This year’s LimeRock Vintage weekend was such a rich experience, that it won’t fit into one post, and that’s a good thing. I went up on Friday and I got there just before dusk. I set up camp in the infield in the family-friendly section. The camping/RV section of the infield is a special place at any race, but at a vintage weekend, it is a sensory overload. Ex-hippies mix with still-a-hippies, and new bohemians. Classic rock clashes with New Age music, and rainforest ambiance, which clashes with guys with guitars singing bad Clapton. VW campers park next to maxed out E30 M3s. An airstream has the largest Bob Marley flag I’ve ever seen. A Winnebago has a large plasma screen outside, and 10 guys are watching the movie Grand Prix. Kids are buzzing around on scooters and bicycles and pit bikes. Fires are started, as grills are cooling down, and the scent of barbeque is heavy in the air. This is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it is an experience not to be missed that somehow goes along with racing.
The kaleidascopic cacophony of Friday at dusk is matched by the singular silence and beauty of Saturday morning at dawn. Limerock is nestled in a valley surrounded by hills, and dawn glows for a while behind hills before bathing sections of the area with warm orange light. I step outside and marvel at the tent city covered in dew and devoid of movement, save for a wisp of smoke from the smoldering remains of a campfire. The track looks like a peaceful ribbon of asphalt amidst the green, and seems to have no memory of the angry machines that tormented it yesterday, nor any idea of those that will do so today. The scene is all the more surreal for the contrast. But I digest….
Saturday is practice and qualifying, and in many ways is the best way all weekend to see the cars, drivers, and drama. All the groups are great to watch, but of course I enjoy Group 3 which is the Klubsport Kup made up of Porsche 911s and 914s. At a couple of breaks in the action, a variety of clubs get to do a “Parade Lap” of the track. While wandering around the staging area, I bumped into a friend from the BMW 2002 club. “Where’s your 02?”, I said. “At home, I drove this so that I could do a couple laps in it”, John said. “This”, was a 2000 BMW M Coupe with a few goodies added to spice things up. “Hop in, let’s have some fun”, John said with boyish mischief in his tone. I think I was in his car and had the harness fastened before he finished that sentence.
Now parade laps can be the most frustrating few minutes of your life. Here you are on the track, in a car you want to find the limits of (or worse, you just want to probe them again), and yet you are in a procession of 30 other like-minded people behind a safety car. You try to create some space so that you can get a little bit of a run going, but its tough to do without some cooperation. I always feel most sorry for the Cobra or the Viper clubs. 500 to 1000 horse power in the same situation as my 180HP. At Watkins Glen a few years ago, I took my 2002tii out on the old course with a group of about 30 cars. We drove in…shall we say… a very spirited fashion, and had a great time. However, behind us was a guy in an M5 Dinan car, and while we were getting airborne, and getting sideways, he later revealed that he was barely challenged. I told him to get an old car and sell me that heap for 2 grand.
Today’s lap was a little different though. John and the boys had arranged for some choreography which created good spacing at key places around the track. We were able to let some horses run free for brief periods, and what a blast. That M Coupe (affectionately referred to as the sneaker due to its shape) sure can handle, and it is no slouch in the get up and go department either. We had two entertaining laps, and then, way too soon, it was time to come in. John, I owe you one. Great stuff.
Back to the vintage racing iron, and a walk through the paddock reveals the eclectic nature of this event. A cool Saab 96, Healeys, Alfa GTVs and Giuliettas, Allards, a Chaparral, Minis, a Pinto, Volvo PV544, Ferrari GTBs, and a Barchetta, Sprites and Trs, Datsun 510s, and so much more. Despite the amazing array of Porsches present, my favorite car of the event is the former Paul Newman Lotus Escort pictured here. Besides taking me back to younger days when my uncle owned a Lotus Escort, it looked spectacular in the original livery from the Can-Am days. Its enough to make you wanna vintage race, and move your campsite to the paddock…..