Beautifully engraved certificate from the Bridgehampton Road Races Corporation issued in 1957. This historic document was printed by Ryan-West Bank Note and has an ornate border around it. This item is hand signed by the Company's President ( B.J. Corrigan ) and Secretary and is over 53 years old.
The Bridgehampton Road Races Corporation was authorized to issue stock on November 30, 1953. Its officers were local businessmen and the Board of Directors included representatives from the Motor Sports Club of America, Sports Car Club of America and Long Island Sports Car Association plus Southampton's socialite proprietor of the Long Island Automotive Museum, Henry Austin Clark Jr.
President B.J. Corrigan's gas station on Montauk Highway and Austie Clark's museum became stockbroker's offices. Local businessmen and strollers were offered shares at $5 a clip from a sidewalk card table in front of the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton. In the end, the BRRC was able to amass almost 600 acres of the forested ridge north of Bridgehampton at a mere $60 an acre.
Al Piloff and Jake Bohn of Garden City were commissioned to begin a topographic survey and engineering drawings for the new circuit. Although a "design competition" for the layout of the circuit was conducted, the Board of Directors took personal credit for the final layout of their new racetrack.
The inaugural sports car races took place on September 28 and 29 of 1957, but it's a largely forgotten fact that members of the Metropolitan Harley Davidson Dealer's Association were the guinea pigs who baptized the circuit three weeks earlier. They celebrated the opening with a full fledged Sportsmen's Road Race, offering free admission to all spectators arriving on motorcycles.
In 1958 the NASCAR gang added a second race weekend to the calendar. The "Good Ol'Boys" arrived in full force for a 100 mile Grand National Race for full bodied American sedans. "Cannonball" Baker led the officials as National Commissioner of NASCAR and Bill France was listed as the President. Buck Baker, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty and Fireball Roberts were among the field of 31 entrants in a thundering herd of Chevys, Fords, and Pontiacs. Historically, this may have been the first Grand National stock car race ever held on a non-oval road course.
However, even after four years of anticipation, bank loans and promissory notes had to be used to complete the circuit by opening day. Demands from several creditors such as road builder Ercole Colasante continually plagued the corporation. Once open, the track gates were overwhelmed and many spectators avoided the crowds by simply walking in through the surrounding woods.
In 1959 Ed Krom persuaded Lou Figari, a professional sports promoter, to join with him, Schmidt and Tredwell in creating Bridgehampton Enterprises Inc. Under lease from BRRC, these more astute businessmen worked to reduce the corporate debt and improve the circuit's spectator amenities. Most notably, the exclusive Circuit Club compound next to the timing tower and the Lowenbrau pedestrian bridge across the main straight were constructed. A nice block of armchair seats were salvaged from the venerable Polo Grounds in New York and erected across from the pit lane.
The New York Daily Mirror came on board as sponsor of the Bridgehampton Double 400 in 1962. This was the first event ever sanctioned at the circuit by FIA, the worldwide automobile manufacturer's association that schedules professional racing throughout Europe. Long Island's South Fork was thereby blessed as a destination for the elite of the sports car racing community from around the world. Typically, Italy's premier automaker, Enzo Ferrari sent a car to Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team. Chinetti introduced a young Mario Andretti, who was to become America's second World Champion, to sports car racing at Bridgehampton.
In 1965 the races were extended to 500 kilometers and the natural amphitheater which commands a panoramic view of the hairpin curve and the bays beyond was dedicated to the recently deceased Ed Krom. When viewed from Krom Overlook, the peaceful serenity of sailboats on the bay juxtaposed with the frenzied excitement of race cars in competition offers a truly unique experience for the spectator, which may soon be lost forever.
"The Bridge" was now hosting four spectator events annually. Bridgehampton Enterprises continued to operate the track throughout the glorious days of the US Road Racing Championship, SCCA's first professional series. Then came its stepchild, the Canadian American Challenge for FIA's Group 7 "Unlimited Prototypes" which was a truly international competition for the fastest cars in the world.
Californian Dan Gurney revisited his roots on Long Island when he ran away with the first Bridgehampton CAN-AM in a Lola sports racer on September 18, 1966, one week after the inaugural round at St. Jovite in Quebec. Entrants from Long Island included Bobby Brown in another Lola with Joe Buzetta and Herb Wetanson driving exotic Porsche 906's and Bill Wonder watching from the pits.
Also featured were American stars Mark Donohue, Sam Posey, Al Unser Sr. and Phil Hill in Jim Hall's innovative winged Chaparral. Right from the outset, the CAN-AM attracted drivers and race car builders from around the world. Gurney had bested Englishman John Surtees and New Zealand's Bruce McClaren, a typical privateer who set the highest standards for the series until his untimely death at age 32.
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