2016 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Festival

by | Oct 11, 2016

Today’s Post by John Larsen


In the spring I happened across a story about the annual Grand Prix Festival at Watkins Glen, NY. I mentioned his event to a fellow photo club member and he raved about it as he had been there a few years ago with his Lotus. I registered my partner Cathy and I for the Roadster Rally in my 1988 Mazda Rx7 convertible. Our group of Roadster Rallyists was limited to two-seater convertibles only—if you had a t-bar roof you need not apply! There were other rallies available to other car types and even motorcycles.


We met at a park in nearby Montour Falls. As we were greeted by the other members of this particular rally, I was struck by the distinct display of cars. Peter and his wife Gerry were parked beside us in their Miata which they won in a raffle. John and Sue were behind us in a 12 cylinder Jaguar E-type with more chrome under the hood than I’ve ever seen on a Jag. He bought it on eBay from photos without seeing the car. Beside them was the father and son duo of George Senior and Junior in another beautiful black Jaguar. I’m not sure which had more variety: the cars or the people!


During the meeting we quickly realized that this was a navigational rally of sorts. I have participated in my fair share of rallies, but Cathy and I had not entered a navigational rally for almost thirty years. I was hoping for a “follow the leader” event here. After all, my car has an odometer that was in kilometers and not miles. My plan was to simply follow the bright yellow Pontiac Solstice in front of us. The organizers had outsmarted me however as the route map had both miles AND kilometers on it! It is a good thing too because within 45 minutes you could see participants scattering in various directions. I thought of the bumper sticker “Don’t follow me-I’m lost too!”

The highlight of the day was to drive two laps of the original Watkins Glen course used in the late 40’s to early 50’s through downtown which included crossing the train tracks and Stone Bridge . The pace was slow and safe through the town as an estimated 20,000 spectators lined the sidewalks. Once we were out of town on the back part of the circuit I had a quick look at my speedometer and I am sure that it was higher than the posted limit!

After we parked and settled into Watkins Glen, a selection of racers that were participating in the US Vintage Grand Prix at the nearby Watkins Glen International racetrack did a run through town. Ahh, the sights, the sounds, the smells. As we were leaving the track on Sunday and we shared a final wave with George Jr., I was reminded of something our bed and breakfast host had said months before when we made our reservations, “This is better than Christmas!”




Senior International Travel Correspondent, John Larsen has created a photo magazine documenting the 2016 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Festival. You can preview a copy of the magazine and purchase either a printed or digital version by clicking here.