Watkins Glen, or simply The Glen, was the scene of the US F1 GP from the early 60’s to the mid 70’s.
The reasons for its demise are many but safety was a major concern. The Armco surrounding the track was old and getting pretty rusty. It was also fastened to steel posts with no give and there was a gap between rows which allowed cars to split it with serious and at least, in one case, fatal results. There were several other safety concerns as well by 76. Further problems were the distance from major cities and in those days a real lack of accomodation. What motels and other lodging there was jacked their prices to above big city rates. Many people, of course, camped and like Mosport there were areas that were not safe.
Unfortunately, in those days the locals were also very greedy. A race goer would get charged double or even triple what the local in front of him paid for a loaf of bread or some milk in the stores. No chain operations, just mom and pop stores. The food concessions at the track were run by local chuches and service organizations. The quality and prices varied depending on the booth, but invariably you would pay more on Sunday than on Friday and they were pricey on Friday! The restrooms were an improvement on Mosport but were rarely serviced and by race day a disaster, usually without TP. Towels no way.
The crowd count was dropping for all of the above reasons. By the mid 70’s the track was getting to be in pretty rough shape and the GP pulled out after 76. The actual racing surface was ok but the rest getting run down. That is the preamble to our story which took place in 71.
There were support races to the GP and in 71 there was a FB race. Now our rather small team normally stayed in a motel taking 2 rooms with 2 to a room or one with a couple of doubles and a cot. We then were towing with a Ford Station wagon. Wether we decided to go late I cannot remember but the closest we could get rooms was in Rochester over 60 miles away. That was not really practical. So Bruce Jensen, the driver and car owner, did a deal for his B17 Chevron to be transported to and from the race on another local entrant’s double decker trailer. I seem to recall it was Gary Magwood’s rig but neither Gary nor I are sure. Gary was running a Hawke FB and was the Hawke distributor in those days.
Bruce rented a fairly small van based motorhome but it could sleep the four of us in 3 separate beds. Norm and Mary, the rest of the crew, got the double!
This way we were not totally reliant on the track for coffee and food or have to use their toilets. Now none of us had ever had a motorhome and they were not anywhere as fancy as they are today but we fumbled through. The actual support race was on the Saturday and I do remember we did not do too well. Our one engine was getting tired by this stage of the season and the tires well past their prime.
Sunday morning we sort of looked around, saw smoke coming from the infamous swamp where the mob were burning cars and decided to leave. There was nowhere we could really go and have a good view of the F1 race anyway and we wanted to beat the crowd out. We all had to be at work on Monday including Bruce. Yes, we all had full time jobs as Bruce ran the family Greenhouse operation.
Therefore we packed up the motorhome to leave. The motorhome was too high for the tunnel and there was, like Mosport, no bridge. So the exit from the track was going across said track between turns one and two. Traffic was permitted across the track after the F1 warmup and before the pre race action. Control was by one of the literally dozens of Sherrif’s Deputies appointed for the weekend. We duly trundled down the road towards the the track going down a slight hill. I was sitting in the back of the motorhome and as we leveled off I heard some yelling behind us. I looked back but didn’t see anything. We got stopped just before the track and I saw then what the fuss was. As we started up Bruce called back to ask if I knew what was up. I just said get going and quick. He did.
Just as we went by the Deputy I saw him look down with a stunned look on his face. I yelled up to Bruce ‘Do not stop just keep going’.
We had just left a large and smelly deposit mid track and also right on the Deputy’s boots. Someone. and we never found out who, had uncapped the drain from the sewage holding tank. I do have my suspicions though! A safe distance down the road with shop rags and gloves we put the cap back on.
So we put our deposit down on the track. We did not request it back either.