Following the dream

A while back my wife Gill and I spent some time in the company of a very friendly couple, Peter and Sjoukje (pronounced Show-keeya) Argetsinger. Peter is one of three sons of Cameron Argetsinger, the man responsible for getting racing going in Watkins Glen in the US, firstly on a road course and later at a purpose-built facility which went on to host the US Grand Prix on numerous occasions and still does host major events such as Nascar and the IRL. 

The Argetsinger dynasty continues to be a much respected one in the world of motor racing, even though they are no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of Watkins Glen. Nowadays, much of their attention is focused on the International Motor Racing Research Centre (IMRRC), a wonderful library and archive located in Watkins Glen itself which houses a treasure trove of motor racing information and memorabilia of great value to people like me who research and write about the history of motor racing. Cameron is the President of the IMRRC, his wife Jean is on the Council, eldest son J.C. (who is a judge) is the Secretary and middle son and author Michael is on the Council too. Youngest son Peter, who is a racing school instructor, is not on the Council but is still a keen supporter of the project. 

I was asked to go over to the IMRRC and give a talk on the Lotus 49, a subject I am pretty familiar with due to my book, published in 1999. The Centre had the actual 1969 US Grand Prix-winning Lotus 49B, which was driven by the late Jochen Rindt, on display and wanted to put on an event themed around the car and its winning exploits 35 years before. Peter and Sjoukje were charged with making us feel welcome during our (short) stay in the Finger Lakes region. On the first night we went out for a lovely meal with them, the local wine being a real eye-opener, having already spent a fabulous time earlier in the evening down on the jetty of the Family’s lakeside holiday home, sipping wine and getting to know our hosts. 

After my presentation the next day (which I think went well although it did last slightly longer than I had planned!), we went for a meal at J.C.’s club in Elmira and spent a lovely evening in the company of the Argetsinger family, the Lotus 49’s new owner Joe Willenpart, and other family friends including Ferrari admirer Paul Medici. It was a pleasure to be able to talk with Cameron and hear his reminiscences about racing at Watkins Glen and some of the stories about the many characters (including all the top drivers) that he met in his capacity as boss of the Watkins Glen circuit. 

The next day, Michael took me round the old Watkins Glen road circuit, while Gill and Sjoukje went out for a spot of shopping. The old ‘Glen’ was a real man’s circuit, with fast sections, bumpy sections, twisty sections and a fabulous, seemingly never-ending curve towards the end of the lap to test the ‘cojones’ of the drivers. All too soon it was time to leave and head back, via Niagara Falls, to Toronto and our flight home the next day.

On the way back, Gill and I chatted about our morning’s adventures and she told me that she had enjoyed a great conversation with Sjoukje about following your dreams, even if at first sight there didn’t seem to be any financial reason (indeed often the opposite!) for doing so. Sjoukje said that if you followed your passion, the work and money would eventually follow you.  Well, it has taken several years for me to finally embrace this way of thinking but I have taken the decision to focus more on my passion, Lotus racing cars, and follow my dream. 

And it is funny how things have already started falling into place! I’ve recently become involved as a Trustee for a charitable company which plans to develop a museum dedicated to preserving the memory of Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus, and I’m also working on several Lotus-related research projects, which may end up becoming books.  At the same time, I am trying to develop a Team Lotus archive, in order to preserve the memories, diaries, photos and memorabilia of former Team Lotus personnel for future generations and I suspect that this will provide me with many more ideas for features and books in the months and years to come. Out of the blue, last weekend I had two added bonuses: firstly, someone I met at the Race Retro show at Stoneleigh gave me four boxes of slides of racing in the 1960s at the Pacific Raceways circuit at Kent, near Seattle; secondly, I was able to pick up a big pile of Lotus World magazines from the 1980s which, as well as including contemporary race reports, had a sizeable historic content, including old photos and interviews with people associated with the earlier days of Team Lotus. I was also able to find a specific edition I had been looking for which included a photo of a car I have been researching, the first such photo I have ever seen.  Lastly, I’ve had two conversations in the past week with people who want to use me to research the history of old Lotus racing cars, based on my previous record in this area.  So it seems that Sjoukje was right. I am following my passion and certainly the work appears to be coming!     




Comments are closed.