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Fewest race dates


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#1 HistoricMustang

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 18:32

I think all will agree that our brains go into a different gear when we visit motorsport facilities. My weekly visit to the circuit here in Augusta involved a walk down the former pit lane and this walk again moved the emotions and I began to wonder if there are other tracks with very few race dates. Could not decide if it is important to break the circuits into purpose built or city layouts. Also could not decide what "few" represents - maybe one or two but surely no more than perhaps ten.

A search of Atlas F1 did not discover a previous topic so the question becomes where (what) are those circuits that had professional drivers do laps but they were (are) doomed for failure. Reasons for the failure would also provide "food for thought".

The massive complex in my backyard had two dates. NASCAR on November 17, 1963 and United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) on March 1, 1964. A total of 78 professional drivers competed for prizes at this former (and future) layout.

Henry

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 21:22

I think this list will be huge... offhand I can think of a number in Australia...

Nowra's first one... one meeting... Nowra's second incarnation... one meeting

Applecross... one meeting

Wirlinga-Thurgoona... three

Ballarat... three

Southport... two

Silverton... one

Woody Point... one

Geraldton... one

Carey Park... one... or maybe two?

Canberra street circuit... I think it went to three

Victor Harbor-Port Elliot... one

Altona... from construction to doom, maybe six meetings, under two years

#3 David McKinney

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 21:40

Which professional drivers raced on those ones, Ray?

#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 21:44

Ah yes... I hadn't read that properly...

So we come down to Southport... two meetings...

Ballarat... three meetings (and a fourth rained off, I should add)

Canberra Street Circuit... three?

Altona...

#5 Cynic

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 22:06

Henry,

Not all that far from you is an "almost" professional track which hosted exactly one race date, for Indy Lights and the Barber Dodge Pro Series (both open wheelers). I don't know that the track ever acquired a formal name, but it was the perimeter road on Hutchinson Island, in the Savannah River opposite the Savannah waterfront.

Hutchinson Island was an industrial facility which was acquired for development. The major attraction would be a luxury hotel, with several golf courses. The perimeter road was one of the first things built, and its design included potential use as a road course. The concept was that one weekend each year there would be a professional race of some sort on the island, with the hotel as the headquarters, etc.

The first race was in 1996, as I recall. As mentioned it was for Indy Lights, as a test to see if the circuit would be usable for CART. The Barber Dodge Pro Series was the support race. Admission was only something like $5, as access was difficult, there was no water and limited facilities, and really the only thing more or less finished was the track. The race was moderately successful all things considered.

Then there was an election, and the Mayor of Savannah left office. The new Mayor reflected a different consitituency, one which had no interest in putting one penny into motor racing, and there were no futher funds for development of the race. The track still saw frequent use in midnight motorcycle races, but barriers across the track ended that practice pretty quickly.

Eventually the development was completed, and now the Westin Harbour Hotel is the centerpiece of what it describes as "exclusive Hutchinson Island." The road still exists, and you can drive the entire course, but now it has a slow speed limit and stop signs, etc. I suppose in theory that the original idea of a race is feasible, but it'll never happen.

Still, what might have been....

#6 HistoricMustang

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 23:12

Cynic, you are so correct. I was "flagging" at Roebling Road when the Indy Lites came to Savannah and had an opportunity to do the Hutchinson Island event. Conflict prevented my helping. I remember people saying it was a horrible "adventure" trying to get to the circuit from Savannah where the fans were located. Either a trip across the Savannah River bridge or a boat ride. Neither were acceptable.

This circuit is up on the Terra Server and am sure someone will put it up before I can find the photo. Savannah had a great early race history.

The brain is trying to figure out why tracks fail. Are they simply ahead of the curve or does it go much deeper than that?

Henry

#7 Cynic

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 23:37

Henry,

Savannah does indeed have a great racing history -- many people forget that it was the home of the "International Grand Prize of the Automobile Club of America" -- what today would be the U.S. Grand Prix. in 1908 and 1910. The Vanderbilt Cup was held in 1911. (All these roads exist today as well, but obviously in much-altered form.)

