It was round five of the 1986 championship, and the first race on the west coast. It featured a fifty four car field, with some new cars to be seen at this somewhat shortlived track. Very dusty and dangerous, it would be withdrawn from the racing scene two years later. The following events would strengthen this fact. In spite of these facts, a strong field would show up. Porsche had six cars, which were strongly driven. Al Holbert and Derek Bell were the crowd's favorites, with their Löwenbrau backed 962. They would have to face Rob Dyson's new car, which replaced the twice repaired old chassis. The team owner was co-driven for the first time by Price Cobb, who subbed for Drake Olson, who had another commitment. Bayside Motorsport fielded a car for Bob Wollek and Paolo Barilla. This car was Bridgestone shod. Jim Busby entered two cars, and he was firmly determined to reiterate the previous year's race, which saw an incredible one-two for his team. Darin Brassfield and Jochen Mass ran car #68 while Jim Busby and John Morton were at the wheel of car #67. The last car was the Coca Cola car, run by Bob Akin and James Weaver.
Phil Conte had two Hawk Buicks, which were very fast cars. John Paul would prove once again very impressive, once again, while Bob Lobenberg and Ken Madren were not that far. Zakspeed USA entered two Ford Probes, driven by Klaus Ludwig-Tom Gloy and Lyn St James-Pete Halsmer. Group 44 fielded a Jaguar XJR5 for Bob Tullius and Chip Robinson while Electramotive brought in a much improved Nissan ZX T GTP. Geoff Brabham and Elliot Forbes Robinson would try to lead the car to the finish. Rick Hendrick's Chevrolet Corvette GTP was the last GTP car to fight for the win, with Sarel van der Merwe and Doc Bundy at the wheel. The car was now experiencing some trouble trying to keep up the pace, but the drivers were trying hard. John Hotschkis and Jim Adams had a venerable March 84G Porsche, and they were quite aware of the fact that it would be a harsh task to run with the big guns, so. The Lights class featured an interesting field, indeed, with the new Spice Fiero driven by Gordon Spice and Ray Bellm showing up as the favorite. They would be opposed to perenial champion Jim Downing who drove an Argo JM19 Mazda along with John Maffucci. Kelly and Don Marsh drove a similar car with Ron Pawley, while Jim Rothbarth and Mike Meyer had an older Royale, which was also Mazda powered. Don Bell fielded an Argo JM16 Buick, which he drove with Robert Overby.An Alba AR2 Buick was entered, driven by Joe Varde and Jeff Kline, would prove very fast. Charles Morgan and Logan Blackburn were on the familiar Tiga GT286 Buick. Paul Lewis drove and older car, which was a GT285, and Chuck Kendall had purchased a Lola T616 Mazda. He would drive it with his son Bart and Max Jones.The GTO class provided diversity, too, but it was mainly a Ford-Chevrolet battle which was displayed. Jack Roush had brought a single Ford Mustang which has proved to be quite unbeatable since its inception. Scott Pruett drove the 7-Eleven backed car with Bruce Jenner while a private Ford Thunderbird, entered by Dennis Brisken, would be a strong runner-up with Danny May at the wheel, along with Michael Chandler and Steve Cameron. The toughest competition for the Roush team certainly was the Peerless car, driven by Jack Baldwin and Jim Miller. It was perhaps the most evolved Camaro ever built. Furthermore, the car was extremely well driven, so it should do very well. AAR had brought a Toyota Celica Turbo for Rocky Moran and Juan Fangio II. The team was coming right from the GTU class, with some hopes to do well. The car needed some development. Another new car to be seen in this class was the Rocketsports entered Oldsmobile Toronado, driven by Gene Felton, Paul Gentilozzi and Bob Bergstrom. The team had debuted at Daytona and lacked the necessary experience, but it had the potential to do well. Dingman Bros was here too with one extremely competitive car, due to be driven by Tommy Riggins and Craig Carter.
