Lime Rock steeped in the history of the sport’s greats
Updated 9:42 am, Thursday, May 19, 2016
For 59 years, Lime Rock Park in Lakeville has been a mainstay on the circuit of road racing for both professional drivers and driving fans. The rich history, beautiful scenery, and racing, people have continued to flock to Lime Rock Park.
"It's a beautiful place," said Rick Roso, spokesman for Lime Rock. "It's a park. It's pretty cool...You can drive by and not know it's a racetrack."
While the original 1.5-mile track at Lime Rock Park has been kept intact since its inception, it was repaved with several safety elements added in 2008. But owner Skip Barber has continued to keep the atmosphere of fun, tradition, and racing over the decades.
"For a racing fan it has all this rich deep history and it's unique in the track itself," said Roso.
The history of the track has been well documented with a list of drivers that have not only made a name for themselves in the sport, but are some of the most recognizable legends of it. Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, and Sam Posey have all been a part of the history and tradition that Lime Rock Park has become synonymous with over the years.
While the names of legendary racers that have graced the park, Lime Rock Park does something a bit different than other racetracks in the country. As fans and visitors to the park have the rare opportunity to be able to drive their own cars on the same track as these legends of racing. Erik St. Pierre, chief marketing officer for Partstech, said that the chance to drive around the track allows local area drivers something not only uncommon, but special.
"It give New England drivers the ability to test their own cars in a safe environment," he said. "It's a great venue to have in the state."
Partstech, a web-based automotive ordering platform, recently participated in a winter team building event at Lime Rock Park sponsored by eEuroparts of Windsor. During the event, the groups were allowed on the tracks to drive and take part to "meet business partners and have some fun."
It has been this uniqueness of an experience that has kept families and racing fans of all ages coming back as the track can be rented out to clubs in between big events. However, they come for the races and stay for the majestic views that come along with a great day of racing.
"Its natural beauty combined with history," said Roso.
Lime Rock Park's 60th anniversary will be celebrated in 2017. In anticipation to the milestone, the park, including gardens, ponds, and landscaping, as well as, spectator areas, fencing, and signage have been upgraded. But the draw for racing fans will be the 41-foot wide track that has remained the same for the past 59 years.
"(It's) a challenge to be very fast you want to take up," said Roso of the track.
As the winter session for the park – which has hosted many events like the Partstech and eEuroparts – comes to a close, the summer season for racing fans is about to begin. This will include the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix scheduled for July 22-23. J.J. O'Malley, manager of communications at IMSA, said that holding the race at Lime Rock will be a treat.
"I've been coming there since 1984," he said. "It's a beautiful place to visit and it's a great place to visit."
This year during the event, the standard two sports car classes will be extended to three. The classes will include the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona divisions, as well as, the Prototype Challenge. O'Malley said that the fans that come to watch races at Lime Rock Park are not only there for a show, but they are also "knowledgeable" about the races as well.
In 2009, Lime Rock Park was also added to the National Register of Historic Places for Litchfield County. Roso said that it has been the little things that has kept the track and the tradition of the park intact while making a difference for the fans – this includes keeping the original track.
"Lime Rock track itself never needed (an upgrade)," he said. "So it's very uncommon."
A venue that has stood the test of time, while also being able to stay fresh and new to the fans that pour into the park each year, Lime Rock Park has created a culture of family, history, and a love for racing for over half a century. O'Malley said that it has to do with all of that, plus the strong passion for competition also.
"The great racing that's how you build tradition," said O'Malley. "It's kind of like Fenway Park. Lime Rock is that way."
For more information on Lime Rock Park and the summer racing season, please visit www.limerock.com.