Catalina Island Grand Prix Returns!

| 5/19/2010 9:42:00 AM

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1956 Catalina Island Start

Riders line up for the start of the 1956 Catalina Island Grand Prix 

The famed Catalina Island Grand Prix, held annually from 1951 to 1958, attracted thousands of spectators and hundreds of riders to Catalina, a 176-square-mile island 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. Like the Isle of Man in England, it was perceived as an elite event, and its success inspired BSA to name one of its bikes the “Catalina Scrambler.” Now word comes that racing will return to Catalina in December following a 52-year hiatus.

Last run in 1958, the race was inspired by the Isle of Man TT, which has been held on the Isle of Man 70 miles off the coast of England since its inception in 1907. The Catalina Island race was proposed to Catalina Island owner Phillip Wrigley with the idea of drawing more people to this little known spot off California’s southwestern coast. Wrigley liked the idea, and thus was born the Catalina Grand Prix. The first race was held in 1951, and in the years following it became one of the most hotly contested events on the West Coast, drawing superstars and emerging talents to vie for top honors as they blasted through the main port town of Avalon and up into the surrounding hills.

1954 Catalina course

We found this image showing the 1954 Catalina Island Grand Prix course at, posted by Hog Wild, who noted the 2010 course will have more in-town miles than was used in the 1950s. 

9/23/2010 8:23:45 PM

The website has been updated, and registration and sign up info is posted: Basically it will cost you $250 to enter, including shipping the bike. Full modern classes. Vintage, classic, and evolution classes, as well as AHRMA based Premier Lwt, Premier 500, and Premier twins. Only intermediate and expert rider classes. Send in your application, including AMA number and a list of recent events and finishes and wait till next month to know if you make the cut. I sent my application in yesterday. Woody

richard backus
6/1/2010 3:26:02 PM

Nice period literature you posted at! It's cool seeing how the event was portrayed back when it was being run. It was a big deal then, with any luck it'll be a big deal again. Richard/Motorcycle Classics

6/1/2010 3:14:05 PM

Thanks for the story! I just linked to this story from and posted some cool vintage Catalina Grand Prix racing memorabilia - old magazines, vintage ads and articles...Cheers!

phill hall
5/29/2010 8:00:17 PM

Just linked to this page via a photo credit on after reading he plans to attend the race whenever it ends up being. Way to share photos and get some links out of it!

5/25/2010 1:05:19 AM

There is no information up yet, but there is a web site: and there is a lively, uninformed discussion thread at the district 37 forum.

richard backus
5/24/2010 1:30:09 PM

I'm still waiting for confirmation of any vintage element. It seems like a given that the organizers will include vintage racing, but it's important to note that the event is the brainchild of AMA District 37, which puts most of its energy into modern racing. We're hoping there will be a vintage element, but it's too soon to know just how it's going to shape up. Richard/Motorcycle Classics

5/24/2010 11:49:25 AM

I sure hope it's not an invitational race, and be open to everyone, something like a first come first serve basis. Can't wait to get more info!!!!

richard backus
5/24/2010 10:18:26 AM

The main, 100-mile race is scheduled for December 5. The early information I've been able to find says the event will kick off December 4. Sorry for not working that into my blog, and I'm still waiting for confirmation on dates. I'll get those up when I get them. Richard/Motorcycle Classics

5/24/2010 12:02:26 AM

what is the date of the Catalina GP?

5/23/2010 3:14:35 PM

What do you mean "The Elsinore GP of Yore"? The Elsinore Grand Prix was back last year, and better than ever! In fact we are getting really close to dirt bike nirvana. If the economy stays bad, and towns get desperate for revenue, maybe we can get all our great races back?

5/20/2010 5:03:20 PM

The course layout will really determine the success of this event as it will be run in both off pavement and through town, similar, I suspect to the Elsenore GP of yore. That race as well as the vintage Catalina were inadequately prepared for their success and the crowds. Good security and crowd management should guarantee a wonderful event. Looking forward to the dirt and sun.

open road pirates
5/20/2010 3:06:36 PM

This sounds awesome! I will forward to everybody I know:)

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