Thursday, July 28, 2022

Racing at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut--July 15-17, 2022

Finally back on the road again for a Corvette event!  The last time we went across the border to the United States was in October 2019 but then the whole world shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Our tickets for the IMSA races at Lime Rock Park were put on hold as racing stopped but now things are back to sort-of-normal.

Crossing the border at Prescott, Ontario/Ogdensburg, New York was a breeze and authorities on the US side had no interest in my proof-of-vaccination so it was onward to I-81 and points south.  Of course, as soon as I turned towards Ogdensburg I ended up joining a caravan of several police cars, service trucks and a transporter carrying one blade of a wind turbine.  The circus only slowed down to get around corners but otherwise move along at good clip so I was not delayed much before turning off to get to the Interstate.

My plan was to meet our friends Mark and Sherry near Syracuse on the NY Thruway but I had gotten through the border so quickly that I needed to slow down or would have been far too early.  We often take a break at the Dunkin Donuts shop just off I-18 near Adams, New York, so I stopped there for a coffee and a donut and decided to drive into Adams proper and look around.

The township was founded around 1800 as a sawmill was constructed and it was named after President John Adams in 1802, after his term in office had ended.  The village of Adams was incorporated in 1857 and by 1950 had 1,700 residents, more or less the same number it has today.  The "downtown" area is designated as an historical district but as my visit showed there is not much going on there.  Almost every building I walked around was empty, although the cheese shop seems to be doing some business.  No cannolis at the bakery though as it was awaiting new owners.

My dawdling was sufficient and I was soon back on the highway heading south and then east on the New York Thruway to meet my friends at the Dewitt Clinton Travel Plaza.  I looked around there for a few minutes after parking the Corvette in an obvious place and was soon joined by Mark and Sherry.  Mark had recently taken delivery of his beautiful C8 Hard Top Convertible and it arrived at the Travel Plaza with around 800 miles on the odometer.  This was the first C8 HTC I have seen and it is gorgeous! 

New C8 and Old C6 Corvettes

A drive along the Thruway for 2 1/2 hours brought us to our overnight destination, Albany, the capital of New York State.  Our accommodation was a beautiful 1884 renovated mansion, the Washington Park Inn.  Although I had confirmed our reservations there were some communication problems and we were fortunate that someone was there to let us in.  The rooms was airy and modern and there was a 24 hour serve-yourself breakfast area.

That evening we drove through central Albany to reach the C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station for some local beer.  The pump house was started in 1875 and reached its final form in 1895, with some 8,000 square feet of floor space and two massive cranes.  It was taken out of service in 1932 and the brewery was opened there in 1999.  There was an Evans Brewery in nearby Hudson, New York, which operated until 1920 and a descendant of that family business is owner of the brewery in Albany.  There was an impressive range of craft beer on offer and some good pub grub too.

Well fed and watered, we returned to the Inn and sat on the front porch for a while.  Across the street was Washington Park, a big urban green space that included a skateboard and BMX park.  Each of the evenings we were there a group of motorcyclists rode up and down Madison Avenue, the main street in front of us, doing wheelies, going so vertical that sparks were coming from dragging tailpipes.  Oddly, there was no reaction to this dangerous practice and we never saw a police car in the area although this seems to be a regular thing.

Saturday arrived with great weather so it was time to head to Connecticut and Lime Rock Park.  It was just under 90 minutes and was a beautiful drive.  After leaving the Thruway we were on the Taconic State Parkway, meandering through the hills before getting onto some narrow country roads, ideal for Corvette driving.

We passed through some very very small towns and then came to Interlaken, which seems to have the best landscaped prep school on the planet and reeks of money, before coming to Lakeville and Lime Rock Park.  There was a huge lineup of cars but as holders of passes to the Corvette Corral we were able to sweep on on a back entrance and park among the others of our species.  Unlike some of the other Corrals we have attended this was pretty much all we got for the extra money but we were happy enough not to sit in a traffic jam for an hour.  Lots of Corvettes were present and rolling in and it is always fun to see them and the personalized plates I am too cheap to order for myself.

Ah...the C8 Coupe of my dreams!

As always, one begins the visit to the track with a wander down from the parking area along the hill where people are already set up for the day and watching some of the early racing.  Lime Rock Park does not have bleachers but given the naturally hilly environment there are plenty of places to set up a chair and get a good view of the track, which is set up in such a way that you can see several corners from one vantage point.

