Frank Sheffield's Riverside Memories

"Those dead Riverside International Raceway photos nudged my lachrymals,as did Tip's memories. I always knew there was a hierarchy of risk-seeking in racers and their cohort. Two-wheelers were (are) right up there near the top.

I worked flags at a number of courses when bikes ran as support for sports cars. At Riverside I was up on Turn Four when a small-displacement race started, dozens of the buzzers trying to stay on the pavement through the esses. A fellow running sixth or so got a little wiggle when he hit some sand, the seventh-place guy wiggled a little more, eighth a little more than that. 

By the time the wave worked its way down to twentieth or thereabouts, it was out of control, and the field took to the dirt, wheeling, tumbling, or sliding. They were all back up and running very quickly, but next time around there was a large gap between the sixth and seventh riders and increasingly large gaps down through the field. 

The whole thing was Keystone-Koppish when it was happening, and it seemed no one was seriously hurt. I still wonder if the sixth guy had applied a racing tactic to create space between him and the rest of the field.

In another race a few minutes later one of the bigger-bore bikes hit one of the tires at the Four apex, got out of shape and caught it just in time to hit another tire. This second one flipped him up off the seat but he didn't change directions or lose his grip on the handlebars as he crossed the track. 

He re-seated just in time to hit another tire, and was now in perfect phase so that each tire in the row sent him a little higher until he eventually was doing a full hand-stand on the bars, before he crashed and rolled to a stop in the middle of the racing line.  The bike's throttle was stuck wide open, and the bike was spinning around on a peg, screaming and slithering along the edge of the track.

A lap earlier another rider's bike had stopped near the crash site. He was closer than any flag man, and ran toward the mess. He passed the rider, who was twisting in apparent agony, and threw himself on the errant bike, spending what seemed like a long time wrestling it to a stop and turning it off. Then he strolled over and looked down at the injured rider and shook his head.

Motorcycle racers. You gotta wonder.

A few months ago I was approached via email by a man who was co-ordinating construction of a Riverside International Raceway track for use in the Grand Prix Legends racing simulation computer program. He had found my RIR pages and asked for help making the track authentic and true to the 1960 Formula One configuration. I became moderately obsessed, and compiled a lot of information. 

The simulation is great. The fellow who did the actual programming tuned it a bit for sim-racer tastes (covered grandstand at Six, dogleg and wide Nine are there), but much of it is spot-on. The GPL program can be had for cheap on eBay, and the simulated tracks can be downloaded from sim-racer sites on the Internet. I'll try to find some of the frames they sent for critique, and put up a Riverside Pictures page six.

I enjoyed racing wherever I found it, but Riverside was home."

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