Watkins Glen, NY. Everyone knows about the track. They know that the US Formula 1 Grand Prix was held here for a number of years, and every great racing driver from Andretti to Yates has turned wheels on its asphalt. But, did you know that there is a massive archive of historical motorsport information here as well? Down on South Decatur Street, by the local elementary school, lies the International Motor Racing Research Center.
Pull up at to the building and you’re greeted by a simple two-story structure giving few clues as to what treasures awaits inside. As you walk in and open the doors, you’ll find an extremely knowledgeable staff member and also one or two race cars and thousands of books.
Engineering. Tracks. Drivers. Rule books. You don’t know where to begin. Under the shadow of a model of the Marmon Wasp and a photo of Sir Jackie Stewart, the fun begins. Look around through the small but well laid out space. Gems begin to appear out of the sand. A biography of Lyn St. James. A history of lost Japanese race tracks. Then you spot something really interesting. A thick detailed Hillman Owners Handbook. Now we’re talking gold.
The interesting part is that what you see barely scrapes the surface of what they have. Complete runs of many automotive magazines are filed away along with track programs and media guides. There are homologation records, track blueprints, and design sketches. Let’s say you found your uncle’s old SCCA trophy in the attic. These guys have records that could reveal his whole racing career. You can hand off a request to the staff and with some time, they can piece together his entire racing history from the kind of car he drove to which tracks and other series he raced.
This is a place where you can get lost for days in racing history. Lose track of time while being totally absorbed in the moment. Like the rest of the town, it draws you in one story at a time.
Location: 610 South Decatur Street, Watkins Glen, NY
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm, M-F, 10-4 Saturday. Closed Sunday