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Vintage Racing in Central Park? Why not??

With the new USGP F1 race slated to grace to the cliffs of New Jersey in 2013, I couldn't help but revive my fantasy about having a vintage racing festival on this side of the Hudson that would truly be worthy of the title "Grand Prix of New York."  As anyone who has ridden the park's outer drive by bicycle knows, the course would be thrilling, challenging, and has fantastic changes in elevation and camber. The inset below shows the northern end of the park in detail. For those who live elsewhere, note that this is a very hilly section!

"Oh, but the birdwatching blue noses on the Upper East Side will never let that happen!" I hear you cry. Possibly, but consider if you will that among the very wealthy population of the UES, there are a number of classic car owners, and I think if the event were limited to cars from before 1965 (this is an arbitrary number, but generally cars from before this period were lower displacement and had thinner tires), the speeds and the noise levels could be kept low enough to fend off most attacks on the noise and potential danger of racing in the park.  Why should we be denied the pleasures of scenes like this:Image credit: Conceptcarz.comImage credit: Conceptcarz.comThere is a remarkably good precedent for this type of civilized racing in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, held annually in that city's Schenley Park.  The above pictures were in fact taken at this event, which has been going on for years.  If Pittsburgh can pull off an event of this type safely and successfully for years, why can't New York City? If we can have 35,000 runners take over the entire city for the marathon, and if we can close bridges and tunnels for the 5-borough bike tour, I would say the impact of closing the outer drive of Central Park for one weekend a year seems pretty darn easy for the "City that Never Sleeps!"  The event could be one of prestige and glamour.  Paired with a concours, it could easily find its place among the first rank of automotive events. Sure the logistics would be a challenge, but I don't think it can be any worse than the many disruptive events we already have. Given the high income level of the audience and participants, blue chip sponsorship from financial institutions and luxury goods producers would not be hard to come by. (Any Occupy Wall Street protests will easily be drowned out by the symphony of finely tuned engines.)

I'm obviously not the first to fantasize about this race through the park.  Back in 1965, race promoter Alec Ulmann, of Sebring 12 Hours fame, proposed the very same idea in Automobile Quarterly (Vol. 4, No. 1). He felt that New York should have a Monaco-style Grand Prix right in its heart, and reserved harsh words for the all-powerful Parks Commisioner Robert Moses for scuppering his plans, as well as multiple previous attempts in the 1950's to run exactly such a race.  The map from Ulmann's article is reproduced here for your enjoyment. Click below to enlarge the full circuit map and ask yourself, why couldn't they do this?

Reader Comments (15)

Or you could get a dozen mates together with some video cameras and phones, assume positions at various points of the park to film the lap (and act as spotters), enter the park at 2 or 3 in the morning on a weekday from the W85th st entrance and see how fast you can do a lap in your GTV6.
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel
hear, hear.
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermotoringconbrio
I bet it could have happened back in the 1960s or '70s - except for one thing: there's no room for pits or stands. Otherwise a great idea. I've thought about it every time I've either driven or biked around this very beautiful circuit.
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLance Pierre
Well, you don't really need stands. You'd just use the hillsides. I agree the need for Pits poses an issue, especially since many drivers use articulated trailers these days to transport cars. I think one of the linking inner roads (like the one that runs around the big lagoon could serve as a garage area, but as for a hot pit, I am not sure where you'd put one. However, since this is a vintage race, you wouldn't need an enormous regulation sized hot pit. There are never more than 2 or 3 cars in the pits at any vintage sprint race i have ever been to.
January 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterBradley Price
Just like this...?
This is Lurgan Park in Northern Ireland (my home country)...We have a rally in a city park (albeit not as vintage as your suggestion), and it is perfectly feasible..I know it's not exactly New York, but the infrastructure in NY should be even better. There are NO grandstands here, you just stand in between the trees, or beside the flower beds or picnic by the lake watching Ford Escorts, 911's and Quattros go by.

January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Carson
January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price
The RedBull guys often do a demo in the streets of a city prior to a GP to promote the team (and the drink). I can imagine they have deep enough pockets to close off the park for an hour or so and have Webber have a go around. Nice consolation.
January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel
It would be nice, but the NIMBYS would stop it really quick. NY is full of them.

Tom Tanner/Scale Designs/Ferrari Expo 2012-Chicago March 17th 2012
January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterF1 Tommy
I like Daniel's idea, and it has the advantage of being possible even if unlikely.
January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLance Pierre
I like Daniel's idea too, except it may have the unpleasant side effect of being arrested.
January 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price
There is additional precedence, besides the masterfully run PVGP, for such events. They used to race touring cars, sports cars and F1 spec events at Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London in the 1950's and 60's. If you can get NYC's N.I.M.B.Y. contingent under control, your proposal could be a great event.
January 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Scroggs
I'm pretty sure that when Daniel mentioned RedBull's "deep pockets" he was referring to the (admittedly unlikely) prospect of RedBull paying the city to close the park for an hour and obtain official permission for such a demonstration. Nobody would go to jail under such an arrangement. Let me have my pie-in-the-sky.
January 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLance Pierre
I was referring Daniel's first comment at the top.
January 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price
pure genius
January 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOff Camber
It would be the best vintage race in usa
January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTomas lopez rocha

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