Throwback Thursday - The Glen Is Back!
Thursday, August 18, 2016

The green flag waved for the beginning of a new chapter in American sports car racing history with the return of racing to Watkins Glen on July 6, 1984.

With the circuit shuttered since 1981 due to financial setbacks, Corning Enterprises – a subsidiary of Corning Inc. – purchased the assets of the former Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation and formed a partnership with International Speedway Corporation. Watkins Glen International was born, opening with the inaugural Camel Continental.

The race featured a unique six-hour format. Competitors raced for three hours on Saturday, had the overnight break to work on their cars, and then resumed competition on Sunday.

On the first lap, Klaus Ludwig led the IMSA Camel GT field down the front straight in a Ford Mustang GTP, flanked by the No. 14 Lowenbrau Special Porsche 962 driven by Jim Adams and the No. 56 Blue Thunder Chevrolet March of Bill Whittington.

Bob Tullius spun in Turn 1 on the first lap after contact, losing bodywork and a wheel. He was barely missed by Group 44 Jaguar teammate Brian Redman. Only two laps later, Ludwig’s race-leading Ford suddenly slowed on the back straight with a broken transmission. Two of the leading challengers were out of contention after only two laps.

Whittington and eventual Camel GTP champion Randy Lanier “won” the opening Saturday segment. Second was the Lowenbrau Special Porsche. Adams drove more than two hours while waiting for his teammate, car owner Al Holbert, to arrive from Ohio after qualifying for the CART race at Cleveland. Holbert took a helicopter to Watkins Glen, but arrived too late to score points – although he managed to keep the car on the lead lap.

Sunday saw Derek Bell take over for Holbert, who flew back to Cleveland. The veteran Englishman had raced in IROC the previous day in Cleveland, and did not have the benefit of a Sunday morning warm-up. Bell joined Whittington on the front row, and pair put on a sensational battle. Whittington took the early lead, but once Bell got up to speed, the pair put on a display of intensive nose-to-tail and side-by-side racing. They exchanged the lead seven times during the first hour, in seven different turns. Bell then pitted, turning the Porsche over to Adams. Moments later, Whittington pitted, but Lanier threw up his arms in dismay as the Blue Thunder March was suddenly finished with engine trouble.

Over the remaining two hours, Bell and Adams (plus the absent Holbert) drove to a win over Bruce Leven and John Paul Jr. in the Bayside Disposal Porsche 962. Redman and Hurley Haywood took third in the Group 44 Jaguar. Chet Vincentz and Jim Mullen took GTO honors in a Porsche 934, while current IMSA official Elliott Forbes-Robinson joined John Schneider in winning GTU in a Porsche 924 Carrera.

The race was a resounding success. “The Home of American Road Racing” was once again alive and well, with new ownership and a family friendly image. That tradition continues to the present with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race and a component of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

IMSA returns to Watkins Glen International on the weekend of June 30-July 2, 2017.