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"I Test-Drove the Lime Rock Drivers Club"

 

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The Lime Rock Drivers Club is the track’s private membership group for enthusiasts to fully enjoy, on a world-famous and historic race track, the cars they normally drive on the street. But anyone can experience a “test drive” of the Lime Rock Drivers Club.

  The following story is one enthusiast’s recounting of his LRDC “Track Day.” It originally appeared in Challenge magazine, the official publication of the Connecticut Valley Region of the Porsche Club of America. It’s a great read, enjoy...


“I Test-Drove the Lime Rock Drivers Club”
By Jim Adelman

For a track junkie, what could be better than spending an entire day driving cars on a race track? How about spending an entire day driving cars on track being coached by a professional driving instructor?

The PCA’s Connecticut Valley Region concours is an impressive event. But it was really special when my name was called as the winner in a raffle for a Lime Rock Drivers Club Track Day ($1,250). As I deliberated about what to do with my prize, not fully understanding what was being offered, I received a call from Jeanette Veitenheimer, executive administrator for the LRDC. She explained exactly what I was lucky enough to have won, making it all sound very appealing, emphasizing, “You’re going to have a great time!”
So I chose an available day and signed up.

My perception of the Lime Rock Drivers Club had been vague at best. I’ve watched “the others” driving during alternate hours at several CVR Driver Education events and was often curious as to what they were trying to accomplish. There would be a variety of cars driving around the track relatively alone and frequently coming in and out of pit lane. Being a guest of the Club could be enlightening. Besides, I always had an itch to park my car in their reserved paddock area!

From the moment I arrived at the track, Jeanette and the Club team made every effort to make me feel welcome and comfortable, starting with a catered continental breakfast at the Drivers Club Chalet on the hill. After signing a standard waiver, I reviewed how my day would be spent with Simon Kirkby, the Lime Rock Drivers Club Director.

The plan was simple: use the track time and professional coaching to improve my driving.

Simon “The Brit” was my pro driving instructor throughout the day, and he was by far the best “treat” for me. He’s a very experienced race car driver, spanning everything from rallying to the fiercest European open-wheel competition. We rode together for a track orientation, then he checked me out in the Club’s BMW M3 – my first time driving spiritedly with paddle shifters, and a challenge to get used to. After several bouts of inadvertently flashing the headlights and turning on the windshield washers, I settled into following Simon’s expert coaching. 

Simon Ludwig
Simon Kirkby (l.) with a Track Day customer

Four hours of track time made it comfortable and easy to run several laps, pit to discuss what we were working on, then go out and try it all again. The format was always laid back, with lots of time to review what we were attempting to achieve.

Simon occasionally switched seats to demonstrate a point. Obviously, he was capable of driving well above my pace but settled at a speed to which I could relate.

The variety of cars, sportsmanship and skill level of the Club drivers were impressive. The Club Members were all enthusiastic about their cars and most importantly, they were there to have fun and mainly work on improving their driving skills. Just like me!

Following a delicious buffet lunch in the Chalet, prepared by the track’s in-house catering division, we took to the track again to refine what I had been working on all morning. At that point, Simon encouraged me to apply the lessons learned in the M3 while driving my own track car. Naturally more comfortable in my own car, it all started to come together. Simon joined me right-seat as we practiced the earlier routine: drive several laps, pit to discuss, and then back on the track to try it again.

At one point Simon drove my car for a few laps to demonstrate something I needed to see and feel. Wow! It was a real eye opener to experience my car’s potential. I could only imagine how quick he would be with more time in my car. For anyone delusional enough to think that you’re driving your car to its limits, give yourself a treat – and a reality check – by having a pro like Simon drive your car on a track. The exercise is enlightening, educational and humbling when you witness the car’s capability in really talented hands.

The best lesson learned is that improving the car to increase performance is secondary to improving the driver.

When our time on track was over, we returned to the Chalet to relax, have some refreshments, and chat about the day... very civilized, indeed. Even with all the track time, my day flew by, definitely an adrenalin rush. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until the drive home, sometimes thinking of Jeanette’s promise, “You’re going to have a great time.”

Actually, I had a fabulous time.

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Mr. Lauren's Five Historic Festival Cars

Ralph Lauren head

Ralph Lauren’s Collection: These are the five cars here at Lime Rock Park, Aug. 29 - Sept. 1

   As if you needed another reason to attend Lime Rock Park's Historic Festival 32 over Labor Day weekend, Murray Smith, chairman of the event, today confirmed which cars from Ralph Lauren’s extensive private collection will be displayed over the four-day Labor Day weekend that comprises historic and vintage racing competition surrounding a concours d’ elegance. Mr. Lauren’s private collection is spectacular – and it is a very rare event when cars of his are made available to the public at large.

