The Streets of San Francisco
Back in May, The San Francisco Chronicle assembled a lovely remembrance of the Golden Gate Road Races held 60 years earlier. Looking at these photos, I’m not sure why the Golden Gate races don’t seem to hold the same fond mystique that other California round-the-house circuits have achieved. Perhaps it was because the event was only run between ’52 and ’54 that it just didn’t have time to build the legend that Pebble Beach or Palm Springs did.
While it may have largely faded from memory, there’s something so appealing about the idea of sports cars thundering through Golden Gate Park that feels so romantic. Walking or cycling the route today must conjure thoughts of Phil Hill’s
Cad-Allard Jaguar C-Type or Bill Pollack’s Cad-Allard Jaguar C-Type (thanks for the correction, Colin) whipping around Elk Glen Lake. It’s marvelous, if bittersweet, to see these images of the Golden Gate Races running while knowing that they’d be almost impossible today.
But if the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix has taught us anything, it’s that a vintage race in the park can indeed be run in the modern era. What’s more, it can be done in relative safety even while paying tribute to a more dangerous time. Certainly a city park is easier to close down for an event than several blocks of city streets are: They get closed off for foot races or bicycle races or charitable walks all the time. Why not showcase some of the park’s history as a racing venue with a mid-summer weekend revival of the Golden Gate Road Races?
Like our previous support for a Central Park Vintage Grand Prix, I can imagine an entire series of city park or county airport road races—perhaps limited to smaller displacement racers and run with a strict “vintage spirit” rule set. Heck, look to the Detroit Grand Prix as a model for making a marvelous racing course within a city park. If Belle Isle can do it, why not Golden Gate? Why not Central Park? Why not?
Let these images be your guide. Imagine yourself for a moment on 2.7 miles of this wonderful circuit behind the wheel of a mid-fifties racer—or even spectating along JFK Drive—and tell me you don’t want this to happen?