The Grand Prix at Corriganville was one of the biggest off-road races of the 1960s. The track setting was idyllic. A challenging seven-mile circuit set in the scenic hills of a 1,600-acre movie ranch in Simi Valley, California, owned by movie actor Ray “Crash” Corrigan. The ranch was later bought by Bob Hope and renamed Hopetown and the race renamed the Hopetown GP.
In 1966 Swedish champion Torsten Hallman, rode an exhibition event against the top American TT riders at the Corriganville . The following year Hallman was joined by other motocross stars including Roger DeCoster, Joël Robert, Dave Bickers, and Ake Jonsson. They dominated the event placing their lightweight two-strokes into the top six finishing positions.
Ake Jonsson 1967
Roger DeCoster 1967
Hopetown brought out all the best off-road riders from across the country. Even some of the top AMA Grand National riders were regular participants. That race was a predecessor of what would later become motocross, Scrambles is what the American riders were accustomed to. But soon the US riders were adapting very quickly, Gary Bailey, Russ Darnell, Richard Thorwaldson, and Eddie Mulder were just a few promising riders. Preston Petty always tried to make the event every year, and usually winning more than one class.
For many racers, making the transition into motocross started at Hopetown. What once was dominated by Desert and Scrambles racers, soon evolved into a more motocross style event. The ever classic mud hole was a big attraction, plus racing through the an actual movie set, really made this event special.
Here Billy Payne let’s it all hang out on his Maico.
But sadly the financial status of Hopetown was not very good, the Wild West shows started having poor attendance, and the plans of a Freeway from Los Angeles to Simi Valley . Then in 1979 an arson fire had destroyed most of the movie sets, eventually Hopetown would come to an end .
Over the years other venues had tried to carry on it’s legacy, even with various name changes. Dunes town, Pioneer town, but these events never really had the mystic of the original. To this day, the only event that comes close, is “Day in the Dirt” motocross Grand Prix. Which happens to be hosted by entertainment industry enthusiasts, and racers. Kenny Alexander and Troy Lee are the main promoters, and probably the only real Grand Prix reminiscence of past GP’s.
Hopetown will always be missed by those who experienced this event, the classic mud hole, side hacks, Europeans, Flat trackers, Desert racers, motocross racers, women racers, all mixed together for one epic weekend. Anyone who spectated or competed, will forever miss the scenic track layout, and all the festivities.
Here Nancy Payne flies on the big downhill… circa 1975