2019 Lime Rock Historic Festival
2019 Lime Rock Historic Festival
For the last six years, my Labor Day hasn’t been about grilling with family or taking a weekend off from work. I load up my camera equipment, set the GPS for Lime Rock Park, pop the car into first gear, and then roll out. Once the calendar scoffs at August and welcomes September, it’s time, once again, for the Lime Rock Historic Festival!
While the Festival, now in its 37th year, stretches from Thursday through Monday, my focus was the world-class Sunday in the Park Concours d’Elegance. Every year, the event’s prominence grows. To paint a complete picture, however, it’s important to start with an outline of the event.
Where to Stay
Lodging at Lime Rock consists of either on-site camping or bedding down at one of the few local hotels or many AirBnBs. As a creature of habit, I’ve returned to the same country home AirBnB for the last four years. I also go to the same restaurant each night to refuel after a long day at the track, AJ’s Steak and Pizza in Goshen, CT. I especially appreciate their delicious bar-style cuisine and decent draft selection. For many of the other local restaurant options, reservations are recommended.
The Start of the Festivities
Thursday’s Vintage Race and Sports Car Parade is the official start to the holiday weekend. Participants and more than 100 cars congregate on the Sam Posey Straight before they head off on a 17-mile parade through neighboring towns. Along the way, bystanders gather on the roadside to watch and wave as the cars drive by, led by a retired 1958 Ford Connecticut State Police troop car and Lime Rock’s Camaro SS.
The route strikes a balance between bucolic landscapes and quaint main streets. The destination is the Falls Village Street Fair, a staple on the community calendar for years. As the cars arrive, they are greeted by a young lady on stilts waving a checkered flag as Wanda Houston sings her lungs out in the background. It’s a grand affair on a low-key scale. If you plan to attend, make sure to grab an on-site cider donut and take a few hours to wander around and check out the cars up close. And if you’re looking to consume a bit more than a donut or two, there are great local eateries to serve you. Just make sure to reserve in advance as they tend to fill up quickly.
Racing begins on Friday with practice and qualifying sessions. Saturday and Monday are the main competition days. In addition to the Midway vendors, the paddocks are also open to explore. But be warned, you can easily lose track of time if you let your curiosity be the guide, rather than your watch.
Since Lime Rock doesn’t have a grandstand, you’re free to take in the action from wherever you can see it. And there is never a shortage of action! Nine separate groups running twice daily guarantee there’s enough racing bliss to go around. And around. And around. My media badge and high visibility vest allowed me vantage points beyond the general public’s reach, like outside of Turn 4, where the Right Hander spits racers down the No Name Straight. Regardless of where you find yourself, the property’s compact layout and adequate pathways provide easy access for nomadic spectating.
Lime Rock Park has been dealing with the issue of no racing on Sundays for years, with some residents tirelessly waging a campaign to keep the day quiet. No matter, it prompted the planning of an alternate use of the track for the day of rest. This year, the Sunday in the Park Concours d’Elegance and Gathering of the Marques summoned more than 800 cars, lining the track with stationary action.
Sunday in the Park Concours d’Elegance
Pininfarina, Scaglietti and Bertone were just some of the keywords for the premier theme of Italian Masterpieces. Add in a dash of Lamborghini, a hefty helping of Ferrari, and a gracious sprinkling of other offerings and the result was a delicious dish of Italian style. Ralph Lauren was kind enough to send two cars from his collection: a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM (s/n 6321) and a 1961 Ferrari 250 TRI/61 Fantuzzi Spyder (s/n 0792TR). Being in the presence of the LM again was a real treat for me, replacing my aging memory of seeing the car in 2013 when Ralph Lauren was the Featured Collector.
This year, the Featured Collector honors went to B.Z. and Michael Schwartz of New York, NY. The Schwartz’s displayed a fantastic collection of superbly restored ‘et ceterini,’ including a 1957 Stanguellini Bialbero Sport 1100, a 1948 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spyder Nuvolari, a 1953 Moretti Barchetta GS and a pair of Siatas (a 208 Spyder and a Pininfarina 208S Coupe). Filling out the line-up was an Alfa Romeo TZ and 1750 Boat-Tail Spyder, a Lamborghini Miura and Countach and two Maseratis, a Mistral Spyder and a Mexico.
To complement the Collector cars, the Honored Motorcycle Collector was Gregory Rathe of Cold Spring, NY. Mr. Rathe brought an Indian Sport Scout, a Vincent Black Shadow, a Triumph Tiger 110, a Matchless G80CS, a BMW R75/5 and a Ducati 900SS to represent a portion of his passion for the two-wheeled world.
