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Sep 28, 2010 12:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Vintage cars will take center stage on Saturday in Bridgehampton

Sep 28, 2010 12:58 PM

On Saturday, a slice of history will be revived and celebrated when the Bridgehampton Racing Heritage Group, along with the Bridgehampton Historical Society, hosts a vintage auto celebration commemorating the old Bridgehampton Race Circuit and the cars that made their mark many years ago.

Race cars that were manufactured before 1960 will gather in front of Bridgehampton High School at 10 a.m. for a leisurely drive around the back roads of the Hamptons, hitting checkpoints of historical significance from back in the days when Bridgehampton was a racing town. The cars will return to the grounds of the historical society in the afternoon and will be on display on the field outside the historical society building while inside, old photographs and memorabilia will be on display along with rare video footage from the old Bridgehampton Race Circuit.

According to Peter Klebnikov, one of the event’s organizers and a member of the racing heritage group, cars representing every decade of Bridgehampton racing will be part of the festivities on Saturday, including a 1909 Alco-6 Racer known as “The Black Beast,” owned by Howard Kroplick. That car was part of the first series of road circuits races in Bridgehampton, before the actual race track was built, back when drivers would fly around a 4-square-mile route that included Ocean Road, Sagg Road and Bridge Lane at speeds that would certainly earn them speeding tickets today. The Alco-6 will lead the procession of cars around that loop on Saturday.

The Bridgehampton Racing Heritage Group was founded several years ago by a group of local racers and enthusiasts of the Bridgehampton Race Circuit who wanted to preserve the memory of the track and the cars and drivers who raced there. The racetrack, which is now The Bridge Golf Club, was built in 1957 and was a mecca for racing in the 1950s and 1960s, attracting tens of thousands of spectators, according to Klebnikov, in addition to many celebrities.

“It was known to be the most challenging and dangerous track in America by pro race drivers,” Klebnikov said. “It had very fast, plunging turns through sand dunes and if you got off the course, you’d go sideways into a sand dune and flip over.”

Klebnikov added that aside from the allure of the beautiful cars and daring drivers, the racing circuit and its popularity also created a unique clashing of cultures, from rich city types to local farmers to celebrities, all drawn to the track for the same love of racing.

“You’d get people mixing who normally wouldn’t mix,” he said. “At parties after the races, Paul Newman would be talking to Truman Capote.”

The track officially closed in 1998 when the Southampton Town Planning Board granted approval for the construction of The Bridge golf course.

Klebnikov said he received a good response from people across Long Island and in the tri-state area when he put out the word that anyone with a vintage race car should come to Saturday’s event.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people said that some of their best memories growing up were having their dad take them to the races,” he said. “It was something many of us never forgot.”

For more information, visit bridgehamptonraceway.com or contact the Bridgehampton Historical Society at (631) 537-1088 or bhhs@optonline.net.

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I say we tear up the golf course and rebuild the track! All those in favor say aye!!
By private (27), sag harbor on Sep 30, 10 1:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'll put the spare rubber on the back of the T/A!
By Mr. Z (11554), North Sea on Sep 30, 10 10:37 PM
AYE indeed, the downhill (1st turn) sure got the heart pumping when you took in flat in top gear! Darned near like driving off a cliff, but it looked so gradual from the spectator's point of view.....yes it was great fun!
By Lost Tribe (66), East Hampton on Sep 30, 10 3:06 PM
For me the best part of the track's history was when it was opened up to car club "schools" and amateurs could bring their street cars and learn how to drive them in the way they were built to be driven. BMW's ,Porches, Alfas, Ferraris, etc. etc. (Never saw Mercedes or Jaguar there.) As Lost Tribe writes, when you finished that long, long straightaway and were close to the top speed of your car , and passed under the bridge heading into the sweeping downhill turn feeling almost airborne ...more
By Sag (54), Sag harbor on Sep 30, 10 4:36 PM
That hairpin turn was amazing also. What a shame the track lost out to those who built their houses around it and then complained about the noise. I remeber as a boy scout working some go-kart racing events. It was fun and exciting. The Hamptons lost a real treasure when they let the track go into financial ruin. It was one of the more challenging road couses in North America. Certainly a lot more exciting than another golf course or polo field!
By Walt (288), Southampton on Sep 30, 10 9:05 PM
I remember 1958 or 1959 standing on a little bank on Millstone Rd. watching the cars in turn 1. Too cheap to buy a ticket. Long gone like the Hampton's Drive-In and other great things of the time.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Oct 1, 10 5:00 PM
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