The starting line is marked by a Georgia Historical Marker at 46th and Waters (you know my interests) and another Georgia Marker is at LaRoche at Majestic Oaks Drive, marking the site of the Mercer Auto Camp where their entries were garaged and prepared.

Dr Julian Quattlebaum's "The Great Savannah Races" is long out of print, but has great maps and documents from the races, as well as extensive photos. This book is an absolute "must have" for anyone interested in the early history of racing in Georgia.

The museum in the Visitors Center at the old railroad station on MLK has one section devoted to the Savannah races, with many photos and artifacts on display.

#8 Vitesse2

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 23:49

Originally posted by Cynic
Dr Julian Quattlebaum's "The Great Savannah Races" is long out of print, but has great maps and documents from the races, as well as extensive photos. This book is an absolute "must have" for anyone interested in the early history of racing in Georgia.

.... as is the accompanying photo album called "The Savannah Races", published by Arcadia for the Georgia Historical Society, which includes many more pictures from Quattlebaum's collection :)

#9 HistoricMustang

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 00:33

The Georgia Historical Marker program will be in place at Augusta during 2005 or 2006. What a fantastic method to remember "historical" events. I will soon visit the ones mentioned in Savannah.

An individual (s) simply would not invest time and monies into projects that they felt would not survive ( at least not a few decades ago), so why did venues not make it past one, two or ten events. The road course here in Augusta had just the two mentioned race dates. The oval and drag strip, 1/4 mile up the road, survived for ten years.

Could it be the deaths of individuals such as Dave MacDonald, Ken Miles, Glenn "Fireball" Roberts (all winners at the circuit) or others that changed what we are seeing today? Does that "blink" in history determine what we will experience tomorrow? If so what was the "blink" at Indy or perhaps "LeMans" or others that determined what we see today.

Henry

A sample of the Georgia Historical Marker:

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#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 00:41

Originally posted by HistoricMustang
.....The brain is trying to figure out why tracks fail. Are they simply ahead of the curve or does it go much deeper than that?


Where you're looking at racing circuits on public roads or assisted in some way by local authorities, you are always at the whim of those authorities...

We've seen it many times. Tourism is the most frequently used advantage touted by promoters as they lobby the authorities. If it doesn't work out that way, or if they only want to make a temporary name for the place, or if the local residents kick up too much of a stink about the 'tourists' that come as a result, then you've lost your backer.

Mount Panorama at Bathurst is a perfect example of it having worked well over a long period... while Southport in Queensland was one that did its job and was then disposed of. I don't know the ins and outs of the Port Elliot-Victor Harbor deal, but I'd say it finished up being abandoned because of the advent of something much better at Lobethal... where a willing local authority embraced the idea as well.

Gnoo Blas at Orange was fired up on the solid foundation of jealousy held by that city towards neighbouring Bathurst. It was never as good, but the council backed it for most of a decade. It was killed by its own dangers, as I recall... but somebody else might have a better idea about that...

#11 Vitesse2

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 11:42

Originally posted by Ray Bell


Where you're looking at racing circuits on public roads or assisted in some way by local authorities, you are always at the whim of those authorities...

We've seen it many times. Tourism is the most frequently used advantage touted by promoters as they lobby the authorities. If it doesn't work out that way, or if they only want to make a temporary name for the place, or if the local residents kick up too much of a stink about the 'tourists' that come as a result, then you've lost your backer.


There are numerous examples like that in Europe in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Ospedaletti (twice - two different circuits!), Jersey, Geneva, St Cloud, Roubaix, Varese, Venice .... and many more!

As to permanent, purpose-built circuits which failed: Sitges is the obvious one. Miramas didn't hold many meetings either.

#12 ggnagy

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 13:46

Neither a road course nor a street circuit, there has been, to date, only one weekend of racing held on the JFK parking lot circuit in Washington, DC.

What is the defining criteria being used for "events" here? Professional drivers turning laps? Pro
race series sanctioning? Lots of pro drivers turned laps at the Cumberland MD airport races, but there was never a professional race weekend there. In the 40s and 50s, there were little to no professional races on road courses in the US at all. Even after that, there were many club tracks and airport courses that were popular, but never had a professional race meeting. Marlboro MD, like the aforementioned Savanah indy-light circuit, had only a minor pro race series.

