David Holmes and one piece of his impressive car collection are making their way to the infamous Watkins Glen International next week as part of celebrations for the track’s reopening.
The Elmira resident is used to being asked to show his cars. He owns four race cars and five vintage street cars.
This time around he’s been asked to bring his 1949 MG TC.
“It was raced in the early 50s by a Canadian by the name of Tommy Hoan. He started racing in Ontario at the airport tracks and then he went down to the States. In 1952 he was clocked on Grand Island in that car in a race doing 107 miles an hour, which was absolutely phenomenal and then he went down to Watkins Glen,” Holmes explains.
Owned by NASCAR, Watkins Glen is one of the most famous race tracks in the world. The opening weekend from Apr. 15-17 will start off the 2016 racing season.
Hoan drove this car in Watkins Glen when they used to race on the country roads.
“They would race through town and then about eight miles out into the country and then back into town. And there was an accident where a little boy was killed – it happened in front of Tommy Hoan – and it ended road racing in America. And after that they built a race track,” Holmes said.
Hoan sold the car in 1953 and it stayed in the States until 2010 when Holmes learned that the man who owned it had died suddenly.
“I made a beeline to Jamestown, New York and brought the car back to Canada where it’s going to stay,” Holmes said.
Holmes has been racing with the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada for nearly a decade now, having taken on the sport when he was nearing 60.
While his trophy case is full, he’s most proud of his 2010 Copper Bucket by the MG Vintage Racers of America for “representing the spirit of vintage racing,” which he received after only four years of racing.
Holmes recently returned to Elmira from Lakeland, Florida where he spends the winter, in order to fix the car before the event.
“The car broke on me with one lap to go in the second last race. I broke an oil pressure line to the head. That’s why I’m back here freezing my butt off because I had to come back, fix the oil line, and then run the car to make sure that there wasn’t any damage to the engine. Because if there was damage then I’d have to put another motor in it,” Holmes said.
He raced the 1949 MG TC in Amelia Island, which was also an airport raceway. He says they haven’t raced there since 1972, so it was a big event. He hadn’t planned on going because of complications with getting a medical done. But he ran into someone in Lakeland who worked for the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association who told him he was eligible to race because he’d had a physical within the year.
He zipped back home to Canada, picked up his race car and his son, and returned to Amelia Island.
“The first day there, this same lady asked me if I would like to participate in a promotional for the race. It was being done at the Channel 4 Jacksonville TV station, which I agreed to. There I met Tony Parella who owns SVRA, and I gave him a little history on the car. He did the promotion, he was interviewed and I was in the background,” Holmes said.
There were two cars brought down for that event, his and a Corvette. Parella asked Holmes if he was busy in April and he said he wasn’t.
“He said they’re having a ceremony to celebrate the reopening of the track because they repaved the track. The governor’s going to be there, the mayor, and a whole bunch of other dignitaries. He said that he would pay me to bring my car down and drive it around the track for half a day and maybe give rides. I pretty quickly said yes,” Holmes said.
A variety of vintage race cars will be showcased at the ceremony as part of the track’s opening weekend.
As for if any of said dignitaries will get to go for a spin in Tommy Hoan’s former car?
“I think there’s a good chance that’ll happen.”