Lime Rock Park History with IMSA Started 50 Years ago
First IMSA Winner at Lime Rock Park Bob Bailey to be honored as Grand Marshall
This July 15-16 will mark the 50th anniversary of IMSA sports car competition at Lime Rock Park – a legacy dating all the way back to 1972. Back then, Lime Rock Park was already an established circuit, hosting major events including SCCA’s professional Trans Am and Formula 5000 races.
Having debuted with a Formula Ford race at Pocono International Raceway in late 1969, IMSA was still the new kid on the block in 1972. With IMSA launching its GT series in April 1971 at Virginia International Raceway, 1972 proved pivotal as sponsorship from R.J. Reynolds’ Camel brand helped to push the series to a new level with Lime Rock Park hosting the Camel 200, the fourth race of the campaign, on Memorial Day.
It was a one-day event – with practice, qualifying and racing all held on Memorial Day. Completing the bill were ARDC Midget races, racing on a road course for the final time.
The Camel GT featured four production-based classes: GTO (Over 2.5 liters), GTU (Under 2.5 liters), Touring Cars over 2.5 liters, and Touring Cars Under 2.5 liters. These roughly conformed to FIA classes of the era.
The “Under” classes took to the tight Lime Rock layout, beating their larger-displacement counterparts in both GT and Touring.
Bob Bailey and Jim Locke were both overall and GTU winners of the 200-mile event, driving the No. 31 Locke Family Enterprises Porsche 911S. They completed 131 laps on the 1.5-mile circuit, beating the No. 49 Porsche 911S of Klaus Bytzek by three laps.
Bailey will be honored during the FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix, serving as the WeatherTech Championship’s Grand Marshall. Fans can meet Bailey ahead of the race during the IMSA Fan Walk.
Championship-bound Phil Currin finished third overall and was the GTO winner, driving a 1963 split-window, small-block Corvette Sting Ray.
John Diamanti and Walt Simendinger were TU winners in an Alfa Romeo, just ahead of the Ford Pinto of Carson Baird.
Second-generation Poughkeepsie driver Chauncey “Jocko” Maggiacomo Jr. won TO, making his road racing debut in a Chevrolet Camaro.
Peter Gregg, who would go on to notable success with IMSA, was a DNF with suspension problems in his No. 59 Porsche 911S. Hurley Haywood, destined to be Gregg’s erstwhile partner in numerous IMSA successes, finished seventh in a Porsche 911 co-driven by car owner Andrew Carduner.
Future American Challenge titleist Craig Carter was 14th in a Corvette, followed by future Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 Hour winner Dr. Dave Helmick, who co-drove his Porsche 911S with John O’Steen.
Sam Posey, who two days before had been the top-finishing rookie at the Indianapolis 500, co-drove a Corvette with the car’s owner Denny Long. It was a fraught affair, as the car suffered repeated brake problems, Posey recovering more than once from off-course rides before turning the car over to Long, who then crashed.
IMSA will race into the future July 15-16 with the debut appearance of GTD Pro as the high-speed Connecticut circuit stages the FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix.
For tickets and more information, visit: Northeast Grand Prix – Lime Rock Park
Photo Credit: Greg Rickes