The Past Roars to Life at the Lime Rock Park Historic Festival 40 presented by Corvette
Rodger Ward racing his dirt midget against Doc Thompson in the 1959 Stingray Racer, Formula Libre 1959. Photo via Dalton Watson Fine Books/Lime Rock Park. Be sure to stop by the Corvette Concept tent at HF40 to see the Stingray Racer yourself.
LAKEVILLE, CONN. (17 August 2022)- Lime Rock Park has built a robust tradition that is set to hit a milestone this Labor Day weekend as the Park stages the Historic Festival 40 presented by Corvette September 1-5.
In the early days of modern sports car racing, it was not uncommon for events to include a class or two for cars that were no longer eligible for competition. These exhibition races were occasionally part of events at Lime Rock Park, with the first program for historic cars being hosted at the circuit by the Vintage Sports Car Club of America in 1964.
Over in Europe, events at Silverstone, Montlhery and Nurburgring began to grow in prestige. In the United States, the Monterey Historic races at Laguna Seca also started to gain momentum.
Lime Rock pioneers Jim Haynes and Skip Barber took notice, staging the inaugural Vintage Fall Festival in 1983. Organized by racing champion Charlie Gibson, the fall activities took advantage of the Blue Law-mandated “Quiet Sunday” to stage a Concours d’Elegance, swap meet and art show on the front straight. Noted motorsports artist Sandra Leitzinger provided the event’s poster and program cover.
The new event soon moved to Labor Day weekend and quickly gained momentum. The Vintage Fall Festival was boosted by sponsorship from BMW in 1989, and the event grew into one of the biggest sports car happenings on the East Coast.
The 1989 Formula Libre recreation brought back Rodger Ward in the midget car he drove to victory in the legendary 1959 event – along with original car owner Kenny Brenn. Others at the event included Stirling Moss, Denise McCluggage, John Fitch, Dick Thompson, Paul O’Shea, George Waltman and Bob Said. (Watch the coverage from that race here)
The following year, famed announcer Mike Joy – once an LRP VP – hosted a 20th anniversary of the glory days of the Trans-Am. Local favorite Sam Posey was reunited with the Carroll Shelby Ford Mustang he drove to victory in the 1969 Lime Rock Trans-Am race.
Featured Cars and Drivers Over the Years
Over the years, the weekend has showcased gatherings of significant cars for featured marques. That tradition continues this year with a gathering of 12 of the most significant Corvette concept cars and 20 competition cars, while also celebrating Historic Trans-Am.
One amazing gathering was in 2015, when Mercedes-Benz was in the spotlight. The 300SLR that Moss drove to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, Juan Manuel Fangio’s W196 World Championship winner and an Indy Mercedes from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum were all on hand for Park guests to see in person, truly a gathering of greats.
Another classic moment was a Cunningham Reunion, featuring the majority of iconic cars built by famed American sportsman Briggs Cunningham.
It hasn’t just been legendary machines that the Historic Festival has attracted. Joining Moss and Posey among the drivers participating over the years included legends Brian Redman, Hans Stuck, Vic Elford, Jochen Mass, Skip Barber, David Hobbs, Bob Tullius and many more – the list could go on and on.
A popular addition to the weekend over the past two decades is the 17-mile Historic Festival Parade presented by Salisbury Bank and Falls Village Inn, a Thursday afternoon tour of race cars in local communities including the towns of Lime Rock, Lakeville and Salisbury, finally ending in a free street fair in nearby Falls Village.
Labor Day weekend is a fantastic chance to once again see and hear great cars enjoyed in the past, along with introducing these fantastic machines driven at speed to newer generations of race fans.
It’s a great opportunity for both drivers and fans to experience classic cars the way they were meant to be enjoyed – not on a museum floor, but on a race track. And there’s no better place than Lime Rock Park, with its classic 1.5-mile circuit surrounded by hillside viewing areas to usher in the Fall season.
Tickets for the Historic Festival 40 presented by Corvette start at $65 with Sunday in the Park passes starting at $25. Children under 12 are free. Veterans and active military are free with a valid Military I.D. Camping and custom experience packages are also available. For more information, please visit: Historic Festival 40 – Lime Rock Park
Read more about the History of Lime Rock Park with Lime Rock Park: The Early Years by Terry O’Neil. Click here or the graphic below to learn more.
Check below that graphic to see the flyer in Racing Magazine for the second-ever LRP Historic Festival in 1983, courtesy of Greg Rickes.