In the fall of 2010, it was becoming increasingly clear that the impossible was going to become possible.
In 1951 the first Catalina Grand Prix was held on the tropical island (as the song says) “26 miles” from Los Angeles. The race became the most prestigious race in the nation, attracting professional racers, movie stars and the “Average Joe” who wanted to run with the big dogs over the 100-mile circuit. Names like Bud and Dave Ekins, Ed Kretz Jr., Chuck “Feets” Minert, Keenan Wynn, Lee Marvin and Steve McQueen all took their positions at the starting line in Avalon.
But for one thing or another, the race would end after 1958 and the island went on with it’s existence, being a place for weekend getaways, boat outings and bird watching. The racers could only reminisce of what once was. Then, 52 years later, came Vinnie Mandzak, a local dirt biking club racer who successfully convinced the principals of Catalina to allow him to produce the race again in 2010. The race that was never supposed to happen again did in fact happen.
Racers of all ages, sexes and levels of skill signed up in droves for a starting spot in this legendary, once in a lifetime race. The world’s top names like Kendall Norman, Kurt Caselli, Ricky Johnson, Johnny Campbell and the wild, motorcycle stunt legend, Travis Pastrana. Even the Chief of Police for the City of Los Angeles, Charlie Beck.
This 2010 race would also be very special for one man who could not afford to race it back in the 50’s but went on to become the most well-known, off-road motorcycle racer in history, Malcolm Smith. Malcolm would finally get to race the Catalina Grand Prix but it would be one of his final competitive races…ever.
The film captures the beginning and early races that created the legend of the Catalina Grand Prix with the men who were actually there. Interviews with men like Del Kuhn who laid the track out in 1951, and original race winners like Dave Ekins, Preston Petty, CH Wheat and Walt Axthelm. Then, the cancellation of the event due to violence, arrogance and more that came with eight years of success and the growing “infamy” of motorcycling’s reputation in the late 1950’s.
The story leaps forward 52 years to 2010 when Vinnie Mandzak made possible the impossible and pulled together all the elements to make the event happen again…for the last time. Over 60 interviews will tell the story of the Catalina Grand Prix then and now and it’s a story all audiences won’t soon forget. Including the showdown of two off-road champions in Kurt Caselli and Kendall Norman, who would both meet in Catalina with one thing on their mind…another championship that only one can take home.
Produced by award-winning motorcycle and motorsports documentary filmmakers, Todd Huffman and Kevin Ward, this film has been nine years in the making and will be on the big screen in 2019.