TIME MACHINE: ROAD RACING HAS ROOTS FROM RIVERSIDE FONTANA, Calif. (March 16, 2005) --- A mere 20 miles away from what is now Southern California's center of racing - California Speedway, stood a hotbed of racing excitement less than half a ...
TIME MACHINE: ROAD RACING HAS ROOTS FROM RIVERSIDE
FONTANA, Calif. (March 16, 2005) --- A mere 20 miles away from what is now Southern California's center of racing - California Speedway, stood a hotbed of racing excitement less than half a century ago. That hotbed was Riverside International Raceway and was located just west of Day Street and the 60 Freeway, in what is now incorporated as Moreno Valley. As a unique road course, the raceway hosted SCCA, Can-Am, Trans-Am, F 5000, Indy Cars, Drag Racers, IMSA, NASCAR and Off-Road events during its operation from 1957 through the track's final checkered flag in 1988.
As the Grand American Road Racing Association prepares to head west for the Rolex Sports Car and Grand-Am Cup Series at California Speedway on April 1-3, 2005, it seems appropriate to remember the great racing moments of yesteryear. Join us as we chronicle some of today's Grand American drivers success and sometimes downfall at Riverside that began 30 years ago, when the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) too traveled west to Southern California.
By 1971, IMSA introduced their marquee division, Camel GT, which resembles today's Grand American's Rolex Sports Car Series. Though IMSA had been competing in the historic 24 hours of Daytona for many years, which is now dubbed the Rolex 24 at Daytona and is contested in the Rolex Series, they had great hope of racing at Riverside International Raceway.
The series would get its chance at Riverside on the 3.25-mile road course. John Greenwood, a businessman who had developed a line of specially prepared Corvettes, had sponsored the event at Sebring and was the backer of the Riverside event.
Set as a six-hour endurance race on May 10, 1975, with a start time of 3:00 p.m., the Camel GT Enduro would make history at Riverside with it being the first time a pro series would race under darkness. Hans Stuck piloted his BMW entry around the course at 109.675 mph on Friday to set an IMSA record. In front of an estimated crowd of 11,000, Grand Marshal Warner W. Hodgdon was present when the green flag flew and 38 cars roared onto the course.
After the first hour, Stuck was alone in first place, trailed by Peter Gregg/Hurley Haywood in a Brumos Porsche Carrera. Elliott Forbes-Robinson/Milt Minter were in third, also in a Carrera. As the sun began dropping into the sky and the temperatures began to cool, Dieter Quester, co-driver to Stuck, caused officials to gasp when he recorded the fastest lap of the event, 108.066 mph, on the 92nd circuit. With just two hours remaining and darkness surrounding the track, Stuck/Quester held a one-lap lead over Gregg/Haywood and Brian Redman/Sam Posey, in second and third, respectively.
The leader of the event from the get-go felt the brake pedal reach the floor, and with 15 minutes remaining in the race, Stuck pitted and after three minutes in the pits, he saw his lead begin to evaporate. His crew worked diligently, and as they bled the brakes the rear brakes caught fire. They extinguished the blaze and set him on his way, not before Redman/Posey were able to make their way onto the lead lap and Stuck/Quester were with in sight of their taillights.
The checkered flag flew and before Stuck/Quester went to victory lane, the No. 25 BMW's brakes burst into flames again as it crossed the finish line, painting the scene in a fantastic burst of bright yellow light. Redman/Posey would finish second, followed by third-place Gregg/Haywood one lap down, fourth-place Charlie Kemp/Carson Baird three laps down and Forbes-Robinson/Minter rounded out the top five four laps back. The winning speed was an average of 103.400 mph. Two-time Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward joined Bill Freeman to finish 15th.
The event at Riverside was a success, both commercially and artistically. These racers would return for nine more events, including the historic road course's final full schedule of racing events in 1987. Stay tuned for more great racing moments as California Speedway looks back at Riverside International Raceway's rich history. Next up, Brothers Bill and Don Whittington set their own pace to win the 1979 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix.
Great road racing continues to thrive in Southern California at the home of California Speedway. Join Grand American for the Rolex Sports Car Series 400 and Grand-Am Cup Series 200 on April 1-3, 2005. Tickets are available as both weekend packages and individual tickets. For ticket and event information, call 800-944-RACE  or visit www.californiaspeedway.com.