Hartford Courant – April 10, 2008
Skip Barber Announces Major Changes At Lime Rock Park
There’s a second road course racing track coming to Connecticut.
It just so happens the second one will be in the same place as the existing one.
Thursday, Lime Rock Park owner Skip Barber formally announced plans for modifications to the current 1.53-mile road course that will create three new optional corners to the track and dramatically change racing at the facility.
Adding the new corners, along with repaving the existing layout and adding a newly designed pit entrance and pit road, were all part of a more than $5 million plan for improvement Barber plans on completing over the next three years.
"It’s certainly the most positive announcement in the track’s history," Barber said. ". . Our goal is to completely rebuild what is a historic facility and not lose any of the character, any of the charm, but make it more user friendly, make it work. . . . This is all possible because of the new club we’ve created at Lime Rock."
Barber introduced The Club at Lime Rock Park last year, which offers individuals exclusive access to the facility as part of a 50-year membership that costs just over $100,000.
The revenue from the club goes entirely back into the track, which celebrated it’s 50th anniversary last year.
While Barber has a laundry list of improvements in the works all over the sprawling bucolic grounds of the facility, the biggest change comes with the layout additions to the racing surface.
"We’re really going to have 2 racetracks," Barber said. "The existing track, which we’re going to start calling ‘Classic Lime Rock,’ doesn’t get changed at all, except it gets completely repaved. Zero change to any corner, repaved, new pit entrance and pit lane, better run-off areas.
"The new track, which we’re going to call ‘Optional Lime Rock,’ is made by substituting optional corners for 3 existing corners. If you run all of them you’ll end up with a moderate speed track. Those 3 corners will all be very wide, 40 feet wide. They’ll provide good braking opportunities, good passing opportunities and they’ll be additional improved run-off with the optional track. Both share the same new pit lane."
Repaving work will begin following the running of the Grand-Am GT Classic May 23-26 and will be completed prior to the running of the of American LeMans Series Northeast Grand Prix, scheduled for July 11-12. The American LeMans Series will use the new course layout for their event.
Barber sees the change as a necessary one to improve competition at the track.
"This super fast track we have now is great for some cars," Barber said. "Certainly the [NASCAR Camping World East Series cars], big, heavy, no downforce, I think they would run the existing track forever. They have to slow down every place. When racing started at Lime Rock you had to slow down every place. Now a modern car opens the throttle halfway up the uphill and is absolutely full throttle until the end of the straightaway. More than half of the track. As cars get better, tires get better, track gets smoother, that problem – if you consider it a problem – is going to get worse. I think the optional Lime Rock is going to have almost a feel of the original Lime Rock. . . . The fastest cars will use optional Lime Rock."
Barber said all the improvements being made are to ensure the track’s continued viability as a racing facility. He said he has had a standing offer from a local group looking to turn the facility into a golf course.
"It’s a super offer," Barber said. ". . . I have been worried about what’s going to happen here down the road. We’ve created The Club at Lime Rock Park. That was partly at getting the revenue to fix the place up, but more importantly to keeping this a racetrack. We’re signing membership contracts with a lot of people who can afford good lawyers and their contract is for 50 years of use. The documents for that club say that all the revenue has to be spent on the facility. . . . I’m not worried about me, but I can see some guy in the future, well meaning, eyes on the track to keep it a racetrack, there’s no gasoline that summer, he’s got a huge mortgage, he has to sell it, that offer’s out there. So in the club documents, you can’t take the money away. If a guy decided 20 years from now to sell more memberships, he’s got to spend it on the facility. Part of the objective is to fix it up so that next guy doesn’t have to make all those decisions."