Q&A With Erik Wensberg
Erik Wensberg has been an essential part of Lime Rock Park operations for the last two decades. But in 2021, the former BMW of North America Brand Manager’s role expanded with the track. In this Lime Rock Park Q&A, Wensberg details his experience over the years, his history with Skip Barber and the future of Lime Rock Park.
LRP- What is your history at Lime Rock Park?
Wensberg- I’ve worked with Skip (Barber) for years in a variety of roles. Skip and I have been friends for decades and I’ve helped out with sponsorship-related matters in the past, and generally tried to help Skip focus on the right targets for what he was doing, both at the School and then at the track. Obviously, we collaborated a lot in my days with M at BMW, and I’ve just continued to be involved since.
I’m very pleased to be a part of the new ownership group, and I am also a former Board Member of the Lime Rock Drivers Club.
As Lime Rock Park seeks to broaden the reach and visibility of a new and invigorated LRP brand in the world of motorsport, I will now advise LRP management and partners on various sales and marketing matters and related priorities.
LRP- What was your involvement with BMW?
Wensberg- I was a Marketing Brand Manager at BMW of North America from 1985-1998. I was brought in by Mclaren North America to assist in the development of the March GTP campaign with David Hobbs & John Watson in 1985, and it progressed from there. I first worked directly with Skip to set up the company’s 10-year run with the BMW-Skip Barber Advanced Driving school.
Later on, as the Company’s first M Brand Manager, I worked a great deal on the transition of the E30 M3 to the E36 3 Series. I oversaw the development of the dominant racing programs with the E36 M3 and Team PTG in the late 1990s.
Along the way, I was responsible for starting BMW of North America’s “Classic” collection that now includes a wide range of cars the company has raced in North America including everything from the CSL racer of the early 1970s to the E36 M3s, E46 and E92 M3s as well as the McLaren F1 GTR that raced at Le Mans in 1996, among many others.
I am a lifetime member of the BMW Car Club of America, and still serve as an advisor to the BMW CCA Foundation Trustees.
LRP- Tell us about your expanding role with the track.
Wensberg- The new ownership group has a tremendous vision for the facility, as well as the Lime Rock brand.
I will work with them to help realize their many priorities, in order to best position the Park to be the pre-eminent road-racing facility of the northeast for the next 50 years.
LRP- You’re very involved in the Historic Festival, what was your first experience with classic cars?
Wensberg- Well, I have been a VSCCA member since the mid-eighties, and have raced in many vintage, historic and club-related events on and off since that time. I won the small bore sportscar class at the Historic Festival in 1991 in a ’59 Turner MK1.
When I was at BMW for about a month, I got a phone call from a commercial landlord in Connecticut. He said they had a lot of stuff in storage for us and didn’t know what we wanted to do with it. So I went to Brookfield, Connecticut, and was taken to a dingy storage barn. I peered inside to see a 320i Turbo sitting on the ground with no wheels on it, an early March M1 on its side, a couple of Grp. 4 M1’s and all these boxes of dingy stuff everywhere.
I realized there were half a dozen cars in there that we used to race in North America, and they were covered with an inch of dust. After making a few inquiries, I was informed that all of it was going to be given to a boy’s technical school to learn how to cut and drill! I said the hell they are, and told them to lock the door and no one goes in until I tell them what to do.
The company’s competitive DNA was rotting away in a warehouse in Connecticut, and we had to do something about it.
So in time, after many, many meetings and budget drama, most of those cars were restored, and are still owned by BMW NA today- they are worth millions. More importantly, they provide a direct link to BMW NA’s motorsport heritage like nothing else could.
LRP- There are some iconic ‘legacy’ tracks in North America, what do you see next in Lime Rock Park’s future?
Wensberg- Besides really loving the place, a big part of the excitement I have about this role just comes from how untapped potential there is with the property. For decades, Skip had to fight through every year to keep the track going. But now he’s got more than 20 people who have joined him to shepherd the track into the future now that the place has the long-term foundation that it needs.
And what does that mean? A lot of that really comes down to being able to decide what needs to happen at the track—be that with new physical plant additions, reconsidering what kind of events we are staging or how we are able to create the best experience overall for our guests. And thinking about how to do that for all the different kinds of guests that we have— obviously race fans and teams for our big events, but also thousands of guests who are here to learn how to drive and race, or are here for some other kind of event that the track hosts like the new Sunday’s in the Park series.
One very big area of opportunity when it comes to guests at the track is the corporate and OEM side of things.
There is this idea that driving is going away with the advent of electric vehicles. But that isn’t happening any time soon, and it is clear to me that Lime Rock Park is the perfect place to test, demonstrate, and improve driving and the driving experience. And this location, you simply can not beat it.
LRP- No stands, no Sunday racing, no perfect lap: What is the most important part of the Lime Rock Park experience that keeps you coming back? As an evangelist of sorts for the track, what is your lead pitch usually?
Wensberg- Simply the most beautiful, family-friendly racing circuit in this country. And a deceptively challenging one at that.
LRP- What do you think the best opportunities for sponsorship are for Lime Rock Park?
Wensberg- There are many, many commercially attractive opportunities at Lime Rock Park today, just watch this space!
LRP- The automotive and OEM space is changing, rapidly- EVs, supply chain challenges and new ways for customers to experience and purchase/lease cars. What role do you think Lime Rock Park plays or could play in terms of OEM Marketing and experience?
Wensberg- Well, when you consider the traditional brand identity of BMW, let alone the M Brand, you begin to see a trickle-down of technology developed for maximum enthusiast-related products, that quickly gets adapted to more mainstream product lines in the name of efficiency, safety, handling, braking, fuel utilization, etc.
This concept is alive and well at Mercedes, and we enjoy hosting our AMG friends at LRP every summer, as they use the property to properly showcase their technology to both clients and prospective clients, a very cool, high-end custom driving experience not soon forgotten!
You will now see similar experience-related events and activities from FCP Euro on and around their brand new and expanded Proving Grounds within our facility.
It’s also a great destination for sort of a 360 experience around mobility-—training, testing, racing, developing cars, media work, photography, all of those things are possible here. And it is an amazing, beautiful drive home, too!
For more information on events at Lime Rock Park visit: Upcoming Events – Lime Rock Park