Del Kuhn’s wife Vicky sent me this Triumph ad from the 1952 Catalina Island Grand Prix program. Del says the photo shows races (in the inaugural 1951 Catalina GP) racing down the hill heading towards the golf course that eventually dumped them out into downtown Avalon. Kuhn helped layout the original 10-mile course. Catalina became an instant classic, attracting thousands of fans and hundreds of racers.
The island circuit off the coast of Los Angeles was a 10-mile course made up of everything from paved roads, to fire trails, to single-track mountain paths and even golf course paths. Walt Fulton Jr., on a Triumph, came out of nowhere to win that first Catalina Grand Prix. He’d only recently started racing and, according to Kuhn, hardly anyone had heard of him before winning Catalina.
The 1951 race was slated for 10 laps, but the checkered flag was thrown after only nine, because the steam ship that went back to the mainland ran on a strict schedule and organizers were worried that there wasn’t enough time for that final lap.
Fulton beat BSA’s “Feets” Minert and AJS rider Kuhn with just 45 seconds between the three after 90 miles of racing.
The Catalina Grand Prix ran through 1958 and was regarded as one of the biggest races on the West Coast during its run. The race is slated for revival this December.