"One of the Most Beautiful Tracks in the World"

Visiting Lime Rock Park – an icon of American motorsport

Watch GT RACER’s Legends of Lime Rock film and experience the intense racing spirit at one of the most beautiful tracks in the world.

Who would have thought that a stone quarry could turn into a piece of history known for seemingly paradoxical features of great beauty and rich motorsport heritage? If there is a racetrack in the United States to perhaps rival the timeless splendor of Goodwood in England, it would be Lime Rock Park in the northwest corner of Connecticut on the American East Coast.

Early race with the Loh brothers' "Fast Ford." Photo: Lime Rock Park Archive.

In 1954, a man named Jim Vaill, whose primary driving activity up to then was operating a bulldozer in his family’s gravel pit, decided to beat an old MG around the pit for fun. Jim and his friends took turns and slowly a dirt track emerged. Soon after, a stranger approached Jim about turning the site into a proper racetrack. That stranger turned out to be legendary racing driver and inventor John Fitch. Vaill was intrigued. In the spring of 1957, Lime Rock Park opened its gates, its first race, appropriately, featuring an MG class. Sixty-three years later, Lime Rock has seen Can-Am races, Formula Atlantic, Grand-Am, IMSA, NASCAR, American Le Mans, and so many more.

Fueling up at a Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. Photo: Shutterstock.

Lime Rock Park is the nation’s third-oldest racetrack, following Willow Springs (built 1953) and Road America (built 1955). More or less equally distanced from two major metropolises – New York City and Boston – one can reach Lime Rock Park from either city in about two hours. And traveling to Lime Rock has an extra perk: No matter what direction you come from, you will enjoy some of New England’s most glorious roads on the way.

Skip Barber Championship Series Road America, 2008. Photo: Hodag-Media / Alamy.

Nestled in a picturesque little valley, surrounded by beautiful rolling hills, Lime Rock Park charms its visitors with its natural beauty and racers with a 1.5-mile track, built into natural terrain, featuring exciting uphill elevations and downhill corners. It is a “carry-speed track” where most can be gained by carrying your speed as smoothly and consistently as possible around the entire track. This makes the track fearsomely fast but at the same time a great track for classic cars, as well. Murray Smith’s Lime Rock Historic Festival of vintage racing, held annually over the Labor Day weekend, has become the biggest historic racing event of the year on the East Coast.

Paul Newman after winning at Lime Rock Park, September 29, 2007, at the age of 82. Photo: Wilderimages / Alamy.

Track owner and former racer Skip Barber founded his legendary racing school here, which he later franchised around the country. Due to its significant heritage, Lime Rock Park has a loyal following and has featured many world-renowned racers, such as Mario Andretti, Stirling Moss, Dan Gurney, Mark Donohue, and Sam Posey – after whom the main straight is named – as well as some celebrity racers, such as Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, who learned racing here for his film Days of Thunder.

Tom Cruise as "Cole Trickle" in the 1990 film, Days of Thunder. Photo: Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Alamy.

And, of course, Lime Rock is not without its special quirks. Back in 1959, the small Trinity Episcopal Church, located just across the street on the far side of the main straight, took the track to court in an effort to ban Sunday racing. The resulting permanent injunction, upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court, still stands today. Ironically, though, the injunction also came with benefits, as it guarantees the track’s right to unmuffled sports-car racing on Friday and Saturday, as well as testing on Tuesdays.

Gull-wing entry being readied for Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. Photo: Shutterstock.

Today, Lