The next event was onLong Island, home turf to us. It was at, “The Bridge,” the scene of many international Can-American races. It was called “The Bridge,” for its location, BridgehamptonNew York, and for the actual bridge that allows cars and people into the center of the circuit. The track is unlike the oval of Pocono or the tight twisting up and down of Lime Rock.
The Bridge is a racers delight, spanning more than two miles with 13 turns. This track was designed for exciting and challenging racing. The start-finish line was near the end of the long, three-quarter-mile straight. After the start line, the track heads sharply downhill and under the bridge, leading into a sweeping right hand-turn. That section straightened out for just a bit, allowing even more speed, and then an acute right turn leads intoEchoValley. The Valley resembled a moonscape, barren and hidden in a deep recess of sandy dunes. You were isolated, removed from reality, the rest of the track obscured. Flowing from this lunar-like scene comes another sharp right-hand turn. All this before the track heads quickly up, to the left, and onto the back straight. A series of turns leads back up to the start of the long straight and the completion of one lap.
One August morning, I drove upMillstone Road, over the dusty entrance road and across the bridge to the infield. When the voice on the loudspeaker said, “All Formula Vees to the start line,” the day of that one particular race began. The first few laps were intense, cars switching position, passing and being passed. Always it was Freddy in the lead Mike and I kept nibbling at him, without success. We tried, we pushed to the limit, following, leading, holding position in tough spots on the track, passing when we dared. Sometimes you pushed too hard, got too close, lost control. Race over, day done.
It all seemed similar to a roller coaster adventure. Down the hill you came, under the bridge, and into the sweeping right turn. You rounded the next turn, accelerated as you headed intoEchoValley.EchoValleywas one place you couldn’t pass, you could only stay close, nose to tail, almost touching. You would flow as one, let the air current keep you close. On the eight lap we pounded under the bridge, Freddy in front, Mike second, me third. We sped along, coupled, a trio of railroad cars, not on steel track, but on smooth blacktop. Then we sailed straight between the gritty sand hills of the valley, darting into the quick flat right handler. Everyone driving flat-out, slamming, not shifting gears, exhausts roaring like wild beasts, tires growling, drivers straining. Suddenly, Mike’s car turned. No! He spun around and around again, right in front of me. He was inches from the front of me when he vanished into a blur as I headed right for him. Instantly, he was out of the way. Thankly, It was over as fast as it had begun, not with a bang and a crash, but with a whimper and a sigh of relief.
On the return trip fromNew York City, I began to think again about lap number 8, Mike, had lost control, pushed past the limit spinning violently off the track. He ended on top of a sand dune, unhurt, except for his ego. I remember, he waved as I passed on the next lap. His car had spun so hard going off the road, that sand was thrown violently about, etching my goggles, blurring my vision. The sand soon cleared, and I found myself not looking out at the track, but out a smudgy train window.
This is not the sand dunes of Bridgehampton. “This is the train toRonkonkoma,” the returning announcement blared. I was home. Entering through the garage, I glanced across to the far side. There it is the ’65 Mustang, Artie’s joy. As I approached the rear of the Mustang, I looked into the gleaming blue trunk of the Ford, and it seemed to reflect an image that reminded me of that other blue car, old number 49, and the special person who had inspired the whole experience.
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