Bill Huth's History of Willow Springs
The layout is built for speed, but combines speed with turns and elevation changes to offer a unique challenge. It is possible for a capable car or motorcycle to exceed 160mph on the front straightway.
Learn More about Big Willow below.
On Tuesday, March 22, 1966, the first turn name was given to WSIR. Turn 1 was christened by Miss Susan Heigel, Miss Rosamand 1966 to be “Castrol Corner”. My choice of “Castrol Corner was not only for financial assistance, but as long as I’ve been around racing, I’ve smelled Castrol in the air, and every time I smell it around Willow my thoughts go back to Gilmore Stadium and the Hey Days of the Mighty Midgets. How sweet that smell was!
The “Rabbit Ear” never had any christenings. I attached the name to this 450-foot radius half-circle turn because of the diagram of the course. When the layout is positioned with the “Rabbit Ear” at the top, Turn 4 will make up the nose, Turns 5, 6, 7 and 8 make up the front and Turn 9 the tail, and finally the straightaway makes up the back. Not only does the layout resemble a jackrabbit, but while filming the feature length film, “The Love Bug”, the Walt Disney Productions crew nicknamed the track “Jack Rabbit Raceway”. The name stuck and went on to be used as the name for Willow in the movie.
To date Turn 3 carries no name. I’ve thought about it many times, but decided that I would like someone else to think one up, or perhaps Budweiser could sponsor this sharp, left-hand uphill corner and we could call it “Bud’s Point”. After all I’ve picked up thousands of Budweiser cans in that area!
In 1981, I regained control of the raceway after the termination of a fifteen-year lease. My first thoughts were to print a history of “The West’s First Road Course”. I decided then that corners needed names, so I began. In 1965, I made a deal with Carrol Shelby to advertise the Cobra name, and the entire outside of Turn 4 was surrounded with Cobra signs.
At the time I figured it would be appropriate to name it “Cobra something or other”, but never did. While sitting in the office in January 1982, I looked up the hillside at Turn 4 and thought to myself that spectating from up there is just like watching from a balcony… so “The Balcony” it was, from that day forward.
It is from this area that spectators can view the entire race course, with a lot of action right in front of them on turns 3, 4, and 5, while looking out over “Wing’s Leg”, “The Sweeper”, “Turn Nine”, “Castrol Corner” and “The Rabbit Ear”.
Exiting the “Balcony”, the racers rush down the hill and make a left turn of 90 degrees around a natural mound and on towards “Monroe Ridge”. This left-hander also is just plain Turn 5, and as yet remains nameless. Perhaps in the near future, someone will sponsor it. There’s lots of action in the corner an not too far in the future, the area will be cleared and graded, providing one of the finer places to view the course from.
Next is “Monroe Ridge” or Turn 6. From Turn 5 to “Monroe Ridge” the road course rises and, at a crest, makes a right hand bend in which with any type of vehicle, bike or car, suspension is of the utmost importance. Heavier cars will lift the inside right wheel four to eight inches off the pavement… a real ticklish position to be in! With the thousands of dollars and many years the Monroe Shock Absorber Company has put into racing, I felt it only appropriate to name this cresting bend “Monroe Ridge”.
“Wing’s Leg” is undoubtedly the fastest bend on the raceway. After topping “Monroe Ridge”, the racers go full throttle down a one thousand foot straight to a “dog-legged” 10-degree left turn. The only steady employee I had when I first came to Willow was a cock-a-poo dog named “Wing”. There weren’t many customers for testing, tuning or racing, but Wing’s job was to chase the jackrabbits off the track when any customers did show. My only problem with Wing was that he didn’t seem to know where the property ended, and sometimes, when he’d be hot on the tail of a rabbit in the morning, I wouldn’t see him until that evening except for maybe once or twice crossing the track still in hot pursuit.
Turn 8 has always been called “The Sweeper” ever since I have been around Willow. I don’t know who first called this long, sweeping right turn by this name, but I can well imagine the reason. The racers are close to top speeds as they exit “Wing’s Leg” and turn slightly right into the 8oo-foot long sweeping turn. To drift out here means lots of problems once you leave the course. As for my choice to spectate from, it would be from the outside of Turn 8, “The Sweeper… where the fast action is”
Turn 9 will never carry any other name if it’s up to me! Maybe only the word terrible could be added. The reputation of this decreasing right turn is known throughout the world. Most riders and drivers who have traveled “The Nine Turns of Willow” have lost control on Turn 9 more than any other corner. The skid marks make up a maze with very little asphalt not covered with rubber. The spinout area on the inside of the turn is flat and spacious, seldom allowing a car to roll. Turn 9’s not really too dangerous… It’s just embarrassing!