If you’re not the one cooking, and you can get out of the house for awhile the evening before Thanksgiving, and you happen to be a motor sports fan, you might like to know that the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) in Watkins Glen, New York, is hosting a book launch party that day, according to a press release from the IMRRC issued on November 20. Taking place at the center at 610 S. Decatur Street in the village on Wednesday, November 26, the archival library will celebrate a new publication by Tony Vickio.
According to the press release from the IMRRC, Tony Vickio’s book is entitled “Shifting Gears: Tales of Pistons, Paint Cans, and Personalities.” The book is published by Preston Woods Publishing of Los Gatos, Calif., a company owned by Watkins Glen native, Gordon Cooper. The book chronicles Vickio’s experiences as a racer, painter, and a motor sports insider.
According to the author’s website, Vickio became a “world famous” motor sports lettering painter and sign maker starting back in the 1970s in Watkins Glen. He had been lettering motorcycles and helmets locally when a Formula 1 racer by the name of Graham Hill came to town to compete in the United States Grand Prix. A crewman on Hill’s team said that fuel spilled on Hill’s back wing had taken off the lettering, and Vickio was asked to repaint it. From that time on, he painted lettering on Formula 1 cars that came to race at Watkins Glen. The track, after all, was only four miles from his house.
Throughout the years, Vickio’s work appeared on cars raced by such notables as Jim Clark, John Surtees, Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, and many others. At one point, he lettered, in Japanese, two Teddy Yip cars that went to the Japanese Grand Prix after the Glen. Someone commented after that that Vickio’s work had truly gone international. The quip was tossed out that he had become “world famous,” and since then the moniker has stuck.
About the book project, Vickio commented, “A friend of mine always told me that I should write these stories down, so one night I just started typing notes… it snowballed and I just couldn’t stop.” He continued, “Writing the book was quite an experience – in all honesty, I’m not a reader, but to tell my story and relive it all; man, that was fun. I couldn’t stop. I relived many memories and as I look back on some of them, I honestly cannot believe that I actually did them! Through auto racing and through sign painting, I have quite a unique tale to tell.”
Taking four years to complete the project, Vickio said, “The most fun about writing the book was the reminiscing. Once I started writing, I’d remember things I hadn’t thought of in a long time. I was always going back to these different things I had done.” Vickio has not only painted lettering on world-famous Formula 1 race cars, but he has also painted many signs for race tracks, and other projects as well.
One of the best aspects of Watkins Glen being such a small town in upstate New York is that people who lived there during the heyday of Formula 1 in the United States in the 1960s and 70s are still there and have many stories from that era to share. Books will be available for purchase at the launch, and Vickio will sign them.
The book launch will take place at the IMRRC from 5:30-8 p.m. For more information, contact the International Motor Racing Research Center at 607-535-9044.