There’s Monsters in the Glen
The clock reads 7:29 AM as I pull up to the entrance, but already the beasts have awoken. These creatures have huge wings, howl like Banshees, and spit fire, but you need not look for them in the pages of a fantasy novel. No, these monsters are very much alive, and their presence means only one things – it’s race weekend at Watkins Glen.
This past Fourth of July weekend, the Sports Car Club of America hosted the Majors Super Tour at Watkins Glen International. The race marked the end of the Eastern Conference Majors schedule; a tour encompassing a 12 race series and boy was it one to remember. Clear blue skies made for terrific conditions for drivers to squeeze every last second out of their cars as they screamed around this historic upstate circuit.
Rising above Seneca Lake, “the Glen” has been home to full throttle road racing since 1948, when Cameron Argetsinger organized a twenty-three car race around the outskirts of town, which became the first American road race since the end of World War II. Following a slew of accidents, the town built an official track in 1956, and has held numerous forms of racing since such as NASCAR, IndyCar, Trans-Am, and at it’s pinnacle – Formula One. The Glen served as home of the United States Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980, revered by many as they heyday of Formula One.
Just walking around the circuit was a case of sensory overload. At every turn I could smell that unmistakable whiff of cooked brakes, burnt rubber, and the sting of race fuel. And what a symphony of motorsport! Every ensemble filled the park, with the low bark from the American V8s, the whine from Formula-style cars, the wail of a rotary Mazda, and crackle from carbureted classics. It was truly a wide-eyed, grinning ear-to-ear kind of day.
I caught up with Gary Hutchinson, a driver in the C Sports Racer category, who gave some advice for amateur drivers looking to compete at the Majors level of the SCCA. “Keep pursuing coaching, no matter what level you’re at.” Hutchinson has raced in BMW sedans for over 9 years before climbing into his new track day racer, a black and red Radical SR3. “People lose races by hundredths of a second, a good instructor can help you drop a few tenths – or maybe even a few seconds – in one session.”
This 2013 season also marks the inaugural year of SCCA Majors racing. The trend of the increasing number of events on the Nationals club racing calendar has contributed to fewer and fewer cars entered in each race event, which has lead the SCCA to introduce the Majors class. This class embodies the highest level of sports car racing, bringing the best of the best together to compete at the ultimate level of wheel to wheel racing in the SCCA. But don’t worry, although the Nationals and Majors race events may overlap and combine at some venues – the points gained in both are attributed to their own individual standings. National events will score points for Divisional and National Championships, while Majors points will dictate standings within the four US Majors Conferences (Eastern, Mid-States, Northern, and Western).
Although this new adjustment to the SCCA hierarchy will take some time to adopt fully, seemingly the racers couldn’t be happier. We saw lots of full heats, close racing from front-runners and between stragglers, plus lots of great bring-what-you-got racers. Not everyone in the field is going to score points, but for these guys – getting to show off their cars and lay down their best laps is the real trophy at days end. So if you’ve got a Miata (nearly every driver did – there must have been over 100) or have even the slightest inkling of interest for motor racing, come on down to Watkins Glen and check out an event!