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Lime Rock Diary:
Day Two

Lime Rock, Conn., July 24 Most of the talk in the Lime Rock Park media center was not about sports car racing. It was about the ICONIC (which was always said with a disdainful, sardonic tone) Committee's decision concerning the future of Indy car racing.

The general consensus amongst the media, even from the most optimistic, is racing in this country is dead and buried. Done. Kaput. Fini. The one chance Indy car had to restore the integrity of the sport was missed. Randy Bernard, the last great hope for proper, ethical, strong leadership in American open wheel racing, was bamboozled by the "establishment" and Gomerville. The remains of Tony George's scorch earth troops are still calling the shots. The hope of racing's resurrection is over.

Even American sports car racing is broken with the split between France and France (the ACO philosophy and style of racing versus the NASCAR/ISC version) still running strong after all these years. At least the American Le Mans Series makes their racing as relevant as possible in today's world of green technologies. Formula 1, the only other racing series trying to maintain relevance doesn't come close to the success ALMS is having with manufacturer involvement.

 Image Klaus Graf and Gregg Pickett pulled the upset, winning the Northeast Grand Prix.

The ALMS also is able to grab the fans' imagination. After the race, while waiting for the second F2000 Championship Series race, I overheard a fan talking on his cell phone. A middle age, obviously well to do male was raving about the racing he just witnessed. He talked about how "relevant" (there's that word again) the racing was with all the manufacturers involved in the GT class. He mentioned even though there were a limited number of prototypes, there was plenty of variety with the other classes to keep his interest. He then said to the unknown recipient on the other side of the line he must mark his calendar for this event when next year's schedule comes out.

Time will tell whether ALMS, or sports car racing in general, can fill that gap that Indy car and the ICONIC Committee have obliterated.

Surprises. As for the race itself, it was full of surprises at the Northeast Grand Prix:

  • For such a small, narrow track, it was a relatively clean race. There were only three full course caution periods, all in the first quarter of the race. Even incidental contact (the Graf-Brabham incident not withstanding) was kept to a minimum as the drivers did a great job all afternoon.
  • A former LMP2 car, the Porsche RS Spyder, nearly old enough for vintage racing, upset the high powered, highly funded Highcroft Racing Honda Performance Development ARX-01c for the overall win.
  • The Drayson Racing Lola B09 60 Judd was quite competitive early on, leading laps.
  • The Intersport Racing Lola B06 10 AER actually finished the race and took the last podium spot. (Well, in actuality, though it was third in LMP, that was not overall as they finished 31 laps behind the leaders in 22nd spot overall. But hey, they did take the checkered flag.)
  • Speaking of taking the checkered flag, the RSR Jaguar XKRS also took the checkered flag, overcoming early contact that knocked the car into the soaked grass. And this time, they didn't take the checkered flag by spending an hour in the paddock making repairs. The Jaguar completed 152 laps, nine less than the leading GT trio, coming in ninth in class.
  • The track was not fair to the hometown teams. Besides Danbury, Connecticut's Highcroft's tire failure that cost them a chance to win, Dyson Racing from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. lasted just seven laps. Even crueler, their Lola B09 86 Mazda failed while in the lead.
  • The Doran Ford GT-R actually looked fast and made some moves against normally superior cars. Well, when David Murry was driving. Certainly not when the owners were in the car.
  • Johnny O'Connell celebrated his birthday by crashing the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, ending his team's day after 35 laps. Considering he ripped on Lime Rock two years ago, perhaps this was the track's revenge. Karma can be a bitch.

The one big non-surprise was the weather. As expected, the high temperatures which affected the East coast brought brutal, brutal heat to Lime Rock. When it started to drizzle near the end of the race, despite the all day rain on Friday, this precipitation was greeted with glee as it felt oh so good.

Brendan Puderbach Giving the Finger Image After a crash, Brendan Puderbach tells the other driver he's number one...

Caught On Film. Racing is always an emotional sport. Especially when a crash is involved. Early in the second F2000 Championship Series race, Brendan Puderbach and Ardie Greenamyer came together in the left-hander on the fourth lap. As Puderbach returned to the track, he showed his displeasure to his competitor. A gesture that did not escape the camera lens as our photographer caught the "salute."

Puderbach did finish the race, albeit a lap down. Greenamyer retired on the spot. The F2000 story of the weekend, as it was during the Watkins Glen weekend, was Daniel Erickson. Erickson competed in the first doubleheader at VIR, finishing second and 10th along with two pole positions. The Australian skipped Road Atlanta and Mosport, returning to the series at the Glen. He picked up two victories, one from the pole, at the Finger Lakes track.

At Lime Rock, he got one pole in the rain. In the first race, he made a move for the lead, but went off in the process, finishing 12th. For the second race, he started 14th and finished second. Missing races combined with a couple of poor finishes probably won't win him a championship, but he may be the fastest driver in the field. Therefore, Erickson cannot be counted out for the rest of the season.

In the meantime, the drivers on top of the standings each made a statement at Lime Rock. Cole Morgan, sitting second in points, won the first race while championship leader Victor Carbone took the win in the afternoon race. Unfortunately, they each had problems in the other race. Carbone DNF'ed in the morning, while Morgan lost his brakes on a first lap collision in the second race and nursed the car to a ninth place finish.

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