Copyright Joe Honda
It was one of three possible winners to be quoted by the brokers. Three Porsche 934 or 930 were entered, and not to be set aside as possible winners. Latino Racing had Kikos Fonseca and Jamsal running a 934, while BCW Racing fielded two cars, a 934 and a newer 930, which was to take over later in the season. Jim Torres and Monte Shelton drove the older car while Rick Borlase teamed up with Jim Torres in the new car. Brooks Racing entered a Chevrolet Camaro with Allen Glick and Leo Franchi at the wheel, Road Circuit Technology had replaced its usual Pontiac Firebird by a Chevrolet Camaro, driven by regular Les Delano and Andy Peterey. Canadian drivers Rick Moore and Pieter Baljet also drove a Chevrolet Camaro. Tommy Byrne had a very competitive car, too, which was entered by Spirit Racing, but he was running solo, which was somewhat weird in such a race! Local driver Vic Manuelli was co-driven by Rick Greaney in a Mercury Capri. Jim Fitzgerald was at the wheel of an unusual Buick Somerset, which was entered by Centurion Racing. This car was normally used in the American Challenge series, and it certainly was for test purposes. Morrison Cook Motorsports entered a pair of stock Chevrolet Corvettes. Those cars featured what would later fit in the future versions of the American sportscar. Don Knowles and Tony Morrison drove the first car while Ron Grable, John Heinricy and Bobby Carradine drove the other one. Another interesting car was the one entered by Di Loreto Racing, for Joseph di Loreto, Jim Snelling and veteran driver Scooter Patrick. Chuck McConnell and Russ Romer were at the wheel of another Pontiac Firebird. The GTU class was less exciting, but interesting, nonetheless. Mazda outnumbered the field, as per usual. Roger Mandeville and Danny Smith were the favorites, but a pair of well-driven Pontiac Fieros could be a real threat. Bob Earl and Dominic Dobson on car number 55, and Terry Visger and Don Roberts on car number 50 had the tool to do a great job. CCR entered a RX7 with Tom Kendall and Bob Reed driving the most successful car ever in GTU. Amos Johnson and Dennis Shaw were at the wheel of the Team Highball machine. Al Bacon was partnered by Bill Van in his own car. A single Porsche 911 was entered, but Luis Mendez was a former GTO champion, and he was a very good driver, so he had some high hopes for this race. Bob Leitzinger entered the only Nissan 300ZX to be raced in GTU. The car was fast, but it needed to get more reliable. Lou Rettenmeier partnered him. George Alderman had brought his Nissan 280ZX T, which he would drive solo, while Doug Barnhold would drive the Datsun Alley car.
The race would be run under a clear weather, and attrition would certainly play a major role in the outcome of the event. The practice sessions were dominated by John Paul Jr, who drove Phil Conte's Hawk Buick. He put a 1m32s103, which beat his previous mark, and he was followed by Geoff Brabham, who was a surprising second. Klaus Ludwig was third and Al Holbert only fourth.
