Through The Esses - Guy Frost's History Of The Bridge - From Streets To Straights To Fairways (PT 1)
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Bridgehampton patch and start line tower
Guy Frost's History Of The Bridge - From Streets To Straights To Fairways (Part 1)

05/20/08 © Andrew S. Hartwell

1957 was an important year in the history of sportscar racing in North America. Several new racing circuits opened that year from Road America in the middle of the nation, to Laguna Seca on the west coast, to Lime Rock Park in Northwestern Connecticut. Each of these circuits remains in operation to this day, with each enjoying continued development and improvement over the last 50 years. Virginia International Raceway also opened in 1957, but it went away for quite some time before Harvey Siegel resurrected it and went on to refurbish the facility in virtually all areas and bring that wonderful track with a storied history back to life.

There was another potentially enduring east coast facility for sportscar racers that opened in 1957. It was the Bridgehampton Race Circuit - commonly referred to as The Bridge' - located on the eastern end of Long Island, a 110 mile long spit of land that stretches due east of New York City. Unlike Laguna Seca, Lime Rock, Road America and VIR however, The Bridge was born premature and lived on life support for most of its existence.

The history of the circuit dates back to the days when cars raced on the local roadways, beginning as early as 1915. Building a suitable purpose-built race circuit away from the primary roads seemed to be the answer to the question of how to continue to race cars and not endanger the spectators who watched them go.

In 1949, the tradition of street racing in the hamlet of Bridgehampton was born, and it continued through 1953. Men like Bruce Stevenson and Henry Austin Clark Jr. were able to bring all the needed resources together to conduct races on local roads. The races were a social focal point for the well heeled residents of the south fork of the island, in the area known simply as The Hamptons'. Drivers from points far and wide loved to bring their latest race cars to this prestigious event and the tradition is remembered to this day by an annual Historic Car celebration that takes place one weekend in October each year.

But street racing in the 1950's was becoming far too dangerous and so that glamorous but short-lived tradition soon came to an end. But there were many who sought to have Bridgehampton remain an important center for sportscar racing, albeit off the local roads and on a purpose built racing circuit. An effort to sell shares in a new facility was begun mid-decade with the formation of the Bridgehampton Road Races Corporation, chartered in 1953. After several years of fundraising, the initial clearing began on a rugged hillside about five miles north of the village. The new track was finally under construction on more than 500 acres of sand and gravel covered with windswept trees and dense underbrush. This was an area set quite some distance back and away from the town itself.
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