It was a rainy day at the Watkins Glen U.S. Vintage Grand Prix today, but historic racers and race enthusiasts still showed up at the track and took in the race time that was available in the first and last thirds of the day. Unfortunately, for those who came to race and watch racers from the featured Historic Grand Prix group of Formula One race cars, their amount of time was short since that time slot on Saturday came at the pivot point between the first and second thirds of the day – right when the rain started.
The F1 cars got in only a lap and a half of track time Saturday. That should not happen on Sunday, however, since the weather is expected to clear. In the meantime, Rochester Motorsports was able to chat with one of the F1 racers on hand for the weekend, Bud Moeller of McLean, Virginia.
This weekend Mr. Moeller is racing his red 1979 Ensign N-179 which was driven in its professional days by Irish driver, Derek Daly. It is #22 and will start in second position in the race on Sunday, since the driver qualified just behind Doc Bundy who will start at pole in his #5 1978 Lotus 79.
Of the four F1 race cars Mr. Moeller currently owns, he says he chose the Ensign to bring to the Glen because he thought it best suited for the circuit there. His other Formula One cars include a 1980 Ferrari 312 T5/046 driven by Gilles Villeneuve (that he plans to take to HGP’s support event at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas in November); a 1997 Ferrari F 310B once raced by Michael Schumacher; and a Ferrari F2003-GA. Racing F1 cars for 20 years now, this historic driver knows a bit about what it takes.
When asked about that, Mr. Moeller cited three chief physical attributes that he believes are innate in a person who will be a successful F1 racer – “visual acuity; fast reflexes; and brain processing speed.” He says one can train to improve aspects such as neck strength to better withstand the G-forces put on the body as well as practice aerobic training for stamina and better handling of the 150-180 beat-a-minute heart rate one puts up while racing these cars.
Bud Moeller’s own racing career began in spec series and then moved to Atlantics. After that, he moved on to Formula One. Now, he races on circuits both in North America and Europe. After Watkins Glen, he will head to Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix.
Asked if Historic Grand Prix has helped support the upcoming film RUSH directed by Ron Howard about the 1976 season and the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Mr. Moeller indicated that he had not, since his cars are a bit too new for the era of the film, but that two other HGP members, Chris Locke and Nick Colyvas, had indeed helped with the movie.
Since he owns 1979 and 1980 F1 cars as well as 1997 and 2003 cars, we asked his opinion about the often-debated differences in a driver’s contribution to overall race performance in the older cars versus those that are now so computer-driven. Mr. Moeller said that while driving his 1979 car would be 100% driver-generated performance by comparison, the speed the newer cars can reach should be factored in when considering the driver’s relative contribution to the outcome of a race. He used the comparison of driving near a neighborhood school at 25 m.p.h. and dealing with distractions versus cruising along on a highway at a much higher speed and trying to deal with the same or more distractions. There is just a lot more going on, and faster.
Watkins Glen’s 3.4 mile circuit track was the home of the Formula One U. S. Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980. For many who remember those races, the return of F1 cars to the Glen through the appearance of the Historic Grand Prix racing group is a real treat. There are nearly a dozen of them on hand this weekend, and it is a chance to hear that familiar whine echo against the hills above Seneca Lake once again. If you would like to see and hear F1 at the Glen, albeit the older models many still remember, you can do so on Sunday.
The Glenora Wine Cellars U.S. Vintage Grand Prix continues through Sunday, September 8, 2012.
Watkins Glen is just 80 miles south of Rochester at the southern tip of scenic Seneca Lake.
Check out Connie Ann Kirk’s homepage for links to more; see her motor sports blog at Poetry in Motion: Vintage Speed.