A quote from David Coulthard:
“I went to Watkins Glen earlier this year; I had heard of Watkins Glen but had never been there, so I drove the track and I thought it was the scariest place I had ever driven, but that’s what makes you feel alive in a race car, isn’t it? You need corners where drivers feel that they’re really pushing the limits.”
How many of you have driven the Glen?
If you are like us, you know what a great place the Glen is for events. The weather there is cool enough that everybody camps out, and very few go to motels. At major events the track provides bands Saturday night. Everybody grills out next to their tent. And the track is on top of a huge hill, so that you can see 20 miles out across the hills and nearby lake. A beautiful place, and every event there was a memorable one, as well as very challenging. For racers, the definition of “alive”.
In a way, having this background at Watkins Glen has ”wrecked” us, because now we live 1500+ miles away and the speed and challenge of our local high speed track, TWS, just doesn’t compare with the Glen, nor does a weekend there in the heat and in the cheap over-priced motels. Nothing will ever be the same as the Glen.
I watched the Indy race at Watkins Glen today. Like yesterday’s race this one also started in the rain, although it at least partially dried for most of the rest of the race. That’s the typical story for the Glen.
Like yesterday, I’m again struck by so many old memories of my own days at the ‘Glen.
If I was there today, I’d be working tech or as a pit marshal in the event. Why – to get close to the action, to see the cars like no spectator can. If you’ve got a track near you – almost any track – you can volunteer to work some part of the event. All the advantages here are for you.
Most working events at the Glen start Thursday night with dinner in the Seneca Lodge in the state park. When I was working events there, some of the workers put on a little jazz jam in the lodge in the evening. I’d be camping at the track or staying at the lodge, a few times even staying in the state park next to the gorge (a fabulously scenic hike in itself). A quick breakfast in town and it’d be off to the track at first light. Whatever event was running included practice and qualifying on Friday during the day, and that was our time to make sure we have everything covered – from equipment to worker rotation to emergencies. Then we’d determine our worker schedule. When not working, your worker pass gets you entre to the pits and garages so you can stay close to the teams and drivers. I did SCCA, IMSA, and a few other events in my time there.
If I did an open track event (~May 1992 event shown in this picture), I’d again be driving home tired, but this time dirty as well. Ye Olde Mustangs took several brake changes to get thru the weekends way back then and I’d still have a lot of dirt on me from the noon Sunday brake pad change. My GT (pictured above) and my earlier SVO Mustang had the same brakes – big (by the standards of the day) 5-lug vented deals, so there would only have been a pad change over the weekend. All other Mustangs required a front bearing and rotor change to get thru the weekend. Yes, you read that right, these things were crap in the early days and only began to work well the SVO form (or SVO parts on the GT or Saleen).
Right around this time of Sunday I’d be driving home. The 2-3 hour drive would be fast, because after a long tough working weekend, with little sleep and usually soaking wet from the inevitable rain, I’d be dead tired and wanting to get home. There’d be quick drive up 14 (passing everyone possible – you don’t want to be stuck on 14 when everybody at a race weekend is backed up on it half-way up the lake), a quick drive-thru stop in Geneva, then onto I-90 (playing hide and go seek with the the state police blackshirts) and home. Weary, very weary. But having had a great time.
That’s what the hobby is all about, and the Glen was a great place to do it. I’ve been to a lot of race tracks in years since… but the Glen is different. Every weekend there was – in a word – awesome. The track is gigantic, the view of the surrounding hills is huge, the Finger Lakes area is tremendously scenic, and of course the track is one of the best in the country with all sorts of challenges and hundreds of feet of elevation changes (you really accomplished something there). “Little” club tracks like Nelson Ledges and even medium size tracks like Mid-Ohio didn’t have this kind of “awesome” attraction for me. They’re ok, I enjoyed the driving there, but it wasn’t the same scale and scope of a Glen weekend.
One more Glen story. After Forumla 1 pulled out in 1980, the track went bankrupt. There weren’t any professional series run there anymore, and only a handful of SCCA events was permitted to continue (the Glen was bought by Corning Glass and saved – we all owe them a debt of gratitude).
Once, just once, a high speed autocross was held there and I drove in it. I hadn’t yet driven on the track myself – this was 1980. We actually walked the course, a couple of token slaloms and gates had been setup, and off we went. It was easily a >100 MPH autocross.
The SCCA put a stop to the idea of high speed autocrosses back then… too many insurance issues. There was only one other autocross on the Glen and it was a slow event (competitors parked in the back crossover). I believe it was in 1982.
That’s my Indy Pace Car Mustang in the front straight pit area (those pits have since been torn down). There were some other friends of mine there, driving another Pace Car, a 1970 Mustang, and a Fire Arrow (remember those?).
