For a racing weekend that fielded a wide variety of competitive machinery that simply would have more than satisfied any racing enthusiast’s taste, this year’s edition of Historic Sportcar Racing’s (HSR) Watkins Glen Historic Races held at Watkins Glen International (WGI) this past June was unfortunately closed to spectators. Some speculate that the loss of the event’s title sponsor coupled with the (rising) cost of insuring the public against themselves may have been partially the underlying, and understandable, reason that helped force the decision. The bottom–line is that it was regrettable that basically only the in–crowd witnessed another wonderful weekend of vintage auto racing HSR style.
Stretching the defined limit of what “is” a vintage racecar, several youthful 2000–somethings joined five decades of other mechanical contestants for HSR’s regular schedule of Dash Series group races, three one–hour enduros: the Rolex Vintage and combined Rolex Historic and GT Classic, and WSC/Group C/GTP Group Six endurance races, Klub Sport Porsche Challenge, and Anglo–American GT Challenge Series pitting American Camaros, Mustangs and Corvettes against English sports cars of that same era. Moreover, the Glen hosted the third round of the Moss Motors Australian–American Healey Challenge and special GT40/Shelby featured race showcasing Shelby Cobras, GT350s and GT40s.
Adding to the diversity, and addressing the attendance woes the event has been experiencing over the past few years, HSR invited members of Vintage Sports Car of America (VSCCA-their second year), and Bimmers from the BMW CCA club racing organization. The influx of these associations’ fresh iron (and glass) not only helped fill out the card, but also just may have created an unwitting model that many other clubs/venues could follow in order to stay viable and attract the numbers of participants needed to pay the bills. Heck, the wider assortment of automotive art didn’t hurt the eyes either.
Kicking off the formal battles, Cliff Berry’s Porsche 914–6 cautiously danced through late Friday’s rain, leading Frank Beck’s 914 and Josh Vargo’s 911 and nearly two–dozen other German marques to the checker flag in the Klub Sport shootout. Subsequently, John Brice’s Shelby GT350 battled a thin field of participants posting the race’s fastest lap time on very slick conditions for the Gary Jones Motorsports and Predator Performance sponsored Anglo-American GT Challenge win.
Saturday was dedicated to a full day of heated qualifying sessions, concluding with the event’s first lengthy contest, the Rolex Vintage Enduro. In the protracted race, Bill Riddell’s 1970 Porsche 914–6 outran a healthy group of contenders, over three dozen strong, and endurance series leader, Jack Refenning’s 914–6 (co–driven by Josh Vargo) by .929 seconds. Following tradition, the action moved down the hill for an evening social in Watkins Glen proper and Clute Park at the foot of Lake Seneca.
With the sun shinning, Sunday’s formal contests got into gear with Group Two, Group Three and the 60–minute Rolex Classic GT/Historic enduro preceding the highly anticipated Australian–American Healey Challenge. In the aforementioned battles, Paul Swanson (356), Ron Zitza (914–6), Richard Howe (’89 Mustang Trans–Am––teaming up with Chip Vance), and Aussie, Peter Jackson (AH 3000) finished as the alpha dogs, respectively. Noteworthy, not only did Peter Jackson lead the Aussie collective sweep of the podium positions in the Australian–American Healey Challenge, but Jackson also grabbed a second place Group Two finish.
Lunch served, a potpourri of racing disciplines completed the balance of the day with plenty of exciting blacktop matches. As previously noted, it was too bad potential spectators were left out in the cold, missing a weekend of great racing, and especially missing the GT40/Shelby race’s metaphoric replay of the ’66 24–Hours of Le Mans when Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon’s GT40 MkII guided the GT40 badge to a 1–2–3 finish (and beginning a four year Le Mans’ dominance by the GT40, winning again in ’67, ’68 and ’69). At this weekend’s historic races, Bill Murray, Bill Peter and Tom Mabey’s trio of GT40s finished first, second and third, respectively.
I can only assume with some educated reasoning why this year’s installment was spectator–free, but know for certain an army of Armco dwellers surely missed another ground–pounding HSR show contested in the historically rich Glen sandbox. After all, through the portals of vintage auto racing, road racing’s legacy needs to be heard, seen and felt. Let us hope that racing enthusiasts will once again enjoy the thrilling HSR spectacle we “insiders” had the good fortune to witness this year......Walter Pietrowicz