Arriving early allowed a first-hand look at the cars in motion as they proceeded to find their place in the Park. One by one, the entries funneled in and rolled down the Sam Posey Straight, ending in their respective classes. Some were trailered, some were driven, but all were amazing.
As in past years, Peter Sachs drove his car to the track. This year it was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta (s/n 4091GT), a rebodied Series II car. It was appropriately parked next to Sandra and Jim McNeil’s 1962 Series I GTO (s/n 3647GT), a car Jim has owned since 1967. A little down the row sat Tony Wang’s 1958 Ferrari 250 TR (s/n 0722TR), a repeat racer at the event. Tony’s better half, Lulu, was behind the wheel of their 1959 250 GT Interim (s/n 1465GT) on the track, but it was also a Sunday award winner. Jim Glickenhaus bravely commanded the earliest surviving Ferrari road car, a 1947 159 Spyder Corsa, while wearing an authentic leather helmet and racing gloves.
If the Ferraris didn’t provide enough wow to increase one’s heart rate, there was also a 1956 Maserati A6G/2000 with coachwork by Zagato and a 250F F1, a quartet of pre-war Alfa Romeos, OSCAs and Lancias. And those are just the Italians!
Morgan celebrated their 110th anniversary and Lime Rock paid tribute by featuring a long line of examples from their lineage. Other standouts included a Bob Sharp Datsun recreation, a 1966 McLaren M1B Can Am, and a 1944 NSU Kettenkrad, essentially a motorcycle tank! I’m getting chills just recounting all the incredible machines on display.
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The Concours Experience
As always, the day goes by faster than the pole position race car. Despite the track being “just” 1.5 miles, cars are flanking both sides for nearly the entirety. Your neck will get sore from your eyes constantly darting from left to right, your head reluctantly giving in to the swivel action. It’s best to make peace early on with the idea of not being able to see everything. Every year I say I’m going to bring a scooter to help mitigate the mileage and speed up movement around the track. Yet come every Monday, my step counter reads around 20 miles. I recommend catching a ride on a golf cart to do a lap and making mental notes of the places you want to revisit.
It seems each car came with a tale worth telling, as all day long spectators and participants were sharing stories over cars, smiling and snapping pictures. A former driver was reunited with an old flame in the form of a 1967 Bizzarrini P538 powered by a Lamborghini V12. People were dressed in period-correct garb. There were miniature shows within the event throughout the Gathering of the Marques entrants, including an impressive bevy of Bavarians, an almost criminal amount of Porsches, and not one, but two decommissioned ambulances (a Citroën and a Chevy). Amongst the crowd, honored guests such as Coco Chinetti and David Hobbs were rubbing elbows with old pals and new friends. Nary a frown was to be found.
There were many children in attendance, which was great to see considering the general consensus that the hobby is in danger due to waning participation from the younger generations. And the kids have fine taste, choosing the 1954 Austin Healey 100 Le Mans as their Kid’s Choice recipient.
Speaking of being young, as children, we waited all year for certain holidays or our birthdays to finally come, and when they did, they were over in the blink of an eye. The same goes for Sunday’s event. There was no way to freeze time, and before I knew it, Festival Chairman Murray Smith was on the PA announcing winners. And let me tell you, Murray is hilarious. It’s apparent he’s used a mic before because he seemed so comfortable chatting up winners as they drove up. You could also tell where his automotive specialties lay, as he succinctly described one winner, the 1973 Buick Century Gran Sport Stage 1 of Philip Roitman as “a yellow car” as it approached, yet divulged obscure facts for another. The casual conversations continued until the last two cars queued up in front of the main display.
At the end of the ceremony, the 1958 Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet of Peter Kalikow was awarded Best in Show – Touring and the 1961 Ferrari 250 TRI/61 Fantuzzi Spyder of Ralph Lauren seized the Best in Show – Sport. Both cars were more than worthy of their accolades.
As the few remaining cars rolled off the track, I was left with two cameras filled with images and a buzzing brain overflowing with emotions. The excitement of the day carried on long after sunset and I was eager to share my experience with anyone who would listen. But I can only do so much to capture and convey the magic that is Sunday in the Park. It’s best to create your own.
Bryan is an automotive photographer who occasionally uses the keyboard to supplement his work. He has had the pleasure and privilege of shooting events such as Greenwich, Amelia Island, Cavallino Classic, Lime Rock Historic Festival, Radnor Hunt, Turtle Invitational, the Elegance at Hershey, and many other gatherings of wonderful wheels. He is a life-long car enthusiast and has been photographing car events since first attending the New York Auto Show in 1995, Kodak disposables in hand.