For the 40th year, the Los Angeles Sportswalk Hall of Fame celebrated LA-based athletes who have made their marks in various amateur and professional sports. While acknowledging the contributions of various “stick-and-ball” athletes, including retiring LA Angels manager Mike Scioscia and former USC football standout Lynn Swann among the 11 honorees, three members of the motorsports community also received due recognition.
In front of the Battleship U.S. Iowa, berthed in San Pedro, the honorees were feted by LA county supervisor Janice Hahn and LA city councilman Joe Buscaino as each of their successful careers in sports were celebrated by a large and enthusiastic crowd which enjoyed a sunny, cool morning, perfect for an outdoor induction of this type.
The motorsports induction of Johnny Campbell, a San Clemente native, notes his 11 victories in the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race in the motorcycle class. He’s one of the Kings of the Desert, and Campbell’s monumental, multiple successes in this battle against time, the rugged Baja Mexico terrain, weather and, yes, other combatants are truly extraordinary.
To celebrate his inclusion, Campbell – in good enough condition to win a 12th Baja 1000 – rode his Honda motorcycle, No. 11x, in front of the crowd and performed a block-long wheelie as the crowd applauded. He is depicted in the films “Dust to Glory” and in a biography, “True Champion.”
When Campbell was 16, he lost his friend, mentor and father John Sr. to sudden death. This loss is what motivated the young motorcycle racer to succeed, never allowing obstacles – and in Baja California there are many – to stand in his way of his success, making Campbell a true legend of Baja Sur.
A Pennsylvania transplant to California, Formula Drift standout Chris Forsberg humbly accepted his induction, but not before spraying burning rubber in the air and around the venue’s parking lot as he drifted around the dais. Forsberg is the sole competitor in Formula Drift to win three championships and earn 57 podium appearances in the 15-year history of the sport in America.
A self-taught drifter, Forsberg initially towed his Mazda RX-7 from his Doylestown, PA home to the west coast to compete in the fledgling sport, settling in Long Beach. Competing against experienced international drivers, the redhead won his first Formula Drift championship in 2009, becoming a Triple Crown drift champion. He took the title again in 2014 by earning five podium results and never finishing lower than fourth place in a V-8-powered Nissan 370Z, the same marque he uses to this day.
Forsberg won his third title in 2016 against an ever-deeper group of competitors, despite failing to win a single event over the season. He did, however, display consistency with two third-place results and four runner-up appearances, all consecutive. That year, Forsberg also won the Formula Drift World Championship after participating in a Formula Drift World Championship round at Okayama, Japan that gave him eligibility for points. Forsberg is in the mix for this year’s championship after winning at Orlando; the season concludes locally at Irwindale Event Center, aka The House of Drift, next month.
The final inductee made an unorthodox appearance at the 40th LA Sportswalk Hall of Fame, but that’s nothing new for Robby Gordon, who has been regaling racing fans worldwide with his exploits in international off-road contests, in Trans-Am, Indy cars, NASCAR Cup cars and in his own Stadium Super Truck series, where he won the first championship offered.
Gordon intended to barrel down the blacktop carpet in his Dakar Rally truck, which he claimed is a $1.5 million machine. Unfortunately, the dual batteries in the off-road vehicle failed to get it underway so Gordon, never one to give up an opportunity in the spotlight, grabbed Campbell’s Honda motorcycle and made his way (gently, thank goodness) to the podium to accept his honors.
The son of the late “Baja Bob” Gordon, Robby won five straight off-road SCORE championships from 1986-1990, a sixth title in 1996 and a seventh just nine years ago in 2009. Notably, he won a Baja 1000 title one day then returned to win a Trans-Am contest in the United States at Del Mar a day later. Gordon has seven combined class wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, annotating his ability to drive anything with wheels.