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Emerson Fittipaldi (center) takes a walk through Turn 1 as part of his WGI visit. (Photo provided)
Fittipaldi visits WGI after long absence
Racing Legend returns to celebrate 40th anniversary of his first F1 win
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, July 15 -- On October 4, 1970, Emerson Fittipaldi was behind the wheel of his Lotus-Ford and claimed the first Formula 1 victory of his career at Watkins Glen International.
The victory made Fittipaldi the first Brazilian to win a Formula 1 race, and would help kick-start a legendary career. Almost 40 years later, on Wednesday, July 14, Fittipaldi returned to The Soul of American Road Racing to shoot a documentary and reminisce about his historic win. It had been 30 years since his last visit.
“It is an honor for me to come back to Watkins Glen. So much history and champions over so many eras have raced here,“ said Fittipaldi. “Watkins Glen is the soul of racing in America, and I am very proud to be here after so many years.”
“It was a real thrill having Emerson Fittipaldi up here and seeing his enthusiasm for being back at The Glen,” said Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International. “It is pretty neat to sit with a legend and ask him about his memories and experiences throughout his entire career. Visits such as his really show the power of Watkins Glen International and the important place our legendary road course holds in motorsports history.”
Fittipaldi spent the day in Watkins Glen remembering and describing the race he will never forget. He spent most of the late afternoon and early evening touring the track, including walking through the current Turn 1, also known as the Ninety -- the final turn prior to the finish line in 1970.
Fittipaldi then headed to the top of the FrontStretch Grandstand to get a birds-eye view of the entire track before sitting in the grandstand itself.
The next stop was a visit to the International Motor Racing Research Center on Decatur Street in Watkins Glen to take a stroll down memory lane with the help of pictures and magazines from his historic victory.
The tour of the Watkins Glen area was not complete without a stop at the famed Seneca Lodge (right). Fittipaldi was able to see the championship laurels he received after clinching the 1972 and 1974 F1 Championships since both of them are still hanging on the lodge's walls.
The tradition of hanging laurels in the lodge was started by the winners of the F1 U.S. Grand Prix and has been continued by the drivers of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Will Power did his part to keep the tradition going following his win in the 6th Annual Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 4th.
Fittipaldi’s win at WGI was the first of many in the legend's career. Just two years after his historic win at The Glen, Fittipaldi recorded five wins, two second-place finishes and one third-place finish in 12 races to clinch the 1972 Formula 1 Championship that season. At the age of 25, Fittipaldi was the youngest driver in Formula 1 history to win the championship until Fernando Alonso won in 2005.
He would win his second Formula 1 title with McLaren in 1974 and finish his F1 career in 1980 with 14 wins and 6 poles over a span of 10 years. The urge to race brought Fittipaldi back to racing in CART in 1984, and he did not disappoint. The racing legend claimed two Indianapolis 500 titles, in 1989 and 1993, and the overall CART championship in 1989. He competed in CART until the age of 50 and retired for good in 1996.
Photos in text:
Top: From left: Fittipaldi, Reginaldo Leme, the interviewer for the story being filmed, and Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International, walk down the frontstretch at WGI as Fittipaldi shares stories about his racing career.
Bottom: Fittipaldi shares a laugh with Jack Brubaker (left) as the two watch a video of the racing legend hanging one of his laurels at the Seneca Lodge back in the 1970s. The Brubaker family founded the lodge in 1948 and still owns it to this day. (Photos provided)
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