Lime Rock Diary:|
Day Two, Part One
Blessing and Curse
Lime Rock, Conn., July 7 — For the fans, which is what the American Le Mans Series states it is all about, watching a race at Lime Rock is both a blessing and a curse.
On a 1.5-mile narrow track whose longest straight is not long enough for these cars to reach terminal velocity, the second longest straight is not straight, and only has one left-hand turn, it is as Patrick Long said, "The Bristol of sports car racing."
Thus, the fans are guaranteed to see lots and lots of action -- passing every time cars go by, brakes locking up, bodywork rubbing, chrome horns used, hip checks applied, spins, and crashes. A blessing for those in attendance. I wrote about the excitement of Lime Rock the first time Deep Throttle covered an event here.
Double yellows are a common sight on the tight Lime Rock Park circuit.
Even top flight drivers such as Butch Leitzinger in a LMPC car and Scott Sharp in the GT Ferrari managed to get in each other's way, sending Leitzinger hard into the wall going onto No Name Straight with Sharp sliding along the opposite wall. Somehow, Leitzinger's team was able to finish the race fourth in LMPC, albeit eight laps behind the class winner. Sharp quickly returned to the track, winding up fourth in GT on the class lead lap.
Then, there was Le Mans class winner Tom Kimber-Smith who dive bombed Guy Cosmo in the other Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari at the apex of the ultra fast, ultra dangerous downhill, sending Cosmo extremely hard into the outside wall causing the final caution. Kimber-Smith's car continued without pause, winding up second in class behind their teammates, Jonathan Bennett and Colin Braun. The CORE Autosports drivers were heard after the race by the podium complaining about all the traffic.
The downside for such entertainment is the fans will also see a lot of full course yellows. This year's race was no exception as there were four slowdown periods, all but one (fluid on track) caused by cars going off course, usually helped by their competitors.
Ultimately, this led to the race ending behind the Safety Car. However, the fans didn't seem to mind as those in the Esses clapped and cheered the field during the white flag lap and the cool down lap. In the end, they felt they got their money's worth.
The Muscle Milk team with a patriotic livery made an amazing comeback to win the Lime Rock round.
Of course, the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing entry loved all the yellow flag periods. When the HPD ARX-03a suffered electronic shifting problems, causing them to reboot the computer, they lost four laps to the local favorites, the Dyson Racing Lola B12/60 Mazda driven by Chris Dyson and Guy Smith.
I'm still scratching my head how Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf were able to make up those laps to win the race. Some if it was due to the Dyson car suffering a flat tire. And, of course, some of it was taking advantage of being ahead of the race leader when the full course yellows came out. Some was due to the ALMS wave around rule which had one Dyson team member muttering about it after the race. But still, it is extraordinary.
The Muscle Milk car was clearly the fastest car on the track. They were on rails flat out down the hill. They were clearly faster down No Name Straight heading into the uphill. Once they grabbed the lead early in the race before their electronic trouble, they pulled away with ease. One has to wonder how did the Dyson team grab the pole? Sandbagging, perhaps...?
BMW Woes. For BMW, this is perhaps their biggest race on the schedule. The North American headquarters are not too far in northern New Jersey. BMW is an official sponsor of Lime Rock and the Skip Barber Racing School, headquartered at Lime Rock. BMW is producing a special Lime Rock edition model. BMW has a large marketing presence at this race, not just for these reasons, but also because this is a very affluent area of the country.
However, for BMW Team Rahal RLL, the race could not have gone more wrong. The weekend started out fine with qualifying. Bill Auberlen put the #55 car on the GT pole with Jörg Müller as his co-driver. The #56 car, with Joey Hand and Dirk Müller, qualified fourth but moved up to third when the Flying Lizard Porsche #44, which qualified third, had their time disqualified for low ride height.
The #56 BMW entry missing its hood in a fraught race for the German manufacturer.
Then, came race day. With all the cars lined up on the front grid for the fan walkabout, the #55 car sat in the pits with tools all over the place and crew members working feverishly on the car. They eventually got the problem fixed, but had to start from pit row, which meant waiting a whole lap before they could enter the track. They wound up finishing sixth in class ... one lap down.
This meant the #56 car got to start second in class. However, the race didn't go well for them either. They spun on their own in the uphill chicane. Later, contact with another car caused their hood to buckle, which the crew eventually removed entirely. They finished fifth, also one lap down to the GT winners.
The #45 Flying Lizard Porsche leading a Corvette en route to the GT class victory.
The #45 Flying Lizard Porsche with Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long won the GT class with the two Corvettes (#3 Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia and #4 Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, respectively) following closely in a typical tight GT race. It was Bergmeister's sixth Lime Rock victory in seven tries.
Copyright © 2012 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.