At Lime Rock Park will be...

1953 Morgan Flat Rad
Ralph Lauren' first car was a Morgan. This perfect example of a Morgan Flat Rad (radiator) is one of just 750 built and was purchased by Lauren in 1986.

Flat-Rad 600

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1964 Ferrari 250 LM
The Ferrari 250 LM was introduced at the Paris Auto Show in October, 1963 to great fanfare. In the LM, Pinninfarina presented a great case-study in how form following function can be beautiful. Unable to obtain the necessary homologation for GT racing, the 250 LM raced in the prototype category; a 250LM won Le Mans in 1965. Between 1965 and 1968, chassis 6321 – 31 of 32 built – was campaigned extensively and successfully in 19 Australian racing events, winning 13. Among those victories was the Surfers Paradise 12 hours in 1966, co-driven by Andy Buchanan and a young driver just beginning a brilliant career... Jackie Stewart.

Ferrari 600

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1929 Birkin Blower Bentley
The concept of the 4½ Liter, supercharged Bentleys (The Blower Cars) originated with Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin, privileged son of a wealthy family whose resources allowed him to pursue his ambition of becoming a race car driver. Birkin developed a friendship with W.O. Bentley and given Birkin’s connections, Bentley realized that Birkin could help the struggling car maker (which was going bankrupt) to win important races. Birkin knew he would need a lot of power to compete with the supercharged Mercedes, Alfa and Bugatti racing cars of the time and came up with the idea of supercharging the then-fastest 4½ Liter Bentleys. Bentley, though skeptical, conceded and built 50 supercharged cars to qualify for the 1929 Le Mans 24 Hour race. Birkin built two “works cars,” but neither finished. (A “Speed Six” Bentley placed first, followed by 4½ Liter, non-supercharged Bentleys placing second, third and fourth.) With his money running low, Birkin convinced friend, noted socialite and horsewoman Dorothy Paget to help finance his team. Entering Le Mans again in 1930 with two Bentleys (#8 and #9) including chassis HR3976, which carries the Paget crest between the radiator cap and the Bentley badge, the Birkin cars did very well – while they lasted (the fastest race-lap, 6 minutes 48 seconds, was set by the 9 car). Birkin’s cars again failed to finish; HR3976, driven by Dr. Dudley Benjafield and Giulio Ramponi, completed 144 laps before it broke a piston. This car’s best finish was a second at the 1930 French Grand Prix (Pau) at the hands of Birkin. By the end of 1930 Paget’s patience with the Birkin team ran out; she cut off funding and the team closed up shop. HR 3976 was then sold to a Frenchman, racing at Le Mans in 1932 and 1933, again failing to finish either. This car was restored in 1990 by Traction Seabert of England with care given to not over-restore it but rather to maintain it in its “as raced” condition. It is one of only two “short chassis” (9’ 9 ½“) Bentleys built.

Bentley 600

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1956 Jaguar XKSS
When it comes to performance, the Jaguar XKSS was in a league of its own, likely the world’s quickest and fastest production car in 1957. The XKSS was a road-going version of Jaguar's incredibly successful D-Type race car; factory run D-Types won Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957 while privateer D-Types won many other races, too. Jaguar was convinced by Briggs Cunningham that it could win in American SCCA production car racing, where the rules required 50 street-legal cars be built. So Jaguar changed the model number of 25 XKDs to XKSS, with 25 more to be built to meet the minimum 50. Turn signals, a larger windshield, bumpers and the like were installed. Unchanged from the competition D-Type was the engine (the 250-bhp dry-sump 3.4-liter straight-6), the rack-and-pinion steering and disc brakes. As the conversion work began on the first 25 XKDs, a fire at the Brown's Lane factory in February 1957 destroyed nine of the cars – and all of the tooling. The 16 surviving XKSS were converted and delivered. Later, two original D-Types were returned to Jaguar and converted to XKSS specifications. One of those, XKD533, is the Ralph Lauren car, changed to an XKSS at the factory in 1958 for Pierre Chemin of France.

Jaguar 600

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1959 Porsche RSK
Porsche’s first outright victory in a manufacturer’s championship came in the 1959 Targa Florio, as the new RSK led three other Porsches across the finish line for a clean sweep. This car, 718-009, was used for practice in that event and was sent into battle for the remainder of the season. The most significant race for 718-009 was the Tourist Trophy on the Goodwood Circuit in England on September 5, 1959. Porsche lay third in the points with 15 against Ferrari’s 18 and Aston Martin’s 16. Victory for any of the three would bring the crown. The drivers of 718-009 were Count Joakim “Jo” Bonnier and Wolfgang  von Trips. Holding off the 3-litre Aston Martin driven by Stirling Moss proved an impossible challenge, but 718-009 headed Tony Brooks’ Ferrari – boasting an engine twice the size of the Porsche – into the last of the race’s six hours. Von Tripps broke the class-B sports car lap record four times, running 92.9 mph on the penultimate lap, and finished in second place, two seconds ahead of Brooks in the Ferrari; Aston Martin took the championship.