#13 Ray Bell

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 21:07

Good question, ggagny...

The drivers who contested the Australian Gold Star series in the late fifties and most of the sixties were hardly professionals... yet that was the top racing series in the country.

Niel Allen, for instance, was never a professional driver. But he came within an ace of winning the Tasman Cup series.

#14 Cynic

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 21:31

Vitesse,

You are absolutely right, and that book is currently available. I'm embarrassed to say that I'm a member of the Georgia Historical Society, have the book, and didn't even think of it. Old age and failing memory strike again....

#15 HistoricMustang

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 22:44

Interesting reading on how one "knee jerk" reaction can destroy well laid plans. Augusta was set to build a 2 mile tri-oval, dead center in the Southeast (US), until a trip to Riverside and the sight of 70,000 fans packed into a racing complex. These founders felt like the future of racing in the States involved road courses. Forty years later we still wait.

Henry

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#16 HistoricMustang

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 22:55

Sorry, perhaps somewhat easier to read.

Henry

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How could one trip destroy what could surely have been one of the premier complexes in the States? Did these individuals see what we, as a group, love? Questions, questions.

#17 Lotus23

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 01:06

Ah, yes, the Hutchinson Island race weekend, formally the "Dixie Crystals [a brand of sugar] Grand Prix at Savannah Harbor". I still have a baseball cap from the event -- does it have any collector's value now?

I was there on Sun, 18 May 97. A 22yo Brazilian named Helio Castro Neves (back when he had 2 last names) won the Lights race @ an avg speed of 83+ mph (lotsa yellows). Others in that race incl Tony Kanaan, Cristiano daMatta, and Casey Mears.

A full-boogie 3-day ticket (Gold grandstand and a paddock pass) was $80.

Derek Hill won the Barber Dodge event @ just under 95mph.

The strongest memory I have of that day was the heat: one of the hottest -- and most humid --race days I've ever experienced. Absolutely stifling and no wind; reminded me a lot of RVN.

Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin showed up in their Pac West Champ Cars and ran an unofficial lap at just a tick over 1:00 for the 1.965 mile circuit. Talk at the time was the Champ Cars would run there in 98.

The crowd (34K for the 3-day w/e; 19K of that on Sun) was somewhat less than the organizers had hoped for, and my impression was that the promoter had overspent himself and that $$$ problems were the major reason for the track's demise.

Even tho' it's only 3 hours away, I haven't been back to see it since.

#18 Keir

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 01:07

I thought this was about my social life!!

#19 HistoricMustang

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 10:45

Ray, the circuits you mentioned. Are there any layouts to be found on the world wide web?

Vitesiez, your list in Europe?

Henry

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#20 Ray Bell

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 12:29

I think that someone's bound to have most of them...

But probably not Silverton. And Woody Point they would have the wrong layout.

#21 HistoricMustang

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 00:00

Ray, interesting. Up until our research started on the "local" circuit it was believed to have been run in the "clockwise" direction but in fact it was run the other way. For forty odd years the wrong information had been fact. It makes you wonder just how much incorrect information is floating around on the older circuits.

Henry

#22 Ray Bell

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 00:48

It's interesting how I found out about the Woody Point one... but I must say that living only 30kms away helped a little.

Have a look:

http://forums.atlasf...&postid=1316717

#23 HistoricMustang

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 00:31

Damn Ray, how long were those "straights" at Mette and Woody.

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Henry

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 01:28

Don't know about Mette...

Woody Point... well, not as long as you might think. Lilla Street to Duffield Rd was in fact about 1.7kms... but the map is wrong.

They turned right out of Lilla into Kate Street, then left into Alfred Street... and then right into Oxley Avenue. So that would take it down to just under a mile.

Then, out of Duffield and into Ernest and that straight was longer... as they actually went as far as Arthur Street... then did their little wiggle and into Kate Street again, finally turning left into Alfred Street and then right into Gayundah Esplanade.

But it's not all that clear-cut... the apparent tightness of the Arthur Street link between Ernest and Kate was in fact eased to be a simple ess bend. The road was designed that way, the fences are in place that way, but today's bitumen is very much as on the plan shown. It wasn't in 1936...

