Ontario past dragged up


Adam Cooper’s mention of California’s vanished giant, the Ontario Motor Speedway (October 2000 issue), stirred many memories.

In its short life, Ontario became a landmark in the history of drag racing. The broad level pitlane doubled as a strip and hosted local races and, more famously, NHRA’s season-ending Supemationals/ World Finals extravaganza, which I attended in 1974, ’78 and ’80, the Speedway’s swansong. The record-shattering 1975 event became one of drag racing’s milestone events and established OMS as the quickest quarter-mile of the era: legend Don Garlits achieved the first 250mph terminal speed and set an elapsed-time record of 5.63sec which stood unchallenged for six years.

Like Mr Cooper, I also revisited the site of OMS in 1987. Knowing where to look, I could just make out the line of the eastern banking where Turn One used to be. Only seven years after its closure, though, all other evidence of this mighty complex had been erased.

My trip in 1978 coincided with the Indycar races at Silverstone and Brands Hatch, but I did manage to attend the London pre-race publicity event, held in the Jubilee Gardens, beside County Hall. This turned out to be a leaden affair and the drivers would plainly have preferred to be anywhere but there. Spotting former drag racing star Danny Ongais standing alone and forlorn, and fondly supposing he might be cheered to find someone in this distant country familiar with his past exploits, I plucked up my courage and tried to engage him in a chat. He was having none of it!

I am, Yours etc, Robin Jackson, London