The U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, a small hamlet out of harm's way in upstate New York, is the most glamorous international motor race in this country. It is the last of the 12 Formula I events in the world drivers' championship and it is presented in racing's folksiest setting. The Glen is the precise opposite of Monaco, where they roar through the city streets past the elegant old Casino, and a far cry from, say, N√ºrburgring, which is positively urban in comparison with tiny Elmira, N. Y. Watkins Glen lies hidden in the wine country where the air is so clean that it stings the lungs. The hills unroll into the distance like festive patchwork quilts of reds, umber and golds as—exactly on schedule every year—the landscape explodes into autumn color, heightening the incongruity of pastoral calm and straightaways taken at 200 mph. With all this to offer, it was inevitable that the Glen would be discovered by that great new mobile army of Americans—the young. Beaded, bearded and occasionally bombed, they converge for a rocking, rolling pageant. The Spirit of Woodstock prevails, the kids mixing in their easygoing fashion with the serious fans. They camp out, frolic in the mud, weave garlands of fallen leaves into their hair and, now and then, watch the race cars rolling by.
Bursting over the crest of a curving hill on the Watkins Glen course, a Formula I driver could—if he had the time to glance up—see the U.S. Grand Prix being played out against the spectacular backdrop of autumn foliage at left. But, upon closer inspection, the setting breaks down to an even more familiar racing scene: young and happy crowds, living and littering it up with abandon and enjoying the event as the last outing of the summer, a time when—as with the two gentlemen at right—a beer break can become just as important a move as capturing it all on film.
"I not speak the English so good," declares World Driving Champion Emerson Fittipaldi at 25, "but then, I speak the driving well."