Lost Track: Vaca Valley

Vaca Valley Open Wheel GridAlthough the Vaca Valley Raceway would later incorporate a drag strip and oval track into it’s road racing configuration (a very early example of a multipurpose motorsport park), I quite like this early description from the May 1960 California Sports Car Club newsletter about the upcoming 1961 races.

“The course, a new one for most Cal Club drivers, is a special built road race circuit with a smooth blacktop surface. It is 2.1 miles in length, there are seven turns, the main straight is 3700 feet long and the course is run in a clockwise direction. It is a true road race course that has everything from a big 1000 foot radius banked turn to a slow twist-back corner and has been very popular with drivers who appreciate something more challenging than a flat airport circuit.”

1960 Vaca Valley Track MapSounds pretty good right? Sadly, the track only lasted until 1972. Usually when we look at some of America’s forgotten racetracks, they invariably have been torn down and replaced with housing developments, shopping malls, and (worst of all) golf courses. Vaca Valley, though, might be even sadder. It has just slowly faded away. Nothing new has been built on it’s property. No encroaching suburban sprawl and angry homeowners drove the track to shut down. If you look at this Google Maps view, you can still see the bones of the old asphalt surface, slowly being perforated by nature.

Apparently the asphalt was never of the highest quality, and subsequent resurfacing did little to correct the problem. Once the surface deteriorated, the owners nor the SCCA was able to pony up the $15,000 needed to bring the track up to par and it just wasted away.

Racing Bultacos at Vaca Valley$15,000! Sounds like it would have been money well spent. In the meantime, there have been a few attempts to re-open the facility, but encroaching neighbors objected in the early ’90s, killing the plan. Later investigations as late as 2003 deemed the project too costly. It seems that for the time being, Vaca Valley Raceway will continue to crumble.

Update: Racing simulator designer and developer Rudy Dingemans has built a raceable version of Vaca Valley for the rFactor and GTR2 racing simulators, see our post on his efforts here. Rudy has commented on this post as well and included links to the tracks in the comments below.

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