Porsche 600

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Details

1953 Morgan Flat Rad
Serial number:P2472
Engine:Triumph
Quantity Built: 750
Ownership History
1954: Unknown
1986: Ralph Lauren, USA
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1964 Ferrari 250 LM
Serial number: 6321
Body Builder:Scaglietti
Quantity built:32
Ownership History
1964: David McKay (Scuderia Veloce), Australia
1984: Ralph Lauren, U.S.A.
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1929 Birkin Blower Bentley
Model:4.5 Litre Birkin Team Car
Serial Number HR3976
Body Builder:Vanden Plas                       
Quantity Built:4 (One of only two short-wheelbase cars)
Ownership History
1929: Dorothy Wyndham Paget, England
1931: Unconfirmed;  Jean Trevoux and E. Mary, France
1934: R.C. Murton-Neale, England
1935: Peter J. Robertson-Rodger, England
1946: William Shortt, England
1967: E. Neil Comer, England
1972: Anthony Bamford, England
1988: Ralph Lauren, U.S.A.
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1956 Jaguar XKSS
Year:1956 as an XKD (then changed to XKSS in 1958 )
Serial number:XKD533
Quantity built:16 + 2
Ownership History
1956: Delacroix, France; Monnoyeur, France
1957: Pierre Chemin, France
1970: Dr. Phillippe Renault, France
1988: David Cottingham, England
1989: Kerry Manolas, Australia
1989: Ralph Lauren, U.S.A.
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1959 Porsche RSK
Serial number:718-009
Quantity built:34
Ownership History
1988: Purchased from Richard Roth
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Since 1983, the East Coast's premier vintage racing and concours event has been the Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park, held annually over Labor Day weekend. No other venue in the U.S. has three days of on-track racing sandwiching a prestigious concours event all on the same property. Historic Festival 32 is Friday, August 29 through Monday, September 1, while the Sunday in the Park Concours d’ Elegance Presented by Bentley is August 31. Historic Festival 32 features Honored Guests Sir Stirling Moss & Lady Susie, and a very rare public showing of five cars from Ralph Lauren's personal collection. Schedule: Friday Practice & Qualifying; Saturday 18 races; Sunday in the Park Concours Presented by Bentley; Monday 18 races. Visit limerockhistorics.com

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Racing to End Senior Hunger: Meal Pack Event Was Major Success

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AARP "Drive to End Hunger" Meal Pack Event was a major success  

On Saturday, July 5, 266 volunteers from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York came to Lime Rock Park and packed 24,000 “primary meal” food boxes for area senior citizens in need. The effort was the kick-off event for the track’s 2014 charity partnership with the AARP’s “Drive to End Hunger” campaign, spearheaded by NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, who’s scheduled to be at Lime Rock Park in September for a big fundraising day.

The meals will be distributed by Connecticut Food Bank to those in need in Northwest Connecticut, Western Massachusetts and Dutchess County, New York.

Track President Skip Barber said, “I can’t think of a larger, more important effort for the local community Lime Rock Park has ever organized in its 58 years. I am so proud of all the people who contributed their time to make this such a huge success.”

* Sharon’s “Harlem Line” band provided a wonderful energy to keep the assembly line rockin’ and a rollin’ during the three hour effort

* Terrific performers from the TriArts Sharon Playhouse entertained both the AARP volunteers and the thousands of spectators on-hand for the Salisbury Rotary Club Independence Day Fireworks show

Photos: Click here for a great album of photos taken by Lime Rock Park photographers Greg Clark and Casey Keil

More photos at "Drive to End Hunger" Facebook page

Watch the video!

Check back at www.limerock.com for updates on this season’s activities with Drive to End Hunger. To learn more, please visit www.DriveToEndHunger.org or follow @Drive2EndHunger on Twitter.

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Phoenix Lands in Very Safe Hands

Web John Fitch 1


Thanks to the concerted efforts of Wayne Carini (Velocity’s “Chasing Classic Cars”), journalist Don Klein, and the Fitch Family, the late John Fitch’s pride and joy – the one and only Fitch Phoenix -- went to the Bonham’s auction at the Greenwich Concours Sunday, June 1.

Given appropriate display space just feet from the auction stage, the Phoenix was the center of attention. After bidders went back and forth, at 2:42 p.m. the gavel came down on its sale to Mr. Charles Mallory of Greenwich, Conn.

