Reims-Gueux, France: After seeing the dilapidated grandstands and pit boxes of the circuit in several racing magazines, it became a quest to visit the circuit that was for a time the fastest Formula One venue. [Paul Gohde Photo]
The Bucket List - Part II
by Paul Gohde
In a previous column I set out to look at my "Bucket List" of race tracks and events that I've attended, want to visit, or will never have the opportunity to see. I listed five places that began my List and will give you the final five this time.
My first five on the List were: Ascot, CA/ LeMans 24- Hour/ Daytona 500/ Indianapolis 500/ Brooklands, UK. (Read the article - click here
Here are the remaining tracks and events on my List:
6.) Meadowdale Raceway - Carpentersville, IL: Opened in 1958 by visionary real estate developer Leonard Besinger Sr., the 3.27 mile road circuit was to be the cornerstone of a residential and commercial complex in the far northwest Chicago suburb of Carpentersville. The track featured a 4,000 ft. mainstraight that was mostly downhill and a steeply banked "Monza Wall" that became the site of many incidents. Events included SCCA National races and club affairs, USAC Late Models, motorcycles, go-karts and drag racing. The track's candle burned brightly for eleven seasons, but despite much activity, dwindling crowds combined with modest facilities doomed the track's future and it closed for good in 1969. Plans were laid to revive the facility with a 1.5 mile oval but nothing materialized and the renamed Illinois International Raceway never reopened. I had never seen a race there but have visited the site many times since it was made into a nature preserve with the track serving as a great walking circuit. Several local residents, combined with the Meadowdale International Raceway Preservation Association (MIRPA), have undertaken many projects to maintain and improve the area and educate the public regarding the track's history. The former raceway is located on Illinois Hwy. 31 north of Huntley Rd. in Carpentersville.
7.) Eldora Speedway - Rossburg, OH: Built as a quarter-mile dirt track by Earl Baltes and opened 1954, the present- day half-mile, high-banked dirt oval came online in 1958 and has hosted major World of Outlaw and USAC races for years under Baltes' and now Tony Stewart's ownership. Events such as the King's Royal and World 100 along with Stewart's Prelude to the Dream featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup stars, regularly fill the 20,000 seat stands. Baltes roughed-in a one-mile dirt track years ago, but it was never completed. This track is one of the premier short tracks in the country and is still on my Bucket List. It will hopefully get checked off soon.
8.) Sebring International Raceway: Listed at 3.7 miles, the bumpy, flat road circuit is laid out on a WWII airfield in central Florida and has hosted a 12-hour endurance race for several sports car sanctioning bodies since 1952. A Formula One US Grand Prix played to small crowds in 1959 and never returned. But it is the once-around-the-clock endurance race, today a part of the American Le Mans (ALMS) schedule that draws fans every March. I have visited the track on a non-race day, but watching a 12- hour race here holds great appeal and will hopefully have a check mark on my List very soon.
9.) Monza Autodrome- Milan, Italy : Built in 1922 in the Royal Park of Monza, the rabid fans of Ferrari have followed the exploits of the Prancing Horse for 61 F1 events held at the circuit. The original shallow-banked oval and road course lasted until 1939 and a newer high banked oval was used as part of the F1 track from 1955-69 when it went unused due to a deteriorating surface. The oval alone was used for two years in 1957-58 as the venue for the "Race of Two Worlds" that pitted Indianapolis cars and drivers against Formula 1 teams. It's the high-banked track that has drawn my interest ever since the filming of the James Garner movie "Grand Prix" in 1966. Whether I see an F1 race there or just walk the iconic surface of the banking, this visit is a must see someday.
10.) Reims-Gueux, France: After seeing the dilapidated grandstands and pit boxes of the triangular Champagne-country circuit in several racing magazines, it became a quest to visit the circuit that was for a time the fastest Formula One venue. Races had been run on highways outside of Reims since 1926. By 1952 the track that had raced through the tiny town of Gueux, now by-passed the village as the circuit was altered to increase its speed to compete with Spa-Francorchamps as the fastest F1 circuit. The French Grand Prix abandoned the course after 1966 as local governments hesitated to close public roads for racing events. The track has been revived in recent years as a host for vintage racing and the facilities have been remodeled to host these events. We found the circuit on a trip to the area in 2007 and met a member of the restoration effort who was painting pit boxes. We have exchanged racing items through the mail several times and continue to communicate on the internet.
Having a Bucket List made the discovery of the Reims circuit and my friendship with Alain a reality. I hope these columns lead you to make your own List and that you have a rewarding time visiting the racing gems that are out there.
Again, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Bucket List. We'll print some of your comments.