Bridgehampton Road Rally 2012 – Photo by Corbin Vreeland
I’m unhinged by the thundering noise, zigzagging cars, flashing metallic colors, burning fuel, sizzling heat and blindingly bright light. Even the peaceful horizon, with steeples in Sag Harbor and sailboats on Peconic Bay, is strangely dizzying. The bridge is shaking, but only because I am.
The racing began on the streets, just as it had in Watkins Glen and such far-off places as Monte Carlo. The track opened in 1957 and later became known as ’The Bridge.’
The Bridgehampton Race Circuit Map
Geoff Gehman wrote The Kingdom of the Kid - Growing up in the Long Lost Hamptons”:
‘The Bridgehampton Road Race was scenic and magnetic, annually attracting upwards of 180 drivers and 40,000 spectators. It was also dangerous, with snow fences and hay bales masquerading as safety barriers. In 1953 local governors canceled the popular street competition after three spectators were hit by a car dodging a pedestrian chasing a runaway hat. The same year Clark, Stevenson and service-station owner B.J. “Mummy” Corrigan decided to fill the racing void by building a safer, bolder, out-of-town track. They spent the next three years buying nearly 600 acres of Bridgehampton land chartered in 1685 by King James II. The byzantine operation involved the purchase of hundreds of lots—most used for fishing, hunting and foraging, many with long-lost owners.
The Bridge opened in 1957 with races for cars, motorcycles, bicycles and even runners. Shaped like an abstract whale, the course had the bite of a Great White shark. The 2.85 miles of asphalt pavement featured bumpy and sandy patches, four elevation changes totaling 130 feet and eight turns. The first turn, the Millstone, was famously hair- and hell-raising—a true millstone. After hitting up to 170 mph on a 3,100-foot straightaway, drivers had to prepare for three right-hand bends–all quick, all downhill, all blind, all scary.’
Mario Andretti and Paul Newman in the Pit
“You didn’t dare miss that first bend,” says Mario Andretti. “You had to be very precise. If you didn’t know where you were going, you could get lost. You’d end up in Long Island Sound—or Coney Island.” Paul Newman is in the pits because he was sponsoring Mario Andretti.
Charles Addams with His Alfa, Bridgehampton 1957
This is a photo of Charles Addams with some track officials and enthusiasts taken at Bridgehampton in 1957.
Addams’ used a supercharged Mercedes Model S sports tourer several times at Bridgehampton, an event right in his backyard. Certainly he was there in 1951. For the road, he tried out an Aston Martin DB2, moving up to a Mercedes 300 sedan in 1954, giving in trade an Austin Healey. But the class drive of the decade was an extremely rare Alfa Romeo 8C2300 that, despite the wishes of a previous British owner, found its way into the US.
Rarely missing an event near his beach home in Westhampton Beach, Addams was apparently very happy with the Alfa and had little trouble with it. 1959 found him again at Bridgehampton, where he entered the Alfa in what was becoming the traditional running of the Vintage Sports Car Club race. Dan Donahue’s Bugatti took first, and Briggs Cunningham in a 1914 Mercedes came in second, and Addams finished third in the Alfa 2300, beating two big Bentleys to the finish. Charles Addams the cartoonist took to designing the program covers for ‘The Bridge' as the race became known!