Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Point Loma's 1915 Race Re-lived...

What is old is new again, so they say. Earlier this year I got word that for Balboa Parks Centennial they were going to re-drive the same course that was raced in 1915. Naturally the best place to start the reenactment was at the San Diego Automotive Museum in San Diego's Balboa Park. The back story on this, was the race was being held in 1915 to bring attention to the Panama-California Exposition, in the new City Park. More on this later...

I researched a good location a few days earlier, to what I hoped would make a great shot. Here's a capture just before one of the cars crossed the Cabrillo Bridge.
1912 Packard 7080 CC heading to the Cabrillo Bridge. Image, © John Straub

Now looking back some 100 years to January 9th of 1915.

As the Panama-California Exposition approached reality, it was thought that a big promotion was needed to attract people into town. Racing was very popular at the time and Point Loma seemed like the perfect place lay out a 5.9 mile course on existing city streets. It was to be a 300 mile race (51 laps). For security, 250 Marines from Camp Howard were detailed to keep the course clear. Al Bahr Shriners sponsored the event and provided members to patrol and sell tickets.

Staging on Roscrans

The action starts heading north.
The layout of the course placed the start in front of the grandstands on Rosecrans St. at Elliot St. heading north.The first turn was at Lytton St. it then followed Lytton onto Chatsworth and up the hill to the crest of Point Loma, onto Catalina Blvd. with an angled left turn. A straight run out the Point to Talbot St. and then onto Canon St., down the hill to the Roseville turn onto Rosecrans for a 2 mile straightaway to complete a lap.

The published layout of the course from 1915.

Back down onto Rosecrans for the two mile straight.
With drivers such as, Eddie Rickenbacker and Barney Oldfield, nineteen cars were entered, all but one made it to the start with names such as, Dusesenberg, Sunbeam, Peugeot, Stutz, Marmon, Mercer, Maxwell, Alco, National, and a Shields' Special. The race was to start at 11:00 AM with two cars at a time leaving at 30 second intervals. Because of the timed start, there was no particular advantage to pole position. The race was actually based on elapsed time. This was confusing to spectators, as the first car around the course was not necessarily the one in the lead.

Heading up Chatsworth at speed.
This was a grueling race, with incidents like cars skidding into telephone poles, curbs, railroad crossing signs, suffering broken pinion shafts, burned connecting rod bearings, and broken fuel lines. However, over 50,000 spectators ultimately saw 6 cars running at the end. Point Loma had the first officially sanctioned race course in the Southwest. Drivers could reach more than 100 miles per hour, trying to beat Barney Oldfields 1907 world record, as the first diver to reach and maintain a speed of 65 miles per hour. Although the track only lasted one year, it placed Point Loma and Southern California on the map for the fastest race cars in the sport. For the record, Earl Cooper in the Stutz won the race averaging over 65 miles per hour.

Back to today...I had the opportunity to unite the image I captured with the driver and car at a local historic car race held later in the year at Coronado. The famed image, after winning several ribbons during the year at shows, is now off to a new home.

Owner of number 16, Brian Blain united with the image of his car taken during the reenactment.
Don't forget, please pass "Along For The Ride" along to a friend.

1 comment:

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