The race should be very exciting, with no less than seven makes which were potential winners. At the start, John Paul, as expected, jumped in the lead with Klaus Ludwig on his tail, driving the Ford Probe. The two of them would pull out from the rest of the field very quickly. Just behind them, Geoff Brabham, Al Holbert and Bob Lobenberg followed. Don Bell, on an Argo JM16 Buick was the first to retire on lap one. Behind the two leaders, Bob Lobenberg, on the second Hawk Buick, was soon to become very aggressive in his driving, and he overtook Al Holbert and would challenge Geoff Brabham. Doc Bundy, in the Chevrolet Corvette GTP, pitted and lost five laps with engine misfire problems. It looked like Bob Lobenberg was to move ahead very fast, as he was behind his teammate by lap twelve. He overtook him one lap later, while John Paul seemed to slow down. He would soon pit with a turbo failure. Behind Bob Lobenberg, Klaus Ludwig and Al Holbert were dicing together. Geoff Brabham was to stop also, being struck with engine vibrations. He would restart, but on lap thirty, he would hit the wall after a steering failure. A caution period was thrown, and many cars would pit for fuel. After five laps the race restarted, and Al Holbert was in the lead, followed by Klaus Ludwig. In fact, his run would be a very short one, as the biggest crash ever to be recorded at an IMSA race was to happen on lap thirty six. Chip Robinson was attempting to pass Lyn St James and Doc Bundy was trying to do the same with the Ford driver. The three of them spun and flipped over the wall, and the three cars were destroyed. The Ford Probe burst into flames after being shot in the air while the Jaguar would hit the guardrail and literally explode. Miraculously, none of the drivers was hurt, but it seemed that none of them was able to really explain what happened. A very long caution period followed, in order to clean up the debris scattered on the course. A mini tornado took place somewhere outside the track, which added to the weirdness of that day. When the race restarted again, Bob Wollek, in the Bayside Motorsport car, was in the lead, and running great. He lost a wheel shortly afterwards, and his position, of course. Klaus Ludwig and Tom Gloy were the new leaders, in the Ford Probe, but Price Cobb and Rob Dyson were closing in on them. Rob Dyson overtook Klaus Ludwig, soon to be passed by Al Holbert. The latter would take the lead shortly after. Klaus Ludwig then pitted for fuel, when another caution period was to be set. Jeff Kline, driving a Alba, tangled with the Chevrolet Camaro driven by Les Delano. The GTO car would slide and hit the spectator fencing and a camper parked nearby. Two people were injured, but the driver was left unhurt. At the new restart, Bob Wollek and Paolo Barilla were again in the lead. They were followed by Al Holbert and Derek Bell, Klaus Ludwig-Tom Gloy and Rob Dyson-Price Cobb. The following laps would see a fierce battle between Paolo Barilla and Derek Bell, while Klaus Ludwig was slowing down. Four laps later, he was out of the race with a broken driveshaft. The race would end up in a bad way for the Bayside Motorsport car, as Paolo Barilla(from pasta fame) pitted to repair a throttle linkage.
The race would end up in a battle between Derek Bell and Price Cobb, but the Löwenbrau was soon to experience gearbox problems, too. Derek Bell was even seen passing the pit lane and steer to the right to get back to his pit, running backwards! He would restart, and finally retire later, with a ring and pinion worn out. Rob Dyson was in the lead for good. He would then hand the wheel to Price Cobb, who had a flawless run until the chequered. Darin Brassfield and Jochen Mass inherited the second place, one lap down, while the sister car would pit with turbo problems. It would not be the same as the previous year for Busby Racing! Third was the Bayside Motorsport Porsche 962 driven by Bob Wollek and Paolo Barilla, while Bob Akin and James Weaver were fourth, but clearly outpaced in this race. The Lights class was won by Jim Downing and John Maffucci, who were followed by Kelly and Don Marsh, who drove a similar car. The GTO class was dominated by the Ford Mustang driven by Scott Pruett and Bruce Jenner, but the car had to be pushed back for repairs. Jack Baldwin and Jim Miller were happy to win their first GTO class win. The Ford finished second while third place was taken by the very competitive Brisken Racing Ford Thunderbird driven by Michael Chandler, Steve Cameron and Danny May. The GTU class was won by Roger Mandeville and Danny Smith in their familiar Mandeville Auto Tech Mazda RX7. Terry Visger and Don Roberts were second in a Huffaker Racing Pontiac Fiero which was getting more and more competitive. Amos Johnson and Dennis Shaw ended up third in their reliable Team Highball Mazda RX7. Bob Earl and Dominic Dobson were fighting for the win when their clutch faltered. A very interesting race, however. Price Cobb and Rob Dyson were happy winners, with a new car again. As a conclusion, a very attractive race, with many lead changes, but also with many race incidents. The course appeared to be unsuited to modern sportscars. The esses were the place where many race collisions took place. Whenever you get out of the line, you stir a lot of dust which blinds your followers, so any collision becomes anavoidable. The course was to be destroyed three years later, as it was declared non eligible.