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Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Archives

"Good things come in small packages"

 Standing at a less than menacing five feet, seven inches in height has resulted in listening to the aforementioned phrase on numerous occasions.  It was a pretty annoying thing to hear as a high school kid who wanted to play football instead of the trumpet.  However as time progressed and adulthood set in, there was a realization that being well below six feet tall has advantages like fitting comfortably into low roofed sports cars as well as better power to weight ratios on motorcycles.

With an ability uncommon for their small stature, there are some in the automotive world that embrace this kind of mighty midget sentiment.  Those that quickly spring to mind are the original Mini Cooper, racer Perry McCarthy, and the Brawn GP team of 2009.  FPH's roadtrip through central New York discovered another one of these anomalies that is more breathtaking than its diminutive size would lead you to believe.  This amazing place is the International Motor Racing Research Center located in Watkins Glen.

Walking into the IMRRC quickly revealed two things.  There is only one car centrally located on the first floor and this place isn't a museum as we had anticipated.  A long and informative chat with Kevin explained, amongst other stories and facts, that we were standing in one of three buildings that contains the history of automotive racing. It's where enthusiasts, historians, and authors come for the illusive information that can't be found anywhere else.



Neither bigger nor as noticeable as a McDonald's, the main building of the IMRRC contains much more nutritional value for the racing enthusiast's hungry mind.  While initially overwhelmed by the sheer volume of filled bookcases, the brain is slowly able to filter out the titles of books on each of the shelves.  The familiar names of drivers, race teams, and manufacturers become apparent and, unlike a race day, the names of the runner-ups, the almost-wons, and the behind the scenes geniuses are also heralded.

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Formula 1 at the Glen, the majority of the first floor is an homage to a bygone era of F1.  While this period of 1961-1980 holds a special place at Watkins Glen, other racing organizations like NASCAR, IMSA, IRL, and ALMS, just to name a few, also occupy vast amounts of real estate in the archives.  Coverage isn't just limited to books either.  There are boxes and boxes of pictures by pro photographers as well as weekend race fans that span the decades.  Additionally, a media room provides a place to sit and take a break while watching historical video or listening to the many lectures given throughout the race season.



Although not a museum in the traditional sense, there is still a sprinkling of memorabilia and racing artifacts scattered about the archive.  In one corner sits the Piccirillo Cup which was awarded to the winner of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix from 1971-1980.  In another, you'll find the famous purple suit of flag waver Tex Hopkins.



While most people would go to the Glen to catch a race or visit the vineyards, checking out the Research Center was number one on our to-do list and we weren't disappointed.  In our search for fun and exciting cars, we received an education and met some people who are truly enthusiastic about racing and preserving its history and that makes them giants in the automotive world.

Visit the International Motor Racing Research Center for yourself at:
610 S. Decatur Street
Watkins Glen, NY 14891-1613

Thank you to Max and Kevin for taking the time to talk with us and making us feel at home.







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