A Watkins Glen Story

A Watkins Glen Story
Writer Geoff Wheatley tells about an encounter with Sr. Sterling Moss at Watkins Glen back in 1988
Published by: All Car central Plublishing
Date published: 03/24/2014

A Watkins Glen Story


You readers may recall that Watkins Glen celebrated forty years of racing in 1988 with a reenactment of the first race on the streets of the town. I think that just about every classic car club in the north east attended and/or sent a team of drivers to participate. My wife and I were one of those team drivers utilizing a 1952 MGTD in company with several of my fellow members of the NEMGT Register. The first part of the run was to climb up a hill that was about one in four steep and about three miles long. At the top you took a sharp right hand bend past some bales of straw, (That was a nice touch for authenticity) then a short run with another sharp right hand turn to take you to the down side of the hill that you had just managed to with some effort to climb.

(Not Geoff)

When I say steep, I mean steep, and despite dropping to third gear the car seemed to have a life of its own with a strong desire to beat the world speed record. Just to add a touch of real terror, at the bottom of the hill was/is another sharp left then right hand bend that takes you back onto Main Street where there were crowds of spectators waiting for you and cheering. The true moment of relief and pride, with the burning question in the back of your mind... Will she ever get in this car again?

We had both dressed in racing white coveralls and sported a white race helmet and goggles, all part of the joy of celebrating the anniversary. There were various locations to park the cars after the race display so we duly parked and set off for a midday libation in the local pub. Obviously we wanted to get out of the white racing gear so the Ladies and Gents toilets offered such accommodation, then on to the bar for a couple of beers.

Sir Sterling Moss
Pebble Beach 2012


As we sat down a young man around twenty five..(All people under forty are young to me at this stage in my life.) and asked if we had been in the race display which of course I said yes. As is often the case if you have an English accent especially around English cars like the MG, people ask other various questions. Usually how long...what made you come...will you go back etc. In this case the question was far less complicated...(" Do you know Sterling Moss"). Apart from once seeing him at some race event in the UK at a distance of at least 500 feet the honest answer should have been No but...Sitting there with my racing gear complete with hat and goggles, the answer had to be Yes. "What's wrong with a small lie especially in a pub in Watkins Glen"? The young man turned to his companion and said in a rather loud voice...(He knows Sterling!) This caught the attention of my wife who gave me that look at all married men are aquatinted with, so I quickly downed my beer and decided that the time had come to think about getting the car back to the hotel. As we moved towards the door we were followed by our two new friends...

As we stepped onto the pavement there in front of me were three or four people and in the center was...Wait for it...Sterling Moss. He was there to see his name placed in the sidewalk in company with other famous race drivers who had graced Watkins Glen over the years. My new found friend and his companion grabbed my arm and insisted that I introduce them to Sterling. "As they say in good prose, a moment of true reflection!"

OK... What can I lose apart from my dignity...Hi Sterling I heard myself say. He looked up smiled and noticed that I was carrying a racing outfit complete with goggles!! The smile gave me a little more courage. "Geoff Wheatley Sterling, nice to see you again, when you have a minute can you say hello to these two race fans... Sterling...Sure Geoff be with you as soon as I can.

By now the three guys from the local media with press cameras were taking pictures on me and my companion wife who was also clutching her racing out fit!

Mercedes Benz 300SLR 722 1955

The event was over in a matter of minutes and Sterling came over shook my hand and made some friendly comment about how long it had been since we last met...The two fans asked for an autograph and got their wish.

I felt a slight tug on my sleeve as my wife whispered "Quit While You Are Ahead' I took the hint.

Got to go Sterling, see you again at some event and take care. We both smiled and I turned and walked away. We have never met since but should the situation ever repeat again I will have every good reason to say "Not seen you since Watkins Glen..., Mate!

Sir Sterling Moss
and the Mercedes Benz 300SLR 722 1955
Pebble Beach 2011

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