Dodge Viper Central
Florida: A Motorsports Theme Park

A Dodge Viper visits Florida's racing roots.

Florida is arguably the birthplace of speed in America. All right, there had been earlier automobile competition in the United States, but racing enthusiasts discovered the broad beaches here as the century began, and word of the super-fast sand spread quickly. The steady procession of international record seekers would last for decades -- until racing Southern style took over at mid-century.
That legacy began in 1902, in Ormond Beach, as a gentle breeze drifted in from the Halifax River and murmured along 100 yards of cypress-planked veranda on the south side of the grand Ormond Hotel. The wealthy winter guests watched with anticipation as racing cars pulled into and out of the Ormond Garage, the nation's first speed shop, just up Granada Avenue toward the ocean. It was where dozens of world land speed record cars would be prepared. In fact, cars for the first beach race were tuned there. Both of them. Ransom E. Olds was the first to be timed on the beach. He bubbled enthusiastically one evening in the hotel's library to his friend and fellow automobile manufacturer, Alexander Winton: "You've no idea, Alex, what a thrill it is out there. Do you know what it feels like to go fifty miles an hour?"

The next morning Olds and Winton breakfasted at dawn in the gracious, columned dining room, exchanging pleasantries as they had on other mornings. One hour later, they sat placidly in racing cars they had fashioned. The Oldsmobile Pirate and the Winton Bullet were aimed south toward Daytona Beach.

Olds straightened his necktie and snapped a salute from the brim of his tweed cap. Winton returned the gesture, and the two cars sped down the sand and disappeared. Later, they reappeared side by side. The men shook hands and proclaimed an absolute tie. What actually happened while they were out of sight, no one will ever know.

The declaration of a tie may have cast the mold for the romantic figures who were to fly World War I fighter planes, but it assuredly was the last time it ever happened in auto racing.

You don't have to live in racing's past when you visit Florida, but it's a lot more fun if you do. Along with it, there is plenty of auto racing's present and future to see. And cruising Florida in a Dodge Viper is the definitive way to go about it. No question.