Lime Rock Park is a race track located in the Berkshires of western Connecticut, United States.

Lime Rock Park founder and builder Jim Vail first got the idea of building a race track near Lime Rock, Connecticut while driving an old MG around his father's gravel quarry with three of his friends in the mid 1950's. He was also inspired by the (then new) race course at Watkins Glen, New York. He convinced the local town council to allow a race track on family land in the Salmon Kill Valley, not far from the Housatonic River. He raised money both from local race enthusiasts and investors from nearby New York City, and started construction in mid-1955. The course opened for its first race on April 25, 1957, the opening delayed by severe damage to the construction site in August of 1955 from disastrous flooding which occurred throughout the northeastern US.

Vail's partner, course designer, and track manager was the American driver John Fitch. Fitch was trained as an engineer and was deeply concerned about driver safety, particularly after the horrible disaster at Le Mans in 1955 in which his co-driver Pierre Levegh lost control of his Mercedes and flew into the crowd, killing himself and eighty-one spectators. It was Fitch's goal to create not only a challenging race course, but one in which driver and spectator safety were paramount. (Fitch is well-known outside of racing for designing Fitch inertial barriers -- the sand-filled barrels placed near highway construction sites to act as shock absorbers in car crashes.)

Lime Rock's track is a little over a mile and a half, and features a half-mile straight, two shorter straights, one uphill and one steep downhill with a sharp right at the bottom. Despite there being only six turns, the course is difficult, particularly on the downhill turn and the narrow esses off the main straight. The course was designed by Fitch, in cooperation with the aeronautical engineering department at Cornell University. The current track time record holder is P.J. Jones, who finished the course in a little over 43 seconds (average speed over 128 MPH) in a Toyota Mk111 Prototype in 1993.

The early years of Lime Rock were a mixture of professional racing and racing by weekend warriors. In 1959, Lime Rock staged the Formula Libre, featuring an odd mix of cars - Listers, Lotuses, Jaguars, Ferrari Testarossas, and Porsche 550 Spyders - only to be won by (1962 Indianapolis 500 winner) Roger Ward in a highly maneuverable midget racer.

Lime Rock struggled financially in the early years, mainly because it was a small venue. It gained in popularity in the late 1960's and early 1970's with Can Am and Trans Am series racing, featuring drivers like teammates Mark Donohue and Sam Posey, and their car owner Roger Penske. (Sam Posey, who later left racing for the broadcast booth, was the first to circle the track in less than one minute.) Later in the 1970s and 1980s, Lime Rock added GT Rally and Prototype racing, though the latter cars were so fast that the track layout had to be modified to slow the cars down after a spectacular crash in which the driver was lucky to survive. Prototype racing at Lime Rock is also noteworthy because it is the ``home track'' of actor Paul Newman, an accomplished racer in his own right. In addition to GT racing, Lime Rock hosts the Busch North NASCAR series in October each year, the final event of the NASCAR season.

Lime Rock hosts a Racing School run by the park's current president, Skip Barber, where amateurs can come and learn basic racing skills. Racing school begins in mid-spring and runs until late fall. The race season begins on Memorial Day weekend with the Lime Rock Grand Prix Grand-Am and Prototype GT races.

The park is located on Lime Rock Road (Route 112) off of Highway 7 in northwestern Connecticut (not far from Torrington), about 100 miles from New York City.

Sources: various, notably, and the documentary Lime Rock Park: The Secret Valley of Racing just aired on Connecticut Public Television. My dad attended a few Lime Rock races back in the day, and I think he has some Super 8 movies laying around. I'll have to get them transferred to video one of these days.

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