Riverside International Raceway, simply known as Riverside, was an American racing facility, located near the city of Riverside, California, USA. Having been one of the first purpose-built tracks for road racing in the western US, Riverside was used to host the 1960 United States Grand Prix, replacing the airport circuit at Sebring. However, like Sebring, Riverside failed to draw popular support or financial success, despite the teams and drivers enjoying the fast, flowing layout.
From 1961, the United States Grand Prix found a permanent home at Watkins Glen in New York State. Racing would return to California in 1976, when the United States Grand Prix West was staged at Long Beach, 80 miles away.
Riverside was planned out by a German-born immigrant, Rudy Cleye. He had been a sports car enthusiast in Germany before the war, and saw a market for a purpose-built road course in the rapidly growing southern California market. Land was purchased, and construction started on a circuit that followed the terrain. But the Cleye and his associates ran out of money, and the project stalled until wealthy local industrialist John Edgar bailed out the project. Riverside finally opened in 1957, with a local sports car meeting. A few weeks later, a larger meeting attracted the likes of Masten Gregory, Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby and Dan Gurney, all of whom raved about the new track. After two seasons of American based racing, Sebring promoter Alec Ulmann secured Riverside as the host of the United States Grand Prix, after 70,000 people watched the World Sportscar Championship at the circuit a year earlier. The FIA accepted the application, and Riverside was set to host the 1960 edition of the US Grand Prix on the 20th of November, the final round of the Championship.Unfortunately, Jack Brabham secured the Championship in Portugal, while Enzo Ferrari opted not to send a works effort all the way to America. The race was seen as competition for a major sports car race, sponsored by the largest Southern California media group and to be held a couple of weeks later. So the local media all but ignored the Grand Prix, and a small crowd of about 25,000 people went to Riverside to watch the race, won by Stirling Moss despite the efforts of local hero Dan Gurney and Champion Brabham.
After the race, Riverside was dropped from the F1 calendar, with Watkins Glen getting the chance to house the US Grand Prix in 1961. The Glen ultimately became the permanent home of the Grand Prix until 1980, while Riverside became a national circuit of great popularity, hosting USAC, CanAm, CART, NASCAR, IMSA and SCCA races in front of huge crowds. In 1983, the land containing the circuit was sold to a real estate developer, who had formerly worked as a radio broadcaster at the track. His initial intent was to preserve the track for as many years as possible, but by 1988, the remote desert location of the track had become part of the rapidly growing community of Moreno Valley, and the land originally purchased for $5,000 was now worth millions.
The original layout of the circuit focused almost entirely on the curvy nature of the gulley, leading uphill from the planned start. Other than that, the track was just a series of precise loops, albeit on rather hilly terrain.
The start/finish straight led immediately into an up hill through turn one, before a series of sweeping 'S' bends that covered turns two to five. Turns six to eight were a series of long hairpins connected by two straights a third of a mile long, before the downhill run. The entire straight was then covered, with a tight downhill 180° corner completing the circuit and rejoining the start/finish straight.
During the early 1960s, an oval track was constructed by creating a new, semicircular corner from the back straight to just before turn one, and a whole new market of fans was introduced to Riverside. The management later had the idea of creating a drag strip on the back straight, but with the undulating uphill straight, the concept was not a success. In 1969 the radius of the final corner was almost doubled, to reduce the demands on braking, and a dog-leg kink was added to the back straight. The short oval, which had been popular for a short period, was not ever used again. Around the same time, a short connecting road was added between turn 7 and the back straight. This shortened the track by about 3/4 of a mile, and reduced the strain on amateur sports cars, whose owners often raced on a budget. This configuration was called the Club Circuit, while the full track was the Grand Prix Circuit. In 1971, an abandoned connecting road between turns 6 and 8 was repaved, and put into use for NASCAR, to reduced braking demands on those cars. This configuration, to no ones surprise, became known as the NASCAR Circuit. Over time, grandstands capable of holding 50,000 spring up along the western side of the track, to accommodate the large crowds.
The nine corner layout covered 5.271 kilometres (3.275 miles), with the drivers completing 75 laps in 1960. Over the years, millions of fans would enjoy the desert based circuit, and one the drivers compared the circuit to firm favorite Zandvoort, comparable both in speed and the sandy scenery.
The final layout largely followed the original, although the final turn was both lengthened and widened, meaning that the corner was level, rather than downhill and uphill. The organisers also opted to direct the cars away from the end of the drag strip to enter the final corner, meaning entry speeds were reduced, while the first and second sectors remained largely untouched.
Once the land around the circuit was bought in 1989, almost all traces of the circuit were wiped out over the next 20 years, the admin buildings surviving the longest. There were plans to build a replica of the circuit at Merced, California, 300 miles to the north, although the campaign to build "Riverside Motorsports Park" failed after six years of effort in 2009.
The following is a list of Formula One World Championship events held at the Riverside International Raceway:
|Year||Event||Winning Driver||Winning Constructor||Report|
|1960||United States Grand Prix||Stirling Moss||Lotus-Climax||Report|
- Dave Friedman vie The Henry Ford, '1960USGPRiverside_004', flickr.com, (Flickr, 14/03/2012), https://www.flickr.com/photos/thehenryford/7202735402/in/album-72157629739252830/, (Accessed 04/01/2016)
|v·d·e||Nominate this page for Featured Article|
|V T E||United States Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Sebring (1959), Riverside (1960), Watkins Glen (1961–1980), Phoenix (1989–1991), Indianapolis (2000–2007), Austin (2012–present)|
|Formula One Races||1959 • 1960 • 1961 • 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981–1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992–1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008–2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019|
|Non-F1 races||1908 • 1909 • 1910 • 1911 • 1912 • 1913 • 1914 • 1915 • 1916 • 1917–1957 • 1958|
|See also||United States Grand Prix West • Indianapolis 500 • Detroit Grand Prix • Caesars Palace Grand Prix • Dallas Grand Prix • Questor Grand Prix|