A collector with eclectic tastes, Mr. Mallory was not there to simply add to his stable: “This was by far my most emotional purchase,” Mallory said shortly afterward. “I loved John, I love Lime Rock, I really feel the Phoenix belongs in Connecticut. I’m very happy for not just me, but everyone who understands what this is about.”

The Phoenix went for $230,000 (137,278 British pounds, 168,665 Euros).

The Phoenix, a two-seater sports cars based on the Chevrolet Corvair, was to be the first of a limited run of 500 and was designed and built by Fitch. With a total weight of 1,950 pounds even with a steel body, and with the Corvair engine modified with Weber carburetors to deliver 175 hp, the car was to deliver spirited performance for $8,760.

But the American automotive landscape changed drastically in 1966 with the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which made the production of any car outside the realm of the major manufacturers simply financially untenable. Not another Phoenix was ever made.

(For links to more details on Fitch’s Phoenix, click here and here. Three photos from the Greenwich Concours Bonham's auction below.)

From the late 60s onward, the Phoenix was Fitch’s favorite car to drive. Right up to the point not long before his passing in October of 2012, one could count on Fitch driving the car from his nearby home to Lime Rock Park, where his and the car’s presence were always eagerly anticipated.

Needless to say, Mr. Mallory has a standing invitation to bring the Phoenix to Lime Rock Park any time he wishes...

Web Phoenix auction car
Moments before the bidding was to begin...


Web Phoenix gavel
The gavel comes down...


Web Phoenix Greenwich Klein
Journalist Don Klein (l.), who's driven the Phoenix many times, provides some anecdotal background to Charles Mallory (r.), who most assuredly has the car in his safe, respectful hands...

P.S.: Look for a "Chasing Classic Cars" episode covering the Phoenix and the auction this fall on the Velocity Channel

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News: Lime Rock, Jeff Gordon and AARP Foundation

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Lime Rock Park Joins Drive to End Hunger, Names AARP Foundation its 2014 Charity
NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, AARP Foundation and Lime Rock together help the fight against older adult hunger...

LAKEVILLE, Conn. (April 2) – Lime Rock Park today announced its selection of AARP Foundation to be its 2014 official charity to support Drive to End Hunger, a multi-year initiative to fight the risk of hunger for Americans age 50+.  

Nearly 9 million Americans age 50+ are at risk for hunger every day – a 79 percent increase in just 10 years. Drive to End Hunger is AARP Foundation’s multi-pronged approach to solve this problem; it works to combat hunger among people 50 and older through raising awareness – especially through its relationship with Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports – as well as building philanthropic support and developing long-term, sustainable solutions.

Lime Rock Park President Skip Barber announced “a very ambitious, yet reachable goal” of raising $96,000 – $24,000 for each of Gordon’s four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. In the coming weeks, Lime Rock Park and AARP Foundation will release information on exciting events and opportunities for Lime Rock fans to get involved and help reach the goal.

(Note: Lime Rock Park will establish a "Drive to End Hunger" donation portal on limerock.com within the next 10 days.)


“Too many Americans struggle to put food on the table every day across the country and right here in Lime Rock Park’s tri-state community,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, AARP Foundation president. “We are proud and honored to be working with Lime Rock Park for the 2014 season and will keep working to achieve the real possibility of giving people the freedom from worrying about where their next meal might come from.”

“In a country as great as ours, no older person should go hungry. That’s why I’m working with AARP Foundation, because this is a problem we can solve,” Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, says. “While I haven’t been to Lime Rock Park yet, I’m sure their fans and that community will join me in supporting this great cause. I’m very excited about this partnership and what our combined efforts can do to help those in need.”

Barber said, “Jeff and the Drive to End Hunger team have been fantastic to work with. We’re really looking forward to launching this effort. Did you know he’s one of my ‘star pupils’? In 1990, already a sprint car star in the Midwest, Jeff did the Skip Barber Three Day School at Road America. The three instructors all told me that Jeff was humble, attentive – and instantly lightning quick. They had never seen anyone so precise, so able to take feedback and immediately and repeatedly apply it.

“Well, now it’s our turn to be fast for him. I want to reach Lime Rock’s goal before the year is out.”

Check back at www.limerock.com for updates on this season’s exciting activities with its fundraising campaign for Drive to End Hunger.

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Note: Mr. Skip Barber has not owned and operated the Skip Barber Racing School since 2000.

About AARP Foundation 
AARP Foundation is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. By coordinating responses to these issues on all four fronts at once, and supporting them with vigorous legal advocacy, the Foundation serves the unique needs of those 50+ while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, strengthen communities, work more efficiently and make resources go further. AARP Foundation is AARP’s affiliated charity. Learn more at www.aarpfoundation.org

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