Narrative by: Colby Hillman with parts being reprinted from the SVRA Website.
This is a 2-part article. The first part will describe the sights, sounds and ambiance of the weekend at Watkins Glen. The event was so amazing that we must talk about the people. In the 2nd. part of the we’ll bring you a short account of the racing action. We hope that you enjoy both. Thanks for reading – Colby
Part 1. A weekend with 50,000 of your closest friends!
The following is taken directly from the SVRA Website regarding the event.
“Racing is Life…everything that happens.
before or after is just waiting.”
– Michael Delaney (Steve McQueen) in the movie LeMans
“To race with a wide variety of vintage cars on the famous WGI circuit would make a great weekend. But throw in the possibility of running your vintage race car in the downtown Vintage Grand Prix reenactment on the streets and surrounding countryside of the original 6.6-mile street circuit…now that’s a combination that’s hard to beat!
One of the largest annual events at Watkins Glen as well as one of SVRA’s most popular weekends, there will be hundreds of vintage race cars of all ages, makes and models at the Hilliard U.S. Vintage Grand Prix. Gala 70th Anniversary celebrations for Featured Marque Corvette and the 100th Anniversary of MG will add to the spectacle.
In 1948, the village of Watkins Glen hosted the nation’s first SCCA road race. In 1956, the races were moved to one of the first purpose-built road racing circuits in America. Over the years, Watkins Glen International has been transformed into a smooth, 11-turn, 3.4-mile high-speed road course, with intriguing corners, multiple elevation changes and a long, fast front straight. There is nothing like the Watkins Glen SpeedTour anywhere in the world!”
Comments from Colby!
The above paragraph was taken from the SVRA Website and Tony Parella says it is better than I ever could, but I would still like to offer my view of the weekend.
Let me begin by saying that I’ve been racing most of my life, having started in 1957 in go karts progressing up to drag racing – both sanctioned and not so sanctioned. In 1965, I moved east to go to college and fell into autocrossing which led to an SCCA driver’s school followed by SCCA regionals and nationals then on to an FIA, SCCA Pro and Full competition licenses. I’d guess that over the years, I’ve run well over 500 amateur and professional races and in my 67 years of participating in this sport, I’ve never witnessed as big of a fun-loving crowd as the people who continuously – year after year – show up at W.G. Popularity of the track and community has exploded in recent years, as evidenced by the facility being named by USA Today as “America’s Best NASCAR Track”, not once but four separate times.
As Tony said, “This year is the 70th. anniversary of the Corvette – America’s Only Sports Car” and Watkins Glen was the place where the Corvette won its first endurance race.
Watkins Glen (the facility) is located on 550 acres with the 3.37-mile track running mostly around the perimeter leaving a massive infield which usually turns into one of the most gigantic parties one can imagine. The week started sunny but by Friday the weather was turning “iffy” and on Saturday everything went downhill. It rained off and on in the late afternoon the fog rode in. It came in quickly to the point of the TA2 qualifying being cancelled because fog was so dense that you literally couldn’t see the track from the Jack Daniels Clubhouse. However, the evenings party, buffet and band were outstanding, and all was well with the racers.
Saturday morning, a friend and fellow Corvette driver Chuck Ward (who trailered all the way from Seattle), and I grabbed one of the Concierge golf carts and took a tour of the infield. The following is a short version of the sights and scenes that we came upon.
To start, weekend spectator attendance was estimated to be well over 50,000. A truly huge hardy crowd of mostly well-behaved beer drinking, sort of wearing clothes revelers. People who Monday through Friday are the backbone of this country but on this weekend decided to go crazy. As we toured “The Bogg”, “The Boot” and “The Esses” our first impression was “Oh my god, this must have been what Woodstock was like” which coincidentally is located just down the highway to the east.
Auto racing and rock concerts attract a truly unique enclave of life and this event was no different with hundreds of RV’s, ancient VW Microbuses, motorcycles and historic sports cars all huddled together in likeminded automotive branded corrals. Former “U Haul” trucks and school buses – painted from neat to gaudy. Impromptu football games and of course tons of beer for the masses. Campfires and their attendant smells accompanied by loud amplified music surrounding enveloped your senses as the partiers pursued everything from sunbathing to impromptu games co-ed football. Food trucks as well as souvenirs, campfire wood and ice venders were serving every possible libation, snack, or meal.
Our tour lasted for over an hour and was probably my highlight of the weekend. We race many times each year but this year, Watkins Glen will be the race that I’ll always remember.