Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tijuana Road Races

Some years ago my buddies and I would spend a day in Tijuana (A.K.A...."TJ") waiting for their cars to get the full "Tuck 'n Roll" treatment. Back then, you could get the works from carpet to headliner, for a 100 bucks. Nothing like a freshly-stitched interior. Then we would head to a place called the "Long Bar" to down a few beers. What's this got to do with racing in TJ, nothing, except this was all happening about the same time...1966.

As far as I can tell, the Tijuana Road Races started in that year and continued until 1972.They were put on by the "Tijuana Auto Sport Club." The track was located about five miles from downtown Tijuana at a subdivision called Playa de Tijuana that skirts along the beach in the shadow of the bullring. It was a 1.2 mile course that ran along the upper street where the pit and paddock were, down to the lower street and along the beach with a few bails of hay as safety barriers. Safety was not a high priority for these races as spectators would sit on the barriers and try to kick the cars as they would come by or run across the track between some of the racing cars. Most of the entries for these races came from nearby San Diego. They usually had three races for each event-one for Modifieds and Sedans; a fifteen minute race, one for Production under three liters; a twenty five minute race, and one for Formula cars; also a twenty five minute race. Qualifying positions were on your honor, timed by one of your crew members.

Program from 1968...the third running of the races. Image via Frank Sheffield

The track came as close to the border as you could get. Image via Frank Sheffield

A LeMans start...check out the driving suits. Image via Frank Sheffield
Another start from the other side of the track. Image via Frank Shellield

A "Speedster" and "Triumph TR2" chasing an "MGB" going into turn 5. Photo by Vern Jaques, via Frank Sheffield

A "Sprite" and "MGA" cresting the hill coming up from the beach in turn 4. Photo by Vern Jaques, via Frank Sheffield

Action coming down the hill to the beach in turn 2. Image via Frank Sheffield

An "Elva Courier" exiting turn 2 and onto the straight along the beach...
notice the "Federally" corner workers. Image via Sports Car Graphic 

In 1970 the Road Races moved from the beach location to the old Tijuana Airport where they finally died two years later.


  1. Keith Nelson emailed me: "Back in the early 60s they used the lower street for drag racing, going from the north to south running just a little down hill."

    Keith, I didn't know that.

    1. I grew up in Playas de Tijuana and remember those races perfectly. 1/4 Mile drag races, go karts, circuit for sports cars, and motocross. All around 1970-1973

  2. Maybe I told you this already, but my brother Chuck raced his Lotus XI there around 1970. Fred Puhn raced there in his MG TF and you have a photo of it.

  3. Wow...thanks Bob for the comment. I never went to those races, it must have been pretty cool back then, everything was so much simpler.

  4. raced in 1968. Alfa Romeo 1st in class third over all. wish I had some photos.

  5. It is great to see the photos of this race in TJ. I raced my 1955 MG TF 1500, and it is shown in the LeMans start photo. I raced Mickey Pleasant in his sprite wheel to wheel the entire event and won with the MG. Since this was the Grand Prix de Benito Juarez the race got lots of publicity and newspaper coverage in TJ. This was the greatest victory for the old MG.

    1. I raced there in 66 and 67 in a Porsche speedster,I was 15 years old in 66 and the organizers didn't care lol, I think it was 66 that Bill Simpson (Simpson safety) did his first race,it was in a FB car,he won his class and I won mine, at the awards we sat next to each other and for many year's became friends at the track.