Seventy years after the first sports car races on village streets, the Friday, Sept. 7th, Grand Prix Festival of Watkins Glen is marking its own 25th anniversary.
Since its debut in 1993, the Grand Prix Festival’s mission has been to evoke the sights, sounds and feel of the early days of sports car racing through the streets.
Racing began in Watkins Glen on Oct. 2nd, 1948, the first post-World War II road races in the United States. Race cars of every series have competed at Watkins Glen since.
This year’s Grand Prix Festival honors Jaguar, and the Jaguar XK120 C-Type that won the 1952 Seneca Cup Race will be a featured car at the festival.
The car was driven to that victory by John C. Fitch and will be among the beautifully restored cars showcased at the Corning Concours d’Elegance at Watkins Glen State Park.
The festival is sponsored by Chemung Canal Trust Co. and presented by the non-profit Watkins Glen Promotions. It also partners with the Hilliard U.S. Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International to present the competition cars of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association in laps around the original 6.6-mile circuit through the streets and surrounding countryside.
The downtown activities begin at 9:30AM with a portrayal of race car technical inspections at Smalley’s Garage on Franklin Street.
Franklin Street will close to traffic at 12:30PM. Events then will include original-course laps by sports cars and motorcycles participating in nine different rallies or groups. Cars from the rallies, including the all-Jaguar Watkins Glen International Tour de Marque, will be parked for display throughout the festival area and at Lafayette Park.
At Lafayette Park at 3PM, David Hobbs, celebrated driver in the Formula One, Le Mans and NASCAR racing series, motorsports commentator and the festival’s grand marshal, will be honored at The Legends Speak, presented by the International Motor Racing Research Center.
At the microphone with Hobbs will be Davy Jones, another versatile driver, and motorsports writer Ken Parrotte.
The SVRA race cars will arrive on Franklin Street at 4:45PM for display and their laps, which will begin at 6:30PM.
Throughout the day, the festival and local businesses additionally offer tastings of acclaimed Finger Lakes wines, motorsports vendors and a variety of food.
Festival-goers can take advantage of parking and free shuttle bus service from the Clute Park Community Center on Route 414 east of downtown Watkins Glen. Shuttle buses also will pick up on Porter Street on the east side of Lafayette Park and near the Middle School Apartments on Decatur Street.
For all the details about the 2018 Grand Prix Festival of Watkins Glen, and for photographs from past festivals, visit the website www.grandprixfestival.com.