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.