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Lon Peterson

Lon Peterson

People

Year Started: 1964

Lon Peterson has enjoyed success on both two and four wheels. Two wheels in motocross and desert racing, four wheels in the world of Rally.

It all started in 1964 at a European Scramble event when Gene Hurst talked Lon's Mom into letting him enter on his 650cc Triumph. From there it was racing at tracks like Santa Maria, Carlsbad, Ascot, Saddleback, Dead Man's Point, and Indian Dunes as a Shamrock rider. Then came the AMA District 37 races and SCORE events in Mexico and Parker. 

As things were going very well for Lon the U.S. Army extended an invitation for him to join them in the summer of 1969. Lon found himself in Vietnam with an infantry unit for four months when he took enemy fire and was wounded. After his injuries were healed, he found himself in Killeen, Texas, at Fort Hood, driving tanks and the owner of a Purple Heart commendation for wounds suffered in combat. In his off hours he took possession of a 360cc Maaco that the company sent him to compete on the local track, Papa Henry's Motorcycle Park were he won often. 

Lon Peterson
Lon Peterson
Lon Peterson
Lon Peterson
Lon Peterson

Back in Southern California in the summer of 1971 freshly discharged from the Army, Lon picked up where he left off. Recently, when asked, Lon recounted several of his proudest memories on two-wheels:

  • 1964 European Scrambles - 1st place in his first race against the likes of Bobby Ferro and Buzzy Hurst.
  • 1966 District 37 Check Chase - 1st place 650cc Triumph.
  • 1979 Parker 400 - 2nd place Class 22 490cc Yamaha
  • 1979 Baja Internacional - 2nd place Class 22 490cc Yamaha
  • 1980 Mexicali 250 - 2nd place Class 30 490cc Yamaha
  • 1980 Riverside Off Road World Championships - 1st place Class 30 490cc Yamaha

By 1982 through his father Lon discovered rallying with the California Rally Series (CRS). Lon and his dad started competing in a VW Bug for a few events. After that he ran a tube frame car with VW power, eventually teaming up with Jim Love as his navigator. As happens with most former motorcycle racers Lon picked up the sport quickly and started collecting high finishes and some wins.

In 1986 the Sports Car Club of America changed the rules, homebuilt vehicles were no longer legal in rally events. Peterson and Love picked up a Plymouth Arrow from long time rallyist and car builder Don Lindfors. The car was well prepared, and the wins started coming consistently. From 1986 to 1993 Peterson ran the Arrow. Jim Love stepped down from rallying, so Lon teamed with veteran navigator Bill Gutzmann, who had been helping with prep on the Arrow. Lon and Bill were picked up by Mitsubishi to run an Eclipse in Production GT for the Dave Wolin team in 1993. By 1995 Wolin handpicked Peterson to head the Kia Sephia Production Class team and garnered a National Championship in the car as well as an overall win at a regional rally, unheard of in a Production class car. But then Lon Peterson is no ordinary driver. But rally is a team support, you need a navigator and Lon has had some of the best with him such as Jim Love, Bill Gutzmann, John Elkin and Ben Bradley.

Health issues took Lon away from driving rally cars for a time, but he would still come out and work timing controls, service areas, and whatever else organizers needed done. By 2015 Lon was back behind the wheel running his Mitsubishi Evo in rallycross competitions. Rallycross has all the fun of driving sideways but without the grueling terrain and hours behind the wheel of a stage rally. Lon has won rallycross titles in the CRS as well as other local organizations. 

Rally Highlights:

  • 8 California Rally Series Championships
  • 4 SCCA Southern Pacific Division Rally Championships
  • 1 National Divisional Championship (1989) (Plymouth Arrow)
  • 1 National Production Class Championship (Kia Sephia)
  • Two Time Director of the California Rally Series
  • 1990 Big Bend Bash Rally - First overall by eight minutes in the first CRS event to run in Texas (Plymouth Arrow)
  • 1992 Rim of the World Rally First Overall (Plymouth Arrow) beating turbo-all-wheel-drive factory cars
  • Co-Founder/Organizer of the Treeline Rally 1995 - 2006
  • 1996 Winner of the Kenneth Zimmerman Award for exceptional contributions to the CRS.
  • 1998 Inaugural Ramada Express International Rally - First place Stock Class (Plymouth Arrow)
  • 2002 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (7th overall despite overheating) (Subaru Impreza)
  • 2015 CRS Four-Wheel-Drive Rallycross Champion (Mitsubishi Evo)
  • 2015 CRS Rallycross Supporter of the Year

Currently still competing in rallycross and winning and working stage rallies at 75 years old. 

Submitted by: John Elkin
Created: April 29, 2024