Gary Martini

My first race ever was in April 1969, a TT Scrambles at Elsinore Raceway in the, then, sleepy town of Elsinore, California (also home to the Elsinore GP). Elsinore was a resort town in the lower deserts of Southern California that was a short drive over the coastal mountains from Dana Point and the beaches of south Orange County.

I had grown up with the late Jim West, and for my first race I was accompanying Jim and his mom and dad to the Saturday night District 37 TT Scrambles that ran at Elsinore almost every week. On a Saturday afternoon in spring we loaded up the Hodaka Ace 100 in the West family’s trailer, Jim, several friends, and myself, in the camper, and off we went. It seemed like it took forever to get there. As a 14-year old kid, the distance from my home near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA to the race track made it seem like it was on the other side of the country. These days people commute greater distances to work each day. but back then it was quite the haul. At that time I-15 did not exist, Elsinore was reached via a two-lane highway 71 through the valley from Corona. Other than a nudist camp, there was nothing much between Corona and Elsinore. The long drive that day did nothing to help my first race jitters. Funny how thirty some odd years later, I still get butterflies on the starting line.

By the time we reached the track it was already dark. After unloading Jim went off to practice. He had been racing for a couple of years already and had recently moved up to a Yamaha DT1 so he was an old hand at this. I had no idea what to do and was so nervous I could hardly speak. Jim’s dad got me signed up and pointed in the right direction. Of all the sights and sounds I remember from that night one that comes to mind was the sound of the “compression releases” used to slow coming into the turns (two strokes). What I remember about the race that night is that I placed second to last, quite a ways behind the pack.

I raced TT at Elsinore off and on for about three years but had moved on to Moto Cross. Many Saturday nights we would load up the pick up truck, race the TT camp in the pits and ride all over the surrounds mountains the following Sunday.

The TT track has long since been closed however, the faculty remains to this day as a gun club. The remains of the actual track are used as the shooting range. Whenever I am in town for the Elsinore GP I will wonder over (not too close for fear of being shot) to have a look and see if a part of my history and my start in the business is still there I don’t imagine it will last much longer, yet another casualty of the urban sprawl.