By Kathleen M. Mangan
Triumph might be 80 years old this year, but its age couldn’t stop the marque from participating in a jam-packed anniversary celebration at the SVRA-sponsored U.S. Vintage Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York. While Triumph was the featured marque, its birth wasn’t the only event being commemorated this September. The gathering also celebrated Lola’s 50th year, Formula 5000’s 40th year, and the 60th anniversary of the first post-World War II road race held in the U.S. The Friends of Triumph handled the festivities for the storied manufacturer by throwing the Tour de Marque. Meanwhile, Moss Motors and Classic Motorsports magazine presented the Kastner Cup.
The Grand Prix Festival, organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, kicked off with various road rallies to area vineyards and scenic spots. A Concours d’Elegance was held in town along with The Legends Speak, an event that features drivers and race officials from the early years of racing at Watkins Glen. Attendees also had the opportunity to drive their classics along the original 6.6-mile street course through town. One hundred SVRA vintage racers then reenacted the historic race in the ZIPPO Watkins Glen Grand Prix Tribute.
The Tour de Marque featured a driving tour, two laps of the historic town circuit, and two laps of the Watkins Glen International track. A car show spot and weekend tickets for the track events were also included. Some historic gems could be found on display, like the famed Group 44 factory race cars and the 1963 TR4 that competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring. A 1953 TR2, the first production Triumph sports car off the line, was also up for the ogling.
Legendary Triumph racer and head of the North American Triumph Competition Department Kas Kastner, who was on hand to present the Kastner Cup, participated in the weekend festivities. The Cup is awarded annually to the Triumph racer who best embodies the spirit of the marque and the event. This year it went to Tony Garmey, who drove a Triumph TR250K owned by Bill Hart and restored by Hart’s father.
Many special races were packed into the weekend of half-dreary, half-temperate weather, including the Enduro Series and the OPTIMA Batteries Sprint Series Races that featured 10 categories. Spectators got to see more than 400 cars in action, from early Alfa Romeos to ’90s Ferraris. The Collier Cup, awarded to an MG driver voted most deserving by his peers, went to 1958 MGA driver Chris Meyers.