Also, you will note that there must have been some degree of anxiety at the Alfred Street/Kate Street junction as cars approached each other and then turned left away from each other... in the dust...

Here's how it looked... looking down Alfred across Kate towards Oxley... a Morris heads an out of shape Chrysler Richmond (Charlie Coward and Mal Evans on board... they were blackflagged for overdriving!) and another car emerges from the left to go in the other direction.

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The primitive surroundings are shown by this pic coming up Oxley Avenue...

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#25 HistoricMustang

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 10:33

Was the track (street) layout all dirt?

Henry

#26 HistoricMustang

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 23:05

The Hutchinson Island/Savannah Harbor circuit. Believe the first layout is what would happen and the second is what did happen (the one race date). Will need Lotus23 or someone else to advise what we are viewing. My biggest question is if the track was indeed run counter-clockwise.

Henry

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#27 Muzza

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 23:44

Hello, Henry,


Hutchinson Island/Savannah Harbor was indeed run counter-clockwise - I watched the Indy Lights race on tv and I remember that well. In fact, the track (as you hinted to) was considered for the CART 98 calendar, but as we know that never happened.

About the lenght of the straights at Mettet, this map at Multimap can help you.

Cheers,


Muzza

#28 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 00:38

Originally posted by HistoricMustang
Was the track (street) layout all dirt?


Well, to be honest I don't know...

There are some shops in Duffield Road, so maybe it was bitumened to cut the dust down there... and maybe in front of the hotel at the start/finish line too.

#29 HistoricMustang

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 00:49

Ray thanks.

Another "general" question or two from a novice for anyone.

Was there an original purpose built road course that was in fact dirt? There had to be the first purpose built road course in asphalt or concrete so what circuit was just before that one?

And, where was the first purpose built road course that was asphalt or concrete?

A couple of questions from someone trying to get "up to speed".

Henry

#30 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 01:25

Silverton would probably be the last all-dirt purpose built road circuit in the world... 1953, I think.

And if you think the circuit must have been a bit 'rough and ready'... look at one of the competing cars!

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The race meeting just happened to coincide with when the owner had the body off this Jaguar sedan to 'tighten up the bits working loose on the chassis...' so he ran it as it was.

#31 David McKinney

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 06:50

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Silverton would probably be the last all-dirt purpose built road circuit in the world... 1953, I think.

Surely some of the Victorian country circuits of the later '50s were dirt? Didn't Warrangatta and Tarrawingee start that way? And I'm sure Barjarg was dirt, and Undera (in 1960)

#32 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 09:19

Yes, of course you're right, David...

Shepparton, Barjarg etc... but not Tarrawingee, I don't think. It was always at least oil sealed. Wangaratta was an airstrip circuit, like Strathpine it had a little section that went off into the grass off the strip, but it was mostly at least somewhat sealed AFAIK.

#33 David McKinney

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 13:35

Without checking, I think either Wangaratta or Tarawingee - or both - may have started as dirt tracks. But I won't argue

#34 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 13:40

I did put that 'I don't think' rider on Tarrawingee...

Of course, it may well be that some consider 'oil sealed' as dirt. Neither of us were there to know for sure, of course.

By the way, David, do you have anything about the proposed 4-mile circuit that was schemed to be built in that general area?

It was mentioned in an AMS... a very early AMS... but is there anything else anywhere about it?

#35 Jim Thurman

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Posted 04 December 2004 - 10:34

Henry,

There have been many circuits in the U.S. that have had remarkably few events, some of them contemporaries of Augusta International.

Allan E. Brown's "The History of America's Speedways - Past & Present" lists several tracks with only one known race date. The reasons behind this vary. Usually financial reasons, but there have been others. Some small dirt ovals only had a single race.

Oregon International Raceway, near Eugene, layout done by noted designer John Hugenholtz, only hosted something like 5 or 6 events and all but one of them for Club Racing. A NASCAR PCLM race was the only professional race I'm aware of. The heavy Stock Cars reportedly broke up the asphalt and later flooding worsened the track surface.

Greenwood Roadway in Iowa was (by all accounts) a spectacular, Road America like 3 mile ribbon of asphalt in the countryside. Like Augusta, a USRRC event was held and a USAC Stock Car race. The USAC Stock race, held after a wet year, broke up the asphalt and the owner couldn't affort to repair it. Karts raced there for many years, but only those two pro races.

