The year is 1915. Ford Model T, Brewster Model 41 and FRP Runabout cascade across the East End in the first-ever road races. These street races, sponsored by local firehouses, only add to the summer carnivals and other events out East. Spectators look on in awe as cars zoom across the street at breakneck speeds. They were the first of their kind. The rectangular courses included stops on Main Street, Halsey Lane, Paul’s Lane and Ocean Avenue, giving drivers a truly special view of the land.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the tradition of the road rally is still alive and well. Classic cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes Benz S Barker Tourer, Porsche 911, or anything else built before 1969 take over the road again during the 2018 Bridgehampton Road Rally presented by The Bridgehampton Museum on October 6.
Bridgehampton has a rich history of racing. These early sponsored races evolved to be a true spectacle in the late 1940s and early 1950s, inspired by the original Watkins Glen racetrack in upstate New York. European racing cars climbed to speeds over 100 mph on a short 4-mile course that ran through Bridgehampton and Sagaponack. In 1953, due to the death of a street racer, New York State banned street racing altogether. However, in its brief heyday, racing stars such as Briggs Cunningham, Tommy Cole, George Huntoon, Fred Wacker, the Collier brothers, Bob Grossman, John Fitch, Dave Garroway and many others raced out on the East End in front of grand crowds.
After the racing ban, Bridgehampton Race Circuit opened in 1957 on 500 acres of open land just north of town It soon became known as one of the best circuits in the world, attracting famous drivers such as Mario Andretti, Phil Hill, Walt Hansgen, Pedro Rodriguez and Dan Gurney. Although its final race took place in 1970, it continued to bring joyful spectators and riders for another 20 years. At the turn of the millennium, the track was transformed into a golf course, further archiving the racing spirit.
Even though the racing thrills are saved for the archives, The Bridgehampton Historical Society organized the first Vintage Sports Car Road Rally in 1993 to keep the thrilling history of the course, and of the culture, alive from Montauk to Southampton. Ever since then, the event has breathed life back into the racing culture on the East End.
This year’s rally will consist of four different components. The day will host a judged show, parade, historic trivia quest, and a special timed component. The Rally Route itself runs across 60 miles of beautiful East End scenery and includes four stops to collect poker cards in order to compile a winning hand, as well as stops for historic trivia sites. Overall, the course should take competitors around three hours to complete.
The Bridgehampton Road Rally takes place on Saturday, October 6. Visit bhmuseum.org or call 631-537-1088 for details.