American Le Mans Series
New England Grand Prix
July 2-5, 2004
This was a must see event - the first time that the ALMS and the C5R Corvettes were ever racing this close to home. Lime Rock Park is located in the north-west corner of Connecticut, a really beautiful area with great Corvette roads. It is a beautiful facility, both for racing and for spectators as well. I had my weekend pass and room reserved back in March!
For awhile, it looked like the C5 Registry was going to have its usual major presence at an ALMS race, but something happened, and they dropped the ball. Fortunately, Jack Stacey from Club Corvette of CT stepped in at the last minute and got something going to have some Corvette-specific activities.
While we were there, Hank Vezina and I met with Bill McMinn, Lime Rock's Marketing Manager, and agreed to do what we could to really build up the interest among Corvette Clubs for future ALMS events at Lime Rock. The series will be back there for at least the next 2 years. Bill, in turn volunteered that he would designate a % of the Corvette package to Corvettes Conquer Cancer for the American Cancer Society!
Friday, July 2
Leaving home after 1/2 day at work.
1 minute later, this is what northbound traffic on Route 1, 4th of July weekend,
looked like. Sure glad I was headed SOUTH! An hour+ later, the Maine Turnpike
was more of the same, just more lanes.
Saturday, July 3
I spent the night at my daughter's in Bedford, MA again.
That is almost exactly half way to Lime Rock.
Back on the road to Lime Rock at 6:09 am.
Arriving at Lime Rock Park.
Walking down the hill from my outfield parking spot, I was hailed by friend Hank Vezina from NH as I was fumbling with my cell phone to call him! Good thing he spotted me - he had lost his phone the night before! I gave him one of my FRS radios and he took off to retrace his steps to see if he could find his phone.
Meanwhile, I wandered around the paddock and watched the practice sessions when the C5R Corvettes were running.
Here are the Vettes going through the esses.
These 3 shots form a panorama of the vantage point where we decided on to watch the racing. From here we could see over half of the 1½ mile track, from the final turn onto the main straight (extreme right), the whole straight (right to left), the hairpin turn (left) and the esses (middle, back).
An unexpected treat: the red, white & blue Corvette seen here, #79, is none other than Paul Newman. Yes, the actor. His car # is, in fact, his AGE! Back in the 70's & 80's he was national champion in sports car racing several times. He is obviously still at it, and not just out there having fun and staying out of the way. No, he is still very competitive! The white car just ahead of him is the leader, and he was right in there, at times literally banging bumpers, for over half the race until he slowed suddenly and dropped out with a mechanical problem of some kind.
We can all only hope to be in condition to do something that demanding, and that you enjoy that much, at that age! His car number changes every year with his age. The local joke is that when they have to add a 3rd digit, they might start to worry! See several shots lower on the page of the car in the Sunday show.
The Corvette race team and their megabucks Pratt & Miller support facilities.
The Lamborghini Murcielago in only its 2nd outing. In stark contrast
to the Vettes' deep, throaty bellow, this thing makes an ungodly shriek
that was either on or off, like a switch!
The Saleen... Mustang?!
Sunday, July 4
This is the Inn at White Hollow Farm where Hank and I were staying. Nice place, and less than a mile from the track, but very odd as a B&B in that it is unstaffed! Breakfast is set out the night before, and is do-it-yourself. By the way, we found Hank's phone in the grass out back where he had been standing to watch fireworks Friday night. It had been run over by a lawn mower, but survived and still worked!
We really didn't need to get to the track this early. I think we were the first ones there. There is no racing at Lime Rock on Sundays because of local Blue Laws, so big race weekends like this have shows and autograph sessions and prep for the racing that takes place on Monday.
There was a Corvette show on the main straight in front of the timing tower and pits. Hank and I set up our usual display at the front. Lime Rock had a hospitality tent set up with food, both breakfast and lunch, for the show participants only.
Right next to us was a new vendor, MKB Customs, who makes dress-up covers for C5 rear calipers. We had met Gene Kozlowski at Spring Fling back in May, and he was interested in working with us to promote the product. As of July 4, MKB Customs become our newest sponsor. He installed the classy caliper covers, and I installed his decals! Welcome aboard, Gene, and thanks for your support!
My radio control C6 : the first C6 to run on the track at Lime Rock! While there, I had it autographed by John Fitch (the first Corvette factory driver, the first Corvette factory team manager, co-driver in 1960 of the Cunningham '60 Vette in its first big international win at Le Mans, and one of the founders and first manager of the Lime Rock track), all 4 of the Corvette C5R race drivers: Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell, Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta, plus the C5R team manager, Doug Fehan. Talk about history: These great people ARECorvette racing from its inception to the current state of the art! The model was auctioned off to benefit the American Cancer Society at the C5 Registry Regional Event: Maine2004 the following weekend.
