Any other weekend in Santa Barbara and you’d never guess that Steve McQueen and James Dean used to race on these streets. The high-end Southern California beach town is no longer known for its adrenaline-inducing roadraces, but rather its beautiful views and expensive real estate—but that didn’t stop TROG. The Race of Gentlemen has managed to shake up the surfside community, bringing classic cars and motorcycles to race side by side through the city streets once more.
Cabrillo Boulevard runs parallel to one of Santa Barbara’s most prominent beaches—a long, straight(ish) road perfect for converting into a makeshift dragstrip. This was to be the one-day home of The Race of Gentlemen, an event series started on the East Coast to celebrate old-timey racing, race vehicles, and the culture that surrounds them. Motorcycles have to be made before 1947 and all cars are required to be manufactured prior to 1953. The rules are a bit exhausting, limiting any and all non-period correct modifications, but, hey, that’s how they keep it tight. Drivers and riders dress in 1930s–’50s attire as if to make it seem like you’ve just stepped out of a time machine, something that works a little better when you’re on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey, like the original event, as opposed to outside of a Hilton Hotel like this one.
Over the course of the day, cars and bikes ran down the strip in different pairings. Some spitting rubber, burning out, and tearing down the road, others slowly sputtering to life as riders push off with their feet to get going. The selection of vehicles wasn’t massive, numbering somewhere close to 40 in all, and when each race takes less than 30 seconds and the event runs all day—that’s a whole lot of runs for the same cars and bikes. We were lucky enough to not witness any crashes, though we did see a couple of participants break their cars at the starting line and have to be pushed off.
They haven’t announced plans to come back to Santa Barbara next year, but we’re hoping to see TROG back on the West Coast again. While it was great to see racing back in Santa Barbara, we have our fingers crossed for another event on the beach.