Lost Track: The Bridgehampton Road Course
In our ‘Lost Tracks’ series, we’ve already examined the demise of ‘The Bridge’, the purpose built track designed to replace the increasingly dangerous road course at Bridgehampton. But let us look back to the simpler, county road course in Bridgehampton.
We were first inspired to start looking into America’s forgotten racetracks by the Last Open Road series of books, which follow the exploits of auto mechanic Buddy Palumbo as he enters the early years of America’s road-racing scene. The first race we get to experience alongside Buddy, is the 1952 race on the streets of Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York.
There Buddy glimpses some of the finest racing machinery in the world, and is immediately hooked. Pulled into road racing by the adventure embodied in the Briggs Cunningham cars, the Ferraris, the little Porsches, and Siatas. But also sees the dangers of racing amongst crowds of poorly protected spectators, varying road conditions, curbs and bridge abutments. Ultimately these are the factors that killed road racing on city streets and drove racers to closed circuits—killing a good chunk of the romance of racing along with it.
The real Bridgehampton of 1952 was indeed a popular, community led affair. Sponsored by the local Lions club and the SCCA, there were 5 featured races: The Sagaponack Trophy Race for production cars under 1500cc, the Mecox Trophy race (modified 1500cc), the Hamptons Cup (production over 1500cc), the Bridgehampton (modified over 1500cc), and the Hayground Cup race (anything goes).
There was quite a turnout of machinery for the race in ’52. Porsche 356s dominated the sub-1500cc categories, with the exception of Frank Bott’s OSCA, which took the modified class averaging 74mph. Today’s speed limit on Bridge Ln. (the longest straight) is 40mph.
The Briggs Cunningham team was there, debuting the C4R, sadly it dropped a wheel in the 12th lap. Leaving the Ferraris, Allards, and Jags to battle it out in the high displacement laps around town.
Which brings us to the course itself. From the start finish line on Ocean Rd, the course wraps around the 4 miles created by Ocean Rd., Sagaponack Rd., Main St., and Bridge Ln. Here is a map of the current location. I wouldn’t go blasting around the course too fast in your 4 Liter Ferrari (the winning car of the ’52 Bridgehampton Cup) too fast. But if you do, send me some photos. or a video!
It’s easy to see why B.S. Levy chose to set the stage for Buddy Palumbo to fall in love with sportscars and road racing at this particular race. The race reports show it to have been a fantastic grouping of cars very early in American road racing. You’d very likely go your whole life without seeing a ferrari on the road, but if you were on Long Island that weekend, you saw 5 of them.
There is a surprisingly large amount of information on the web about the 1952 race at Bridgehampton.
• Lewis Shadoff has an absolutely brilliant series of color photos shot at the race here. This is where I found the photo at the top of this post.
• The mighty Etceterini has some scans from Road & Track on the race.
• Arte Auto is selling this copy of the official program.