I'm not sure any of us know exactly how BARC came about. It simply happened too long ago. Joe Tierno was the first that got hooked on Sports Car racing and saw his first at Watkins Glen in 1954. My path came through a beating by my big brother in the summer of 1956. I was asleep on our front porch (everybody had gliders and rocking chairs in those days) and he attacked me with the September issue of Sports Cars Illustrated. I still have that magazine. When he finished his big brother duties, I grabbed the mag and read it. That's how it started. The next thing was he heard about these sports car races not too far away at Watkins Glen and because I drove my parents nuts complaining; he had to take me. Not knowing any better, those races were the most fantastic thing I had ever seen. The SCCA didn't see it that way and refused to sanction the event because they felt the track was not finished and unsafe. Good old Cam Argetsinger and his group had done too much work to let the New England boys tell them what to do and they put the race on anyway. Taking a look at some of my old photo's, the Connecticut fella's may have had a point.
Back to Barcboys Home
This photo was taken at the still famous "chicane" at the
farthest point from the start. The pavement had started breaking up a bit and
you can see that any off road trips were going to be exciting. It didn't
seem odd at the time but the whole course had drainage ditches around it.
They may have served double duty by draining water and keeping cars away from
spectators, but over the years I saw a few cars go into those deep ditches and
The biggest thrill of all in '56 was to watch an honest-to-God D type Jaguar race. In fact there were 2 of them. George Constantine won in an ugly mustard colored car and Jack Ensley was second in a nice pale yellow one.
We were a big Ford family and that year a guy named Charlie Weiss drove a T-bird against the XK Jags and Corvettes, and did not fare badly until his tiny drum brakes simply faded him away to 8th place. The Jags made that fantastic basso straight six bellow and the Vette's and T-bird's raucous V8 staccato dominated the experience but a wispy whooshing sound was all you heard from Paul O'Shea's 300SL and he was outta sight after the first lap. When we got home my father simply would not believe some 6 cylinder could beat a V8 T-Bird.
Everyone started High School in 1956 except me. Because I was a New Year's
baby I had to start in January 1957 rather than September '56. It was at
Binghamton Central High School that Dave Zych and I met this incredible Cardiff
Giant named Steve Vail. Dave lived a few blocks away from our house and on
most mornings would walk down and catch a ride with me to school. We
didn't have cars in High School in those days; a ride meant my Dad and Uncle
Joe's route to their shop went close to school. It was a few miles walk
and we were rarely not on time. You've heard those folk tales about "I
used to walk 2 miles to school in the rain or snow"? Well it was the truth
in the 50's. School Bus? What's a School Bus?
It wasn't long before Tierno heard about us - we heard about Vail and all of
us got together. It was very rare for anybody in the US to know much about road racing; much less 4 teenagers in upstate New York. So the die was cast and BARC was formed.
We were maniacs. There was no fact we didn't know and we did not suffer fools. We studied everything and could easily see when somebody without talent was blowing smoke. Spankey Smith came on the scene and he taught us more. Soon we were able to score races, never miss a lapped car, keep up with splits and who was coming forward and who was having trouble. The goal, naturally was for us to become F1 drivers or win LeMans. While that obviously never happened, it all turned out OK.
The BARBBOYS circa 1958 at the Southern New York SCCA
L to R Steve Vail, Joe Tierno, Dave Nicholas, Dave Zych