CIRCUITS: RIVERSIDE

Name: Riverside

Built in the countryside seventy miles from downtown Los Angeles in 1957, Riverside was intended to be a venue to cash in on California's love of sportscars and automobile racing. It was midway between LA and the desert paradise of Palm Springs but it was a hot and dusty place, under the San Bernardino mountains.

The facility had several different track layouts and a drag racing strip which doubled as the main straight. Primarily used for sportscars, notably the LA Times Grand Prix CanAm event, the circuit also hosted single-seater races, the first major event being the United States Grand Prix in 1960. This was held two and half months after the World Championship had been settled and so Ferrari did not bother sending cars but rising star Phil Hill, who had won the previous event - the Italian GP - was able to find a drive in a British Racing Partnership Cooper. The race was won by Stirling Moss in a Lotus 18.

Formula 1 did not return but NASCAR was successful with local hero Dan Gurney winning four consecutive Motor Trend 500 events at the track. Gurney was also successful when Indycars first visited the facility in 1967 and won the first two events. The track was very bumpy and in the 1970s it was used mainly for sportscar races and it was at one of these that Rolf Stommelen was killed. The track also claimed the life of NASCAR star Joe Weatherly in 1964.

When CART was established the new series needed tracks on which to race and so raced at Riverside between 1981 and 1983. Local hero Rock Mears won two of the three events. NASCAR and IMSA continued to be regular visitors to the track until it was closed down in 1988 as the ground had become very valuable as Los Angeles's suburbs spread. A small track remains at the site but large sections of the original facility have been redeveloped for housing.

Print