Historic Races Return To Catalina Island-The Catalina Grand Prix

I was one of over 3000 lucky spectators who were in attendance for this special weekend.

The Catalina Grand Prix originally ran from 1951-1958 then took a 52 year hiatus. On December 4th, 2010 the Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix was reborn.




More than 800 racers entered to ride the newly designed 5.5-mile course, which featured a variety of terrain including a challenging motocross section and a fire road that took racers up winding turns and around steep bluffs high above the port city of Avalon.

The vintage class was the first to race on Saturday morning. This was very powerful to watch. Many of the racers had competed in the grand prix in the 50’s. Some of them even brought the bike they raced back then as well. It was very clear how much this meant to them. I could see it on their faces and there was a special nostalgic energy in the air. The vintage riders are real warriors. Some of their bikes were barley running and/or very hard to start. It did not seem to bother them one bit.



Homer Knapp, who took to the course on Saturday on the same 1920s Harley Davidson he rode in the Catalina race in the 1950s. Bob Sandgren, who won the race in 1957 and 1958, also returned to serve as Grand Marshal. Other Catalina race veterans included Preston Petty and John Rice. The festivities kicked off with a parade lap of the racers through downtown Avalon, where hundreds lined the streets to cheer on their favorites from both yesteryear and today.

Other noteworthy racers included Hall of Famer Malcolm Smith, motocross and off-road champion Rick Johnson, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Olympic skier Daron Rahlves, who won his race. Many notable “young” racers showed up as well, including Travis Pastrana, Kurt Caselli, Ronnie Renner, Jessy Nelson, Johnny Campbell and Quinn Cody. Pastrana’s Nitro Circus pals Andy Bell, Gregg Godfrey and Kurt Nicoll also lined up. The event culminated in the final Pro Race, where Kendall Norman, coming off his fifth Baja 1000 win and the 2010 AMA National Hare & Hound championship, took first place, besting Sean Collier and young EnduroCross ace Colton Haacker. Caselli had a mechanical issue and had to drop out, as did Pastrana, who was running in the top-three when his bike seized.

Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix followed its 1950s open class tradition by providing races for a wide variety of engine displacements and skill levels. There were 12 races over the two days, with an average of 50 riders per race. The Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix was AMA-sanctioned, and all AMA rules were followed.

Another interesting little factoid about Catalina Island:

The Chicago Cubs used to hold spring training on the island from 1921-1951. Hmmm, I wonder if the motorcycles chased them away.





Credits to Speedtv.com

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