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Lime Rock Diary:
Day One
A Spectator's Paradise

Lime Rock, Conn., July 17 From a spectator viewpoint, Lime Rock Park is perhaps one of the best for a road racing circuit. There are a trio of key reasons for this.

It is a short track (1.53 miles give or take a tenth depending on the configuration and what sanctioning body measures it). It is very hilly, with nearly every viewing area being higher than the track. The lap times are very short, under a minute for most fast classes, and for the ultra fast classes like the American Le Mans Series prototypes, under 50 seconds.

This all means from many viewing areas, you can see as much as half the track or more, and there is constant action in front of you even if the fields are small. And, if you want to watch from a spot that gets you very close to the track, there are plenty of those available with fantastic angles to watch the cars zipping by. There are no grandstands because there are absolutely no reason for any.

For that reason, Lime Rock is not only one of my favorite to watch a race from, but it is my first choice whenever I want to introduce someone to racing. It is hard for even a non-racing fan to get (too) bored at this track, nestled in the Berkshires with some of the most beautiful views during the Fall foilage season.

ALMS Prototype in Action Image An ALMS Prototype going through the left hander at the start of the esses. One of the many great places to watch from at Lime Rock.

The majority of fans like to lay a blanket on the large hill overlooking the esses. From here in the right spot, you can see the cars coming down the hill, the front straight, Big Bend (turns one and two), and all the way through the esses before disappearing around the right hander that leads to No Name Straight. The action right in front of you can consist of many spins in the esses, and passes coming out of Big Bend down the short chute into the esses.

Another favorite spot is on the hill on the outside of the end of the front straight. You can see just about the same section as above, except more of the downhill and slightly less of the end of the esses. The different vantage point provides an excellent appreciation of the speed down the front straight with the intense braking for Big Bend, and all the passes and maneuving thereof.

Watching from the inside of Big Bend provides less area to see, but a great spot to watch the drivers fight for control through a section that requires great discipline. You want wild speed? Watch from the uphill on a day they do not use the chicane. Seeing the cars catch air over the hill is breathtaking. Even with the chicane, from the proper angle, you get to appreciate the finesse required for a fast lap.

West Bend, with or without the chicane is another fun spot with limited (relative for this track) view but great up close action. If you can get close to the downhill section, depending on where you are, especially on the outside of the track, your hair will stand on end.

Thus, for the first day of the American Le Mans Series weekend, I took in as many spots as I could in order to enjoy the action as it is so easy to move from one great vantage point to another. And action filled it was even though the first day was "just" practice and qualifying for all the race groups.

The most exciting qualifying session was the last. The Cooper Tires presents the Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda started in the rain, then it stopped raining where the times starting dropping fast. The rain began to fall again, and no one expected anyone to better their times.

Simona De Silvestro in Action Image Simona De Silvestro, here practicing in the dry, pulled off a one of a kind qualifying lap in the wet to win the Atlantic pole.

Borja Garcia appeared to have the pole locked up. Then, on the last lap, Simona De Silvestro pulled out a qualifying lap for the ages, hanging it all out there at every turn. She has been steadily getting better every year, and this season with two wins and the points lead, De Silvestro has certainly made a statement. But, today's qualifying lap was the type of lap that firmly announces Simona De Silvestro arrival as a race car driver.

Both the Prototypes and GT cars also had some exciting qualifying sessions as rain fell at the tailend of the Prototype session. Jaime Melo saved his best for next to last, claiming the top GT spot in his Ferrari 430 Berlinetta GT in a time of 0:54.665.

Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud continues to show why Gil de Ferran considers him one of the fastest drivers in the world. Pagenaud pulled of an amazing lap time of 0:46.965 in his Acura ARX 02a despite the new chicanes added last year to slow the Prototypes down.

The ALMS field may only have 22 cars in a field larger than reality due to the addition of the ALMS Challenge cars, but when you lap in under a minute on a track with great vantage points allowing you to see large sections at one time, the size of the field hardly matters. It's impossible to not enjoy any kind of racing at picturesque Lime Rock Park.


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Copyright © 2009 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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