Dallas International Motor Speedway, Lewisville, hosted a F5000 race, had a Trans-Am race cancelled by torrential rains and a scheduled USAC Indy race never took place. I believe there were a few Club events and the Drag Strip was fairly active. But, only a single pro race on the road course.

Hilltop Raceway in Louisiana. Another one I'm only aware of having a single pro race. Evidently also held Motorcycle races.

Did Augusta International host any SCCA Regional Club events?

Many of the multi-purpose facilities built in the booms of the early 60's and late 60's/early 70's struggled. Sears Point and Michigan International went through a series of owners before being saved (Sears Point closed concurrently with Ontario Motor Speedway's first closure).

I'm sure there are plenty of others, but that's off the top of my head. If I get a chance, I'll thumb through Allan's book a see what else turns up.

As far as dirt permanent circuits - Willow Springs was an oiled dirt road course that was later paved.

First permanent purpose built road circuit in the U.S. It might have been Willow Springs.

#36 HistoricMustang

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Posted 04 December 2004 - 12:41

Jim what a host of information. Thanks!

Augusta had no SCCA Regional events. The SCCA did help with the USRRC event. Only the two events mentioned where held on the circuit.

I guess the thing I struggle with is the fact that the entire 6 track complex survived for 10 years from 1960 to 1970 and the 1/2 mile oval had a total of 12 NASCAR Grand National events up until the late '60's, yet this fantastic road circuit could only obtain 2 race dates in the "1964" season.

The initial event drew 15,000 spectators which by no means is a large crowd but not bad for road racing in the South. I keep thinking of two possible reasons for the failure. One, the circuit layout with the pit lane outside the racing surface (the grands stands were along the pit lane) and two, the death of Glenn "Fireball" Roberts just a few months after the first NASCAR event. Glenn was instrumental in developing the track and was part owner of the complex and at that time was a "superstar" in the Grand National series. He was a key in bringing this first event to the road circuit.

One final thought is that during this period of Grand National racing the series was running approximately 60 race dates each season. Perhaps the drivers and/or NASCAR simply were not interested in running 500 mile (5 hour) road race events.

I understand Mr. Brown's book has a fantastic photo of "Fireball" leading the "Augusta 510" and this photo shows how wide (45 feet) the track was (still is) and also illustrates the wooden guard rails. Can you confirm this photo? We have yet to locate a single photo of Grand National cars on track and only have a few of the USRRC drivers/cars. I will obtain a copy of the book.

Again, thanks so much for the info. Our group will be walking the track today!

Henry

#37 Muzza

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Posted 04 December 2004 - 22:53

Originally posted by Jim Thurman
Henry,

[...]
First permanent purpose built road circuit in the U.S. It might have been Willow Springs.



Hello, Jim,


I don't think Willow Springs was the first purpose built road course in the United States - let's not forget the Roosevelt Raceway, an impressive facility built in Westbury, NY 1936 and home of the 1936 and 1937 Vanderbuilt Cup (using two different lay-outs). Its road couse was active until 1939.

Also, parts of the Long Island road course circuit used for the 1910 Vanderbuilt cup were actually built specifically for the race, and used for normal traffic thereafter.

Cheers,


Muzza

#38 Jim Thurman

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Posted 06 December 2004 - 05:14

Originally posted by Muzza

I don't think Willow Springs was the first purpose built road course in the United States - let's not forget the Roosevelt Raceway, an impressive facility built in Westbury, NY 1936 and home of the 1936 and 1937 Vanderbuilt Cup (using two different lay-outs). Its road couse was active until 1939.

Also, parts of the Long Island road course circuit used for the 1910 Vanderbuilt cup were actually built specifically for the race, and used for normal traffic thereafter.


:blush: Right you are. Not only the Long Island Parkway built for the Vanderbilt Cup, but also the roads for the Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize at Savannah. And in an interesting twist, reportedly both ceased to be used for racing because of outcries from public motorists complaining about not being able to make use of those roadways.

I can only plead that I got caught up the NASCAR Modern Era mentality :D