After a short walk, including the covered bridge over the track, we arrived in the paddock area where there is always lots going on during race day, whether it is the Michelin people moving hundreds of tires around or the teams getting their cars prepped.  Qualification was on Friday, which we did not see, and, alas, Corvette Racing's sole C8.R did not place very well, being in the back of the seven car GTD Pro class grid.  In previous years we had seen Corvette Racing in the GTLM class but as participation in that class dwindled, leaving two C8.Rs and a private Porsche 911 only, IMSA changed the structure and allowed Corvette to enter a car in what is essentially the GT3 category, with cars that are available to privateers and not just factory entries.  The GT Daytona Pro (GTD Pro) and GT Daytona (GTD) cars are identical, the only difference being that the GTD cars must have an "amateur" driver in the crew, the other being a professional.

The Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3.R, winner of the GTD class at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona this year

WeatherTech Racing's Mercedes-AMG-GT3 Evo, GTD Pro

Heart of Racing Team fielded two Aston Martin Vantage GT3s, one in each class, and were winners in both classes at the Watkins Glen race the week before

Of course as proud Corvette owners we were there to see Corvette Racing and our timing was perfect as drivers Jordan Taylor (left) and Antonio Garcia (centre) in the photo below were signing posters of the C8.R.  The week before the other Corvette Racing team car won the World Endurance Championship race at Monza in Italy but Corvette was struggling in the North American IMSA GTD Pro series a bit, sitting in second overall but some distance behind the dominant Porsche 911.

The GTD Pro series-leading Porsche 911 GT3.R campaigned by Pfaff Motorsports of Newmarket, Ontario

From the paddock, we walked to another big parking area where some interesting cars were on display, including a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, Citroen 2CV, Chevrolet SSR and even a Corvair station wagon.

Parts supplier FCP Euro was the title sponsor of the GTD race, the Northeast Grand Prix, and showed a turbocharged BMW M3

Handsome BMW M3

Parked nearby was a corral of exotic European cars, with plenty of Ferraris, a white Rolls-Royce Phantom, numerous Aston Martins and McLarens but the real magnet for the crowd was a Pagani Huayra, a car with a base price of US$2.4 million but which is never sold without lots of options.

McLaren 720S

This Pagani Huayra attracted the most attention.  At US$2.4 million for a base car (and all are sold with lots of options) it stood out among the mega-cars.  This car participated in the Pagani Raduno rally in Texas in 2021.

But soon it was time for the race to begin and after looking at the concession stands and the usual souvenirs, we went back to our hill and set up our folding chairs, first passing the Lime Rock Park administration building and then seeing a number of cars, from the GTD class but also the other IMSA classes of Grand Sport and Touring Car, being towed through the paddock area.


Rick Ware Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo, GT Daytona

VOLT Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4, Grand Sport

Corvette C8.R, GTD Pro

Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, GTD

Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, GTD

Before the race began at 3:10 pm, there were three cars on the track, including a Porsche 911 and a Mercedes-AMG GT giving hot laps to some lucky (or terrified) passengers:

The race began on time but was never in much doubt at the Pfaff Porsche 911 led from the start to the finish.  There was some excitement towards the end as the Rick Ware Racing Acura piled into tire wall and there was a safety delay as it was extricated, allowing other competitors to catch up to the Porsche but it was in vain as when racing restarted it easily left the field behind.  The Corvette, with its flat plane crank V8 engine, sounded fantastic and was making up some places when there was a collision with one of the Mercedes-AMGs and although the C8.R came back into the race, it took so long to fix the suspension in the pits that it was never in contention. Alas.

At least we could drown our sorrows and enjoy a beer while watching the race: a Lime Rock Park Lager, an exclusive craft beer made for the track by Great Falls Brewing Company of Canaan, Connecticut!

Here is the brewery's description: "Cold, velvety and easy to drink, Lime Rock Park Lager is a Pilsner Style Lager brewed with these three main ingredients: pilsner malt, flaked brown rice, and Crystal hops. This “cruising beer” was designed to be enjoyed in the infield, outfield, and winners circle."

Returning to Albany, we enjoyed a Mexican restaurant for dinner and then turned in for the night.  I had an uneventful trip back to Ottawa, stopping along the way in the Mohawk Valley to look at the Erie Canal.  I plan to cycle the distance of it in the near future.

A playground at the welcome center invoking memories of the canal as it was

It was a great weekend and the original blistering hot weather forecast was moderated by clouds so it was comfortable at the track.  It was fun to watch the experts on the track but it was fun too to enjoy our Corvettes on some beautiful roads.

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