That's John Fitch below in the white cap signing autographs on the hood of the Corvair-based car he built back in the 70's. He's talking to Brian Larson, Pres. of Corvettes United in the black ball cap and shirt. In the black shirt and white shorts is Jack Stacey of Club Corvette of CT who did the legwork to make the Corvette activities this weekend happen. Thanks, Jack!
A quick look at the show lineup.
Paul Newman's race car. You won't find his name on it anywhere, just the initials "PLN" above the doors. Look at it - this is a SERIOUS race car, although no way a Corvette other than the shell!
I don't know how it got there, but looking inside I noticed that one of my brochures and Corvette Raffle form were on the driver's seat! Thank you to whoever did that!
Wow, talk about spirit! This kid (I can't believe I can't find his name) has really been through it, and is still with us, enjoying life, and Corvettes. He had 2 bouts with leukemia, had a bone marrow transplant which brought that under control, then had both lungs transplanted!
At 3:00 the show broke ranks and the Vettes lined up for our 3 laps around the track.
Oh, if you have the chance to do this, don't pay any attention to the track official's
STRONG warning not to exceed 40mph!
The end of a very pleasant, laid back day.
Lots of nice horse farms on the way to dinner with Hank in Lakeville.
Monday, July 5
After a quick run to MA for tanks of gas (10¢ cheaper than CT, believe it or not),
it was back past our B&B and into the track. It's a little busier this morning!
Bill McMinn had designated a spot for us in the Vendors' Midway on the hill.
Small world incident: After I parked, I noticed this gorgeous old XK120 Jag across the aisle. Then I noticed the plate: RI tag "SJF". My god, I thought, I'll bet that's Stu Forer, my best buddy from our high school days! I hadn't seen him since he left Philadelphia around 1960 for Brown University in RI. I had heard bits and pieces through the grapevine that he had stayed in RI, and had gotten into vintage sports cars. I even thought I saw him flashing by on a golf cart last Labor Day when I was at Lime Rock for the Vintage races, but I lost him in the crowd. I left one of my brochures on the seat of the Jag with a note and finished setting up my display. Maybe 20 minutes later I noticed the hood was up on the Jag, so I went over. Sure enough, it was Stu. He hadn't seen me yet, so I waited for the appropriate moment, slipped up behind him and said "Godammit Stuart!" This was our standard greeting back then, from the only way I ever heard his father address him. He spun around, and I swear, he hadn't changed a bit, other than losing a few pounds! And yes, that was him on that golf cart last Labor Day! Next trip here hopefully we can spend more time catching up.
The vendors' midway as the clouds descend and become more threatening.
I braved the ½ hour C5R team autograph line to get the model and my banner signed. We're heading for the 2nd set of yellow flags! There I am in the red shirt, reflected in the mirrored back doors to one of the C5R Team trailers. It must have been kind of humiliating for all the other manufacturers' teams, whose autograph lines, if there was a line, might have been 2 or 3 people deep.
Back at my display, I found a Maybach parked behind me. A WHAT, you say? This is a new, very much upscale car from the Mercedes family. It is targeting the Rolls Royce and Bentley customer who wants a little more flair and performance. Like 560 HP!
We packed up our display in time to be in position for the start of the American Le Mans Series race at 3:00 as the sky got more and more threatening. Sure enough, the race probably hadn't completed a lap when the rain started, but very lightly. I think only 1 or 2 cars pitted for a change to rain tires. Bad move. After about 5 minutes, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and out came the sunblock. The 2:45 race was Corvette all the way in GTS class, with some competition from the Saleen, which ended up a lap behind, and the Lamborghini, which, when it was even on the track, seemed to keep getting in the way. The 2 Vettes settled into racing each other, with Beretta passing Fellows late in the race to finish first in class, 4th overall. Awesome!
Here's the winner, on the way to the tech certification.
Leaving the track for the 5 hour drive home. Well, 5 hours
AFTER we GET OUT of the track.
OK, 4 hours 50 minutes.
Thanks to Lime Rock and the efforts of Jack Stacey, we were able to send $241.00 to the American Cancer Society office in Wilton, CT. Not much, but we opened the door for a lot more in the future with Lime Rock's participation, and we gained another sponsor in MKB Customs.