It was the Zippo Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. BMW was the featured marque that year, and a group of us from the Mid-Atlantik 2002 club drove up for the weekend. We booked late, and so Ed and I had to stay some distance away in Painted Post, NY. On the first night, after some food and adult beverages, someone suggested that we gather the cars very early for a picture on the famed Watkins Glen Stone Bridge. Sounded good. Eventually, we headed back to the motel. Just based on the cars in the parking lot, we were not the only ones staying far from the venue. E30 M3s, M5, 320i, a couple MGBs, etc.
I awoke at first light and sat up with a start. $&@(&/!! We had forgotten to set the alarm ! There was no way we could make the gathering….or could we?….We grabbed stuff, jumped into the tii, and roared out of the parking lot. It was a brisk fall morning, the kind that leaves a light mist hovering over any body of water. A pond, a river, a water trough. It is the kind of temperature that the Bavarian steed favors.
As we made a left toward Watkins Glen, I put my right foot down. The Getrag four speed mated to the mechanically fuel-injected 2 liters of motor does not make for neck-snapping acceleration, but once you build a head of steam, it is a locomotive. A mile into the lovely sweeping two-lane, and my right foot was as far down as it would go. The tach was 1000RPM below redline, and the speedo was bouncing around 115MPH. The pastures and occasional clusters of homes were flying by and the gentle sweepers were taken without lifting. In fact, I didnt even know there were sweepers the day before at more sedate speeds ! About 500RPM below redline and the speedo was buried. The fastest I had ever been in this car, but the motor sounded like it would happily stay there all day. Left and right through sweepers and flat out on the straights, there were no other cars on the road. The glove box vibrated open. Ed pushed it back shut. At some point, I realized that I was grinning or maybe even laughing. Ed sat calmly in the co-pilot seat. Still no need to lift after a few miles, and easily the longest that I have ever had my foot to the floor. Far longer than on track. The car could go no faster, but it held steady.
Then from behind there was a glint of headlight. I had already decided that this was worth the ticket, and kept my foot where it was. The headlights steadily gained. After the next sweeper, the headlights were a few hundred yards behind, and I lifted slightly and waited for the blue lights to come on…..no lights…..Instead, the headlights put on a burst of acceleration and pulled up alongside me. It was a 1994 M5. They gave a thumbs up and pulled ahead. I put my foot back down to the floor, but they were gone.
2 miles later, and there was a stop ahead. There waiting at the stop was the M5. The driver was standing with the door open. As I pulled up he walked toward the car. I rolled down the window. His co-pilot came out as well.
“You were flying man, I was trying to catch you for a while. What the hell do you have in this thing?” He was looking at the hood of the car.
“Bone stock” I said.
“No way, I have been looking for one of these”. He walked around the car, nodding.
They jumped back in and headed off. Although we made it to the photo op, got to drive the original Watkins Glen track, and did parade laps of the new track, nothing surpassed the memory of the drive that morning. The speedo is optimistic (and it was pinned), so I don’t know how fast we were actually going, but it doesn’t really matter. It is almost as if a Zippo lighter had lit a fire under a Vintage car, providing a personal Grand Prix on its way to Watkins Glen. I have gone faster, but it remains the second longest period of time with any car or motorcycle that I have ever been flat out. The longest was two-up on a Honda 50, but that was a different experience……..