(MaIN) Battle of the giants... George Follmer’s Porsche 917/10K holds off Mark Donohue’s 917/30KL at the 1973 Mid-Ohio can-am race. Follmer led for 36 laps, before giving best to the “Penske Panzer.” (rIGHT, clockwise from left) Parnelli Jones and Donohue lead a manufacturer-loaded ’ 69 Trans-am field; track founder Les Griebling chats with Brian redman; the newly completed track in ’ 62. (BOTTOM) ed Houlehan’s flamboyant flag-waving greets ’ 69 Trans-am winner ronnie Bucknum.
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a natural-terrain classic with a layout that’s little
changed from when it opened in 1962. In 2011, it celebrates 50 seasons of racing.
Images LAT archive, SportsCar magazine archive
When Les Griebling climbed aboard his road grader in October 1961, and began to carve out a racetrack on 200 acres of tired farmland in Morrow County, Ohio, making a ton of money
from the venture wasn’t top of his agenda. A few miles down the
road, in Mansfield, his auto dealership specializing in British cars
was doing fine, so no worries on that front. First and foremost, he
just wanted a place for him and his friends to go race on a weekend.
At the start of the ’60s, airfield tracks were becoming a rarity,
thanks to kill-joy federal controls. But the final blow for road
racing in the Buckeye State came in 1960, when the Ohio
Legislature brought in an anti-drag-racing law which also killed
off regulated racing on closed public highways – most notably the
races up at Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie.
Facing long treks to get their fix, others
had looked at building road courses in central
Ohio, but were put off by financial realities.
Griebling and his group of investors turned
dreams into a plausible plan when the Sports
Car Club of America agreed to sponsor a driver
school and a race meeting at the new track in
July 1962. Time to get to work and turn the
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course into reality...
To an extent, the shape of the old farm’s
perimeter and the surrounding woods
defined the basic layout, but it was
Griebling’s sense of flow that gave it its
character and challenges. Just like the best
golf course designers, Griebling didn’t fight
the rolling topography, he embraced it,
carving a layout that felt three-dimensional
and natural. And which, bar a few minor
tweaks over the years (including a
straightening of the Thunder Valley section
soon after its construction and, in 1990, a
general widening of the racing surface and
the addition of a straightline section to