The Pace Car was a car I remember with fondness. Mine had a Quickor suspension – heavy springs, Konis, and large sway bars, along with a limited slip diff (taken out of a Fairmont cop car, complete with slightly larger brakes, by a wonderfully cooperative dealer). It had the factory German Recaro seats, which were in a word superb (better than any factory Mustang seat to date, with the exception of the 2000 Cobra R – isn’t it sad how far Ford has fallen in 27 years?). It did well on the Glen, but it sure didn’t have the necessary brakes. Neither did my ’83, so I bought the Mustang SVO specifically for open track events there. That started a sucession of successful Glen events… now the open question is how I will ever return to the Glen. It’s a 1700 mile trip from here. :-(
FOR RELEASE: 2006-06-01
Pontiac Solstice Sets New Track Record and Finishes Fourth at Nelson Ledges
WARREN , Mich., May 31, 2006
I’ve been watching this race on the Speed channel today…
It’s a rain day in the Finger Lakes area of New York State today, and watching the event brings back a lot of memories from the last 25 years I’ve “known” Watkins Glen. In the late eighties, for example, I was working an IMSA 24-hour endurance event at the ‘Glen as a Pit Marschall. During this late October event, first it started to get cold and then it started to snow and I had the night shift. I was really frozen!
I remember getting a break around 2 AM and going into the workers tent where they had a “torpedo” heater setup for us. I was grateful for that… especially since (due to a shortage of workers) I had to work thru the entire night and into the morning anyway. And then be back for the end of the race. Not that I could sleep – it was too cold to go into my own tent so I had cat-napped earlier in the back of my car (’86 Mustang GT hatchback – there was diagonally enough room to sleep in the back!).
Late that Sunday afternoon, drving back home, I was too tired to think about the event, and I probably had a cold for weeks, but I do know I had a lot of fun that weekend!
And, a lesson learned: when it comes to the weather, anything that can possibly happen will eventually happen at Watkins Glen.
USA Today has a a good article on Paul Newman’s latest racing events. Very worthwhile reading… he is really something. The rest of us would be very lucky to have half the energy and drive at 81 years old that he does.
I remember meeting him at Watkins Glen 20 years ago – I was the Pit Marschall at an SCCA race he was competing in. He and another driver had identical Trans-Am type cars… the way to tell them aprt when they came into the pits was by his extraordinarily bright blue eyes.
[Continue at source]
Watkins Glen International is seeking a new title sponsor for its Nextel Cup race to replace Sirius Satellite Radio.
Sirius? Good riddance! Any company who would spend their lifesblood on getting Howard Stern as an image-builder needs to have their corporate head examined. The Glen will find a new sponsor… preferably a more stable company and one who sees the real value of motorsport. That the best motorsport isn’t about outrageousness and image and provacation.
Source: USATODAY.com Motor Sports – Top Stories
I just found out that a student in a Drivers Education (DE) event at Watkins Glen died as a result of a one-car crash on the track. I don’t have any verified information… I don’t know if there was an instructor in the car or not – but there darn well have better been. The ‘Glen is a very very very serious place. Erik Wiholm was 61, driving a Boxster, Green student (at least 6 events under his belt), solo’ed, killed in non-roll over single car incident.
The ‘Glen is where I learned to drive really big tracks. I used to live nearby way back when… although my first track event was at the tiny and dated Nelson Ledges in June 1980 – a Corvette Club of Cleveland event.
I know the scene of the crash very well because it is both extremely challenging… outright dangerous… and because my instructor’s wife unfortunately crashed her 944 there at the last event I did there in 1993 (I was less than a hundred feet behind her in my purpose built ’91 Mustang). My first DE event at the ‘Glen was - I think – in 1982 (?) – with brakes worse than the lowliest Kia you could buy today. That was a long time ago… and the Brembo brakes I take for granted today were an extremely serious race-only item back then that nobody had.
The track itself is an absolutely fabulous place (one of my favorite spots anywhere) … and is *very* challenging in a way that TWS and MSR could never be. I myself did 160 MPH on the long back straight of this track in 1985 (before they built the kink at the end of it, built in response to another death) after 5 years of building driving experience. Special parts just for that purpose: 2:73 gearing, 21 pounds of boost, and an open side exhaust (w/flames… effective but stupid).
Then Glen is an awesome place… a weekend there is something bigger than you… a real adventure. When you first see the track you realize that it is a challenge in a way that TWS never was and never could be. It’s located on top of a hill, and has probably a 50 mile view. It’s a fabulous place…and sometimes it’s a miserable place. I’ve been there in pouring rain (an expensive weekend wrecked), and even in snow (I once spent a weekend working as pit marschall for an IMSA 24-hour showroom stock race – it snowed from start to finish but was still one of the best events I’ve ever been to).
So, I’m very sad to hear this news. I’ll get to the ‘Glen again someday soon, but will remain ever cautious and respectful.
From MINIUSA Press:
Congrats to everyone at Nuzzo!
Photo by Dave Bunting[MotoringFile]