Defining Motorsport Memories At The Lime Rock Park Historic Festival
Photography by Alex Sobran
Modern motor racing doesn’t need to be discounted in order to champion its provenance. The memories forged by the nascent generations of car enthusiasts are no less valid than any others’. That said, I would choose a vintage racing event over just about any stop on the Formula 1 schedule save for a hotel view of the Loews Hairpin. It’s not to say the competition of today isn’t exciting—though perhaps sound fuel strategy isn’t as thrilling to watch as an at-speed pass—but I think there’s just more mental stimulation generated at a place like Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park during the Historic Festival. I’ve been there every year since I was two, and this past weekend’s notch on that timeline reminded me of why this has been the case.
At the 35th running of the event, Ford was the marque best represented in terms of number and kind, and though new memories were formed whilst getting up close to a Zakspeed-spec Mk1 Escort with floor pans cleaner than my car’s ever been anywhere, the range of Fords in attendance also reminded me of the brand’s other outliers I’ve been so happy to witness in action already. Cars like the RS200, the RS500 Sierra, and the Shelby GT350; mental images and sounds of these venerable competitors flowed back into focus alongside the in-the-moment visages of Boss 302s and GT40s lapping a race track at speed in 2017.
Besides the Escort, another car that i spent a lot of time orbiting was the Ferrari 512 M. Mixed in with the Model T’s more competitive relatives, it brought back the familiar stories of the manufacturers’ rivalry at Le Mans and other temples of endurance like the banks of Daytona. This all aided by the fact of a Ferrari 275 P parked directly adjacent to a pair of GT40s, one of which was driven during the weekend by Richard Attwood, winner of the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans. Seeing him back on the track recalls his drive with Porsche 917 so many decades ago, and this circles back to the 917’s rival 512 M I’d just stepped away from—and these kinds of rambling connections continue all day by virtue of the cars that have come here.
It’s not the largest paddock, but the tightness of the isles lends the place an atmosphere that can’t be achieved at the more prominent events on even the vintage racing calendar, because while Kubrickian rows of racing’s most significant participants is a sight to behold at a place like the Silverstone Classic or the Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca, it is at least equally enjoyable to weave through the tight geometry and tent pole forest of a small infield hiding cars that belong on any of the world’s main stages.
And those examples are just the racing cars, and of them just a mere handful. Surrounding them is an impressive amount of vintage production car candy to temper their purpose-built brethren, and they can be found just about anywhere at the venue. You could cull the best of the spectator’s transportation choices for the day into a car show that people would pay for, but what I found even more fun than spotting the special cars cozied up amongst the ever-present Priuses in the parking lot was, again, to be found in the paddock area. Awnings and haulers housed ogle-able vintage production cars right alongside the ones on duty that weekend, and it spurred my imagination into race-and-road pairings that occupied all levels of fiscal territory; how about an M8B for the circuit and an F1 to get you there? Or on the more realistic side, why not replace those with a slightly-souped 914/6 and a 924 to have a chance at getting them out of your head and into your reality? (Okay, maybe just a four-cylinder 914 then.)
I really didn’t need to be daydreaming though, as there were so much of this stuff right in front of me. For instance, the Le Mans class-winning 3.0 CSL and the Diamond Schwartz M3 Sport Evolution wearing paint living up to its gemstone namesake. That’s a combo sure to erase even the steeliest of German frowns.
Walking around this much gets tiring, but plopping down on the big hill to watch the afternoon heats is a welcome respite for body alone; your eyes and ears and brain will still be wrangling with the stimuli. There is a certain value only to be found in small tracks like this mile-and-a-half course; the sounds of racing melt together on tight circuits like nowhere else, especially so here in a cozy niche carved out of this patch of New England’s secluded topography and surrounded by forested hills; it’s not just the big blare of motors coming down the straightaway together—you can find that at any track—it’s that noise happening concurrently and within earshot of another chunk of cars on their down-revs as they set up in succession for the uphill chicane on the opposite end that makes up this unique aural treat. If you want to literally surround yourself with vintage racing, few experiences can match the Historic Festival at Lime Rock in literal terms.