The Fiesta del Pacifico road races held in July of 1956 mark an interesting moment in California—particular San Diego—racing. Torrey Pines held their last race a mere 6 months before, but San Diego (and far beyond) racers were undeterred and assembled a track on the runways and service roads of Montgomery Field.
This largely unseen footage sent in from John McClure is a treasure. Sure, John’s thumb may have drifted into a few of these shots, but they’re absolutely priceless. From setting up in the pits, to onboard touring laps, to the race action itself, John used the access afforded him as a member of the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce (a co-organizer of the event) to hit every corner of Montgomery field that weekend.
The two main events of the weekend are well represented here, with the 1.5liter plus race and small displacement races getting some quality footage. Bill Murphy had luck on his side in the large bore race in his Kurtis-Buick, winning after Harrison Evans’ Ferrari Monza had a shift fork failure after leading for 21 laps. Murphy didn’t just inherit the win after poor performance, however. He had a great start that gave him the lead until a spin on turn 7 of the first lap. He then fought back from fourth to take the lead from Evans a second time, but spectacularly spun again on the 11th lap. His win was as much a victory in making it to the finish as it was to come in first. Bill Krause wasn’t far behind in a D-Type, while Ken Miles in a Porsche 550 (giant-killer indeed in this much larger displacement company) and Fred Woodward in his Jaguar Special had a fantastic duel for 3rd place—ultimately finishing within a second of each other.
The small bore race was equally thrilling with an heroic roster of CalClub racers: Ken Miles in his 550 again (He had a very busy weekend, didn’t he?); Bill Pollack in the #4 Alfa Giulietta; Lance Reventlow in a Cooper T39—there’s a marvelous shot of him in the silver #16 car about 7:10 into this clip.
Other drivers of note to keep an eye out for in this clip: Bob Bondurant in the #19 Morgan Plus 4; Jim Peterson in the blue #83 Corvette; Bruce Kessler in the white #23 Aston Martin (beautiful); and Dan Gurney’s #113 Porsche 356.
Here’s a glimpse of the race report, from the August 3, 1956 issue of MotoRacing.
Keep those old film cans, coming in—I’d love to share more these kinds of videos with Chicane readers. More from the McClure Archives here.
More marvelous scenes from El Salvador’s racing scene. Shot by Dr. Carlos Alvarez and provided to the Chicane by George Kehler, the little-seen footage of the 1960 running of the Santa Ana races on the streets of El Salvador has some fantastic vintage Formula Libre racing action.
Keep an eye peeled for two Porsche RSK Spyders driven by Americans David Lane (in the white RSK) and Chuck Cassel (in silver). Whether word of San Salvador’s racing scene had finally made it up to the States, or if Chuck and David were just hitting everything they could in the hemisphere, I don’t know. But I can’t help that think that he saw the writing on the wall for street courses and wanted in while he could.
By 1960, street racing was all but done in the USA, but it’s likely from Chuck Cassell’s participation at this race in San Salvador, and in Nassau two months earlier, that he must have wanted a taste of the thrill of true road racing before it disappeared entirely. These scenes both demonstrate why street courses are so amazing, and why they’re so very dangerous. Getting around these simple roads is, for me (and I think many of you agree), the purest form of racing. But those curbs and surface changes and light poles and, oh yes, surging throngs of spectators wandering much to far onto the racing line, make it clear that the format was meant for extinction.
I wonder if any of the homeowners that live in the neighborhood built on the bones of the Lynndale Farms Raceway know of the history of the streets in front of their suburban homes. I wonder if any of them turn into their subdivision on their commute home and blip the throttle downshifting for the corners, imagining themselves sitting in a Austin-Healey or Cooper 500 as they apex the turn in front of the Peterson’s house.
I sure would. Hell, I do all of that now and I don’t live on a former race track.
It was only the big events that were raced on the combined glory of the North and South loops of the Nürburgring into it’s complete 17 mile configuration. Of course, the Nordschleife got all the fame and left it’s little brother Südschleife to languish away alone: oft-forgotten and little loved (even in its prime) compared to the more challenging technical turns of the Nordschleife.
Today, while much of the public roads remain, the connecting pathways to the Nordschleife were destroyed during the construction of the GP circuit. This Formula Vee race from 1968 though, shows the Südschleife in all its glory. It must be hard to be considered great when the basis for comparison is the Nordschleife but on it’s own this looks like a hell of a track. Also, helicopter footage of the F-V race? Who would have thought….
Let’s hope at the Nordschleife lives on in more than just videos of this kind 50 years from now.
The grass is poking through most of what remains of the pavement; the curbs are crumbled; the entry gates are hanging on by a powder of rust. None of that is stopping an impromptu celebration of the Greenwood Roadway’s anniversary.
June 8, 2013 marks 50 years since the inaugural event at Greenwood, and some dedicated sports car fans are going to head on over to the track to pay their respects. Cars, Motorcycles, and Karts that raced on the track—and their drivers—will be in attendance.
The track only really operated for 3 years starting in 1963, but in that short time the track played host to local races and SCCA events. Despite it’s short history, the track’s mystique lives on. There were precious few tracks in the midwest, so the memory and the legend of them remains so vitally important in this part of the country. Of course, Mid-Ohio and Road America (and a few other wonderful examples) live on, but those that left, left an impression.
The good news is that the bones of the track are there. There’s enough driveable surface that parade lapping is on the schedule for the weekend. I wouldn’t recommend putting much oomph into the go pedal, but it will give some sense of what it must have been like fifty years ago to charge down one of Greenwood’s sweeping turns at speed.
Whenever I happen upon one of these tracks my heart starts to long for its resurgence. Usually it’s just the musings of a romantic spirit but just take a look at this satellite view of the track as she sits today. There’s a damn lot of it still there. I hope that the revivalists that take in the show and festivities of the Greenwood Revival show up the next weekend with an asphalt truck. This is more than just the barely visible foundations of a track that once was… it’s a dare. She wants to come back. She’s just sitting there, waiting for us. Look at that map and tell me that some part of you doesn’t want her back too.
Then again, if our earlier Meadowdale post has you particularly inspired. You could just cut to the chase and buy this available copy of the original blueprints for the track. Grab a few friends, a few shovels, a bulldozer or two, and a whole lot of asphalt. Call me when you’re done.
If contemporary blueprints had more of these charming illustrations in the corners, we might be able to get more interesting work through planning boards.
Meadowdale Raceway may be gone but she remains a much loved and sorely missed track in the Midwest. Although the park that stands on her old bones has a few reminders of the greatness that once was, it’s comforting to look at these photos of Meadowdale under construction. They remind me that tracks may go but new ones can come as well.
Will these new tracks have the nail-biting danger of Meadowdale’s defining feature: the Monza wall? Probably not. Will they inspire such fear and respect that they prompt a timid racer or mischievous prankster to adorn the racing surface with a painted “PRAY” in enormous block text just before the entry to turn 1? Almost certainly not. Will they feature the tight turns and sweeping bends that made Meadowdale so tricky? Maybe. Will they drive racing enthusiasts to painstakingly recreate them a generation later for use in racing simulators? Well.. probably.