No Catalina Grand Prix in 2011, Return for 2012

April 28, 2011
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
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Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

Kendall Norman rides on the fire road section of the course overlooking Avalon during the Pro Race of the Red Bull Catalina GP. Norman went on to win the race.
Gary Woodling  170   Michael Fontanarosa  155  and Jon Munns  188  ride though downtown Avalon during the Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix parade lap.
The Catalina GP will not happen in 2011, however, it is scheduled to return in December, 2012 bigger and better.

The Catalina Grand Prix is a historic race that made a triumphant return to the Southern California island in 2010 after a 52-year hiatus. With so much positive energy surrounding the event it seemed like a sure thing to repeat in 2011. However, that will not be the case as the parties involved aim at promoting the event to world-class standards beginning in December, 2012.

As disappointing as it is to miss the event this year, the theory behind this decision is to take the GP to an even higher level. The City of Avalon, Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Catalina Island Company (SCICo) are the local parties involved in controlling the Grand Prix. As the land owners, SCICo has the ultimate say and has opted to skip ’11 in order to maximize the 2012 effort.

“The Mayor, City Manager, and I made a presentation to the Santa Catalina Island Company Board of Directors, asking them to reconsider 2011,” said President and CEO of the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce, Wayne Griffin. “Unfortunately, we were not successful. However, it is their land and they are certainly entitled to use it as they see fit. The Company has committed to a 2012 event, and the City and Chamber are working with them to make that happen.”

According to Griffin, the 2010 Catalina Grand Prix brought approximately 3000 visitors to the island. Those race fans pumped $791,000 dollars into the local economy which generated $78,000 in tax revenue for the City of Avalon. One of the reasons Avalon works so well for this type of event is that it has the restaurants, hotels and services necessary to accommodate such a large influx of people. On a yearly figure, lodging occupancy was up 8.3% over 2009 thanks to the two-day event.

“While there were some issues that need to be addressed in future events, there was nothing that can’t be fixed,” continued Griffin. “We haven’t heard a complaint from anyone on the Island… In a word, the 2010 Catalina Grand Prix was fantastic!”

2010 Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix map.
Land owner, Santa Catalina Island Company intends to improve this historic event. The island benefitted greatly from the economic impact of the 2010 GP.

The 2010 race saw JCR Honda star Kendall Norman take the overall win with notables like Travis Pastrana, Kurt Caselli, Danny LaPorte, Preston Petty, Homer Knapp and Malcolm Smith leaving their tread marks. Riders lined up for their race without even a sighting loop and raced blindly across a high-speed layout. Supposedly there will be practice sessions in 2012 one or two days before the race. This will not only make things better for the racers, but keep them spending money on the island for additional time.

Event promoter Vinnie Mandzak spearheaded the 2010 GP and it was a small miracle that it even happened, much less in the seamless manner that it did over two days of racing. Other plans include better spectator options, increased vendors (’10 basically consisted t-shirt and food stands), and off-site attractions that will offer extra recreation away from the racing. There’s no word yet on who will be promoting the ’12 GP but with a commitment from the land company and support from local businesses, residents and government, it seems that one year is a small price to pay for some of the proposed upgrades.

Here’s the press release from the Santa Catalina Island Company:

Santa Catalina Island Company (SCICo) has agreed to work with the City of Avalon to host the Catalina Grand Prix in December 2012, which will feature an expanded line-up of activities. Catalina Island is elevating the event to a new level, by extending the celebration to a week’s worth of race-themed events and activities.

“SCICo felt that additional planning was needed in order to make the Grand Prix more unique to the Island and more special than if it was just an annual event on the normal race calendar,” said Brad Wilson, Senior Vice President of Sales and Chief Marketing Officer for Santa Catalina Island Company. “SCICo will take an active role in securing sponsorships with the City as well as administration to enhance the overall visitor experience.”

The racing is no less intense in the vintage classes as riders push their machines to the limits.
Rider should have an opportunity to practice before the 2012 Grand Prix.

The City will continue to coordinate race operations, safety and logistics. Both entities will share in the permitting process and expenses over the next 18months. The 2012 race week will include an array of activities designed to draw fans to the island for an extended stay. Additional activities planned include:

• One to two days of practice on the course
• Improved spectator areas
• Concourse of Classic Motorcycles
• Vintage Original “1950’s Grand Prix” Motorcycle Display
• VIP Food and Beverage Area
• Top name entertainment in the Casino Ballroom
• Parade of motorcycles
• Electric motorcycle exhibition race

Major sponsors are lining up to support next year’s Grand Prix race, which will once again take place on SCICo land. Race organizers expect another sold out event, including top riders from around the world.
The Catalina Grand Prix is an historic race that took place through most of the 1950s and was brought back to life in 2010 for the first time in 52 years. The course, just under 7 miles, included a variety of terrains, including pavement, rocky cliffs and hills, winding turns and an exciting motocross sections. The 2012 Catalina Grand Prix will follow a similar course, and provide excitement for both the racers and spectators.

For more information, visit