The Great Exposition Road Race in 1915 has been picked as one of the notable events during the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s 150-year history.

The road race, on January 5, 1915, brought many of the best racers from around the world to a course created on mostly dirt roads on Point Loma. The roads today include Lytton Street, Catalina Boulevard and Cañon Street.

The race commemorated the opening of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, an unofficial world’s fair that marked the completion of the Panama Canal.

The photo above has a view; my guess is that’s Mission Bay in the distance and the streetcar is on what’s now Nimitz Boulevard. It’s from the Committee of 100’s Panama California Exposition archive. In the lead car, a Stutz, is the race winner, Earl Cooper, who averaged a breathtaking 65-3/10 miles per hour during the four-hour race. Hard on his tail is the Maxwell driven by San Diegan Billy Carlson. Cars that finished did 51 laps of the 6-mile circuit.

The newspaper story from the time described the race as “gratifyingly free from fatalities and injuries,” something notable at the time. Racers included some of the top drivers of the day, including Barney Oldfield and Eddie Rickenbacker.

“Eighteen automobile racers yesterday, for nearly six hours thundered over the most difficult road race course in the world-and not one received so much as a scratch!” wrote a reporter whose name has been lost to history.

“Aside from the winning drivers, this fact stands out as the most remarkable in connection with the big Exposition event, a feature never before duplicated in a road race on the Pacific coast. Furthermore, not one of the 50,000 spectators was harmed, and the field hospital, with its corps of doctors and nurses, was idle all day.”

In marking 150 years of publication (dating back to the founding of the San Diego Union in 1868), the paper is taking a daily look at events. Check out that front page about the road race.

San Diego Union road race front page, 1915
San Diego Union road race front page, 1915


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