Riverside International Raceway by Pete Lyons

Riverside International Raceway book review

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Fuji Speedway, Osterreichring, – there are many once-great Formula One venues which have been butchered into pale imitations of their former glory.

Few former grand prix circuits have been obliterated entirely – but that was the sad fate of the Riverside circuit in California which held the second ‘true’ world championship United States Grand Prix in 1960.

Perhaps things would have been different had the circuit been built to its original plans which included an extra-long loop for grand prix races. The track was little-loved by grand prix drivers when it held the 1960 United States Grand Prix.

Looking at it from a modern perspective, the sinuous, undulating curves in the opening part of the lap would set it above many of the flat, featureless venues which comprise much of the current F1 calendar.

What certainly counted in its favour was its versatility. How many venues can claim to have held races for vehicles as diverse as F1 cars, IndyCars, NASCARs and drag racers?

Riverside’s diverse three decades of motor racing is captured in this lavish and detailed history. Author Pete Lyons has clearly done his research – I would have appreciated even more of his prose, even at the expense of the vast number of pictures.

This is more than just the story of which races took place at the track, but how Riverside came to be built in the first place and why a shopping mall now stands where engines howled, victors cheered and, on 20 sad occasions, deaths were mourned – the last occurring after the circuit’s official final race.

Riverside International Raceway by Pete LyonsIn the end Riverside was killed off by nearby housing development which brought complaints from residents who didn’t want the noise of a racing track on the doorstep. F1 and the many other series which visited Riverside can’t go back there any more. But this excellent book ensures its memory lives on.

F1 Fanatic rating

Rating four out of five

Buy Riverside International Raceway: A Photographic Tour of the Historic Track, its Legendary Races, and Unforgettable Drivers (UK)

Buy Riverside International Raceway: A Photographic Tour of the Historic Track, its Legendary Races, and Unforgettable Drivers (USA)

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Riverside International Raceway

Author: Pete Lyons
Publisher: Spry Publishing
Published: 2015
Pages: 208
Price: $49.95 (£33)
ISBN: 9781938170119

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 24 comments on “Riverside International Raceway book review”

    1. Kurt (@dangerpaws)
      3rd May 2015, 12:49

      Thanks for the info about this book, Keith! Looks great. I’ll have to check it out! I don’t know very much about the history of the Riverside track.

      I live about 1.5 hours drive south of Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. It’s, in my opinion, the best road course in the US. Very quick, lots of elevation changes and a beautiful setting. The drivers love it! Hopefully Road America will never end-up as a housing development. It would break my heart….

      1. Well, at least the market is not that feasible for that nowadays – although with there being a price for everything, one can never be sure for the future…

        I agree that Road America is awesome. Although I like a couple of American tracks more (Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta, Sonoma, Watkins Glen), Road America stands out with it being sooo large, I mean, really large. More than 6 kms in length, it has those highway-like long straights to accomodate those tricky turns. The best of both worlds.

    2. FYI
      http://www.royhooper.com/gtpcrash.htm
      I was there that day, turn 6 stand, amazing that they all walked away, many memories of NASCAR races and Kenny Roberts when he was king. RIP Riverside, it was the best racing experience in So Cal.

      1. Amazing video, can’t believe they all walked away.

        On the track, it’s definetely an interesting layout. Amazing I never heard of it before.

    3. I have built this track for Grand Prix 4 and I learned a huge amount about it during the process. It is indeed a sad and tragic fate that it was levelled to accomodate housing projects and favour noise complainers.

      However, I wouldn’t say not having the planned extra loop was a contributing factor to its demolishment. Its existing GP layout was still 5.26-kilometre long, incidentally the standard length of the modern circuits and about a bit under average around the late 1950s, early 1960s.

      I would say the initial lack on enthusiasm from F1 drivers was probably due to the lack of ‘establishment’ in those early years – the track opened only a few years earlier and eventually gained recognition a bit later, during Dan Gurney’s heydays in the late 1960s, early 1970s as well as during the NASCAR season-openers in the 1980s. NASCAR drivers liked the layout and were in awe of its difficulty – and they, on their layout, did not even had to take on the second apex of Turn 6 (the hairpin after the famed Esses), the blind, sharply downhill Turn 7 (its entry pictured above) or the longer format of the decreasing radius, Shanghai’s Turn 1-like Turn 8.

      So it was not (only) the diversity of racing that made it an excellent track – although it certainly helped that it was suitable for that many categories – but the extreme difficulties and challenges it posed to the drivers. Being at an excellent location (no wonder housing came knocking on the door) also contributed greatly.

      1. @atticus-2 Cool, when I drove GP4 I didn’t know about modding just yet :(. But it’s also available for GPL in several versions, most recently Riverside 71 and Riverside 66 will be coming out soon. Both versions fit with a Can-Am carset.

        1. @fastiesty Wow, sounds great. Last time I checked a Riverside for GPL (seeking ever for information for my GP4 track still), it was not very accurate.

          1. @atticus-2 Yep, things have moved on greatly over 15 years :). Recently, Spa ’67 was released after almost a decade.. it rivals the versions on rFactor 2 etc., amazing really for a sim that’s almost older than Max Verstappen..

            1. The Max Verstappen age joke will not get old for some time, will it, haha. :)

    4. Being a life-long Riverside resident (with the exception of a few years spent living out of state) this is definitely a book I’ll be getting. Never had the chance to see F1 there, as I wasn’t born yet, but certainly remember attending numerous NASCAR and drag races at the venue. It’s also one of my favorites tracks to drive in rFactor, although I might be a bit biased. :) I currently live approximately 5 miles from the old Raceway site.

      It’s a shame it was demolished for a shopping mall, and a crappy one at that. The mall is more of a ghost town than a shopping mall, and it in turn should be demolished. That said, there are a number of other very nice stores and businesses that have been built over the years on the old raceway grounds, including some residential areas. But oh how we long for the old days sometimes, when land was less developed and more sparsely populated.

      1. It’s a totally crappy mall. All of Riverside must have been beautiful with all the orange groves. Sadly, mostly gone too. At least Adams kart track (one of America’s oldest) still lives on in Rubidoux.

    5. Alisdair Hunter
      3rd May 2015, 19:17

      I purchased this book on its release direct from Pete Lyons and found up to his usual high standard.
      The can am book also a must have and his annual calenders are superb collections of historic photos

    6. Riverside was a legendary track. Have a good friend from Riverside, I’ll have to point him towards this book.

      Have seen this kind of thing played out a number of times in my native California. Race track built outside own town/city proper. Town/city grows and homes are eventually built nearby. New residents knowingly move in near known longtime established race track and then complain to politicians until track/land owners are legislated or pressured (forced) to sell.

      This happened here where I live. A rather famous, well respected and profitable track that brought much revenue and many visitors to our area was being pushed out. Fortunately the track owners were able to sell their land at a premium price. Prohibitive specific noise restrictions had been legislated against them and the threat of their land use permits for the track being denied came to be too much to fight.

      1. Happens on the other side of the world to (New Zealand). Residents who moved in near to the speedway circuit now want it gone, even though it was there first! Definitely not how things should work…

      2. johnny stick
        4th May 2015, 5:16

        Same thing is happening with Santa Monica Airport in California. Gotta be a lesson here.

        1. Airports, same type of deal. Don’t understand people moving near one, then complain until they are out of business.

      3. Which track it was, @bullmello?

        1. @atticus-2 – Mesa Marin. Great 1/2 mile track, great owners, great events. About 5 years after the demise of Mesa Marin there is a new track, Kern County Raceway Park. But all the momentum, goodwill and tradition of Mesa Marin was long gone by the time the new track was finally built.

          Irwindale is another track in danger of being pushed out. They are hanging on for this season, after that, who knows?

          1. Never heard of this one, unfortunately, although I do know Irwindale. I hope the latter pulls through.

            The selling moves by track owners (Riverside, Ontario Motor Speedway, Mesa Marin) really highlight it’s not enough for a track to be great layout-wise – it’s at least as important to have great, dedicated management.

            1. @atticus-2 – Here is a bit of info:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesa_Marin_Raceway

              The NASCAR Truck series was essentially born here. Several NASCAR drivers got started here including Kevin Harvick who hails from Bakersfield. Had a lot of friends that raced there and a local company I worked for sponsored a few races there. We were always treated like gold as patrons and sponsors.

              Made connections there to become web designer and photographer for a 3 time champion Grand National West NASCAR driver who also got his start at Mesa Marin. Also hooked up with a race promoter, sponsor and streaming broadcaster who I still do some work for today. Guess that is one of the downsides of track closures, the loss of all the direct employment and peripheral jobs too.

              The Collins family were wise to sell when they did. Within a few more years the handwriting was on the wall that local officials would not renew their land use permits for racing. When they sold the property the real estate market was at its high. Ironically, the real estate/building bubble burst a short time after the raceway was razed and no big expensive have been built on the site yet. Just now there is some development activity starting to go on in the area.

            2. …no big expensive homes have been built on the site yet…

            3. Quite a story. With a rather sad ending unfortunately.

      4. Same thing happens with airports.

        People buy cheap houses near airports, then start to complain because there’s too much noise. Why do you think the houses were cheap in the first place?

        Sigh.

    7. Daniel (@dstaplet13)
      4th May 2015, 3:57

      So this will make me appreciate the venues a couple of hours from where I live (Fontana for NASCAR and Pomona for Drag Racing), I will definitely give this book a go.

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