The over-1500cc event for production cars at Palm Springs on November 4, 1956 was, to put it mildly, hotly contested. Jack Bates (#35) leads followed by Paul O’Shea (#78) and Rudy Cleye (#12) in 300SLs with eventual winner and SCCA National Champion Dr. Richard Thompson in his Corvette (#106) close behind. Thompson, Bates and Cleye all finished within fractions of a second. O’Shea had to drop out with a broken oil line.
Photo: Art Evans
There were a number of outstanding road-race weekends during the fifties. Phil Hill’s win at the first Pebble Beach comes to mind as well as Carroll Shelby’s at the last. In Southern California, one of the best-loved venues was Palm Springs. It had everything: a famous resort, wonderful winter weather, famous movie stars, and a lot of accommodations at various price ranges. Yes, the course was at an airport and not a real road, but the plusses outweighed this drawback. At least, it was relatively safe.
The first Southern California road race was staged at Palm Springs by the California Sports Car Club in 1950 and continued through 1955. But in 1956, the rival Los Angeles Region of the Sports Car Club of America took over. From the start, Race Coordinator (read promoter) George Cary, Jr., had the necessary connections with the Palm Springs city fathers. By the middle of the decade, however, Cary and the Cal Club had a falling out, so George changed his allegiance to the SCCA. (I detailed the club rivalry in my column in the April 2008 edition of Vintage Racecar. To get a copy, call 562-493-0737 or log on to www.sportscardigest.com.)
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