ll seldom feel crowded. Because of the climate and the location, this can be a destination event–the family can go to Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, while you ride around in circles.

* Destination track
* Expensive, even at the quiet days
* New asphalt (2023)
* Iconic
* Not the most interesting or technical, though it has huge elevation
* Expensive and small garages, though there are doors on both ends
* No power outside of the garages
* One of the best maintained tracks

This track is about as far south as I usually go and at that it’s a 4+ hour drive with most of it on Interstate 5. It feels like the longest drive of my life on that stretch as it’s boring and loads of aggressive drivers. Once you’re there, garages are available to rent from the track at $100/day for a 2-car space. There is compressed air in the garages. There is a fuel station on campus and a restaurant. This track has continued to get bumpier each year I’ve ridden there. They do patch things but there’s a sinkhole in the last corner that pretty much requires a non-optimal line to avoid the worst of it. It also seems like they don’t clean the track often as I’ll often see very significant pebbles being kicked up. It’s hot in the summer but is completely pleasant in February-March and late into the season. If it’s been a wet winter there will be lots of ponds in the outfield and providers will often throw a red flag for someone just going off-track because immediate bike recovery is necessary for fear of them becoming permanent structures off-track. This is a fast and flowing track and calls for degree of roll-off more than the other tracks. Roll off too much, and you have to rebuild your momentum, don’t roll off enough and you miss your apex. This track has more of that than any other track I’ve ridden. There’s not a lot hard braking here. This is another track that favors larger bikes–speed differentials are pretty big compared to smaller bikes. Bathrooms are a bit vintage and basic. There is on campus RV sites with power for rent. The track charges a $10 fee per person on the weekends for entrance to the campus.

* Bumpier each year and often really dirty each day (not a lot of daily track cleaning)
* Middle of nowhere
* Favors faster bikes
* Pretty flat but unique in being such a ‘degree of roll off’ track
* Generally inexpensive compared to the other tracks
* Fast sweeping track
* No power outside of the garages (unless you rent an RV site)
* Reasonably priced large garages

Photo from MotoAmerica

The Ridge Motorsports Park
I first rode this track 3 years ago and loved it immediately. Being a relatively new track, it continues to receive significant improvements every year. It’s a combination of fast and flowing corners along with the hardest braking on the MotoAmerica circuit. It feels longer than 2.47 miles and it has similar elevation changes to Sonoma. In my mind, it’s similar to Sonoma in that they are both very technical and have elevation changes. Garages are $100/day (two-car wide) and have power openers and a large TV in each. The cafe has a limited menu but everything is really good. There’s also a kart track that runs on the weekends so there’s stuff for the family if they’re so inclined. There is no fuel at the track but there are fuel stations close by. This is really a very nice destination because it’s ~30 minutes from Olympia, there are grocery stores ~5 minutes away in the town of Shelton, and it’s just south of the canal. Weather between Memorial Day and Labor Day is generally pretty good though I’ve seen both rain and 100 degree (F) days there in that period. There are a lot of motorcycle track days here as well as MotoAmerica. CSS & YCRS both run schools here. Big left-side tire wear here. Middleweight and bigger bikes are the most popular broadly speaking. This track is extremely well maintained and it’s cool to be riding with trees surrounding you and a volcano looming in the distance. Nice showers and bathrooms. It seems that most of the providers don’t run more than about 35 bikes per session which is a good number.

* Destination track
* Very well maintained
* Very technical with elevation
* Pretty good with small bikes but favors larger bikes
* Nice big garages, reasonably priced
* No fuel on-campus
* No power outside of garages
* Loads of motorcycle days