Lake Elsinore Grand Prix in a sorry state

I’m sending this letter to the City Council, as well as the Valley News, about the sad state of affairs in Lake Elsinore and the shadow of its former self the Grand Prix has become.

I first came to Lake Elsinore for the Grand Prix in 1999. Like many people over the years I first heard of your fair city through the film “On Any Sunday.”

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard through the grapevine in 1999 that the race had been revived and was going to run that fall.

1999 was my first organized race motorcycle race of any kind and I was hooked. I also fell in love with the community of Lake Elsinore.

In a world where, even in the off-road heaven that is the Inland Empire, the newly arrived neighbors and environmental groups have been pressuring city, county and state governments to limit the good, clean family fun that is off-road motorcycle riding, I was pleasantly surprised to find such a sweet little historic community that was actively encouraging people to bring their bikes and ride right though downtown.

I came back every year to run that race, staying afterward to watch the other races, eat breakfast and lunch and shop in the cute shops along your historic Main Street.

I stopped in the little storefront historical society and chatted with the nice old ladies about Sister Amy’s Castle, Bella Lugosi and other historical figures who had played even a minor part in your city’s history.

I was truly devastated when Goat decided not to go through with the GP in 2007, seeing as how I had blown up my bike in front of over a dozen family and friends in 2006 while having the race of my life.

The event that happened in 2007 at the motocross track was a stopgap solution, and hastily organized, and it showed.

This year, with plenty of time to plan, it looked like it was going to be much better, and I think it was, but truly it was nothing compared to the citywide event of previous years.

The participant turnout seemed much smaller. The vintage class, which I used to run, had eight people in it. I seem to remember racing with 50 to 100 riders in years past.

I blame this on the $95 entry fee, for what amounts to just another race on a motocross track. This seems fairly extravagant when I’m used to paying $20 for a gate fee and then $30 for a race entry.

I could justify it when considering the amount of work it took to close the streets and organize such an event in the middle of town, but not when it’s taking pace at an already dedicated facility.

One of the greatest things about the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix was always the spectators. It was one of the few races not out in the middle of nowhere, so anyone with even a passing interest could watch and cheer on the bikes.

The way the course was laid out there were plenty of places you could hike to and watch different parts of the race.

There was always a good crowd at the rodeo grounds, and believe me, they helped when you had been racing for 40 minutes and didn’t know if you could go another lap. One year I had about six guys run out and help pick up me and my bike after getting thrown off in a muddy, slippery section.

There was always a good crowd at the rodeo grounds, and believe me, they helped when you had been racing for 40 minutes and didn’t know if you could go another lap. One year I had about six guys run out and help pick up me and my bike after getting thrown off in a muddy, slippery section.

After the race this Sunday we went for lunch on Main Street and it was like a ghost town. Half the stores were actually empty and for rent. The rest were merely empty of customers. You wouldn’t even know there was a race going on in town a few miles a way.

The newspaper says the city is running a several million dollar deficit due to a fall-off in property and sales taxes. The shops on Main Street obviously aren’t doing so great.

All around town this weekend I saw for sale and for rent signs on formerly occupied houses. Between downtown and the MX park there is a huge housing development that has apparently just stopped after building the outside wall and laying the groundwork for the streets and cul-de-sacs of the new houses.

I know the residents of Prospect Street protested after the 2005 race and the 2006 even had to use a slightly different, and in no way better, course.

Without the support of the residents of Prospect, Graham, Peck or Heald, it’s nearly impossible to hold the event in the downtown area. Perhaps if the city could alternate which street is closed every year you could get their support.

If need be, perhaps the city could offer to send the affected residents who would not be able to use their driveways for a weekend vacation in Pala or Barona, both of which have lovely hotels and are quite convenient.

The Lake Elsinore Grand Prix at the Kal-Guard Motocross Complex doesn’t seem to benefit the people of the city of Lake Elsinore at all.

For all the business on Main Street on Sunday, the race may as well have taken place in Perris. For all the uniqueness, or lack thereof, of the event at the Kal-Guard Complex, it may have been called the Kal-Guard Grand Prix.

Calling the race that took place at the MX track the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix just seems dishonest to people coming from out of town to race the historic event.

Either the City of Lake Elsinore needs to rethink the Grand Prix and bring it back to downtown, or just let it die. It would seem to me the city needs the Grand Prix, in downtown, because the city needs the money it brings in.

The off-road community needs the Grand Prix, in downtown, to show the world we aren’t a bunch of worthless rednecks, stung out on energy drinks, running over innocent creatures in the desert and ruining the environment.

Can’t we somehow all get together and make it work again like it did from 1997 to 2007?

Bryan Wood

CALVMX and AHRMA racer

6 Responses to "Lake Elsinore Grand Prix in a sorry state"

  1. Charlie   November 25, 2008 at 7:27 am

    It’s pretty hard to be a redneck in SoCal. For one, you don’t have the animal population to worry about running over innocent creatures. As a "redneck" who does live in the American south, I can tell you we have more than enough critters crossing the road a being hit to keep us fed for months. In SoCal, the OHV community is flat out of control regardless of what they are running over. Yes, the Elsinore Grand Prix needs to be reworked however, much of the community has changed and it isn’t open like it was 30-40 years ago when the GP was great. In today’s economy, one thing is a certain fact, if the GP doesn’t make any money or support itself, the city should have nothing to do with it.

  2. Richard Pope   April 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I hope the memories can be enshrined in someway so people can see where we’ve been. Yours, a motorcycle postman in New Zealand.

  3. gregg alexander   August 16, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I have been racing offroad since the 70`s and have loved every minute. I rode the early elsinores and when they started it up again I came back,riding the same bikes they now call "Vintage".I had planned to race again in 2009 but after reading the comments and the new track i don`t think i want to drive from AZ for just another mx race. The people and the racing are some of my greatest memories of Calif. If we could get back some of these things i would again spend the weekends traveling all over places like saddleback, escape country, carlsbad,de anza and district 37 just to see and race with those who feel like I do.

  4. Rick   August 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Charlie, I agree with you. 2008 was merely a track race, not really a GP. I would like to see an effort to bring back the tradition of the GP, or dramatically decrease the entry fee to coincide with the type of race that is presented. I don’t mind the $95 entry fee, as long as it is a fun, GP style race. The races of 2003 through 2005 were outstanding and should be brought back!

  5. Shawn   November 10, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Well, it was back for 2009, and it was just almost as fun as it used to be!

  6. Ian   November 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    This years Lake Elisnore Grand Prix was the best race the City of Elisnore has had in a long time. The track was great and a much better change from the moto-x track that it has been yeld on. The Podium Production crew did an outstanding job putting this event on this year with the little mount of time they had. Looking forward to next years race!


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