Special to ESPN.com
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- In the autumn of 1974, 21-year-old Bobby Rahal got into his bright orange '72 BMW 2002tii and pointed it east toward Watkins Glen, N.Y.
It turned out to be a memorable weekend for Rahal -- he won the first-ever Formula Atlantic race at The Glen and his resolve to drive in Formula One was strengthened after he watched Carlos Reutemann drive a Brabham BT44 to victory in the United States Grand Prix.
Fast forward to fall, 2005. After watching his son Graham drive to a dominant Formula Atlantic victory in the SCCA National Runoffs at Mid- Ohio Sports Car Course on Friday, 52-year-old Bobby Rahal jumped into his freshly-restored BMW 2002tii -- the very same car that served as his street transportation more than 30 years ago -- and drove it to Watkins Glen.
To complete the retro trip, Bobby then hopped into the very same Brabham that Reutemann used to win the '74 USGP and drove it to victory in the 10-lap Historic Grand Prix race run in support of the IndyCar Series' Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix.
Bobby Rahal got to drive the car he could only dream of driving 31 years ago.
Talk about a dream weekend. For Rahal, it helped avenge less-than- stellar memories of his own brief F1 career, which totaled just two races with Walter Wolf Racing in late 1978. He made his F1 debut at -- where else? Watkins Glen.
"This car is now 2-for-2 at this circuit and it was a dream come true for me to drive it," Rahal said of Gordon Murray's BT44 design, which won five F1 races in the hands of Reutemann and Carlos Pace in 1974-75. "When I was here in October of '74 when I won the Atlantic race I watched this car win and I dreamt of driving a car like this. If you're at all romantic about racing, which I am, it's so much fun to drive these cars and it's nice to appreciate what it was like in a really great era for Formula One."
Rahal qualified on the front row and led from start to finish despite a strong challenge from Hamish Somerville in an ex-Alan Jones 1980 Williams FW07B. The only disappointing aspect of the HGP race for the fans who watched (including IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti, a keen student of racing history) was that Duncan Dayton completed only one lap in the JPS Lotus 79 that Mario Andretti drove to the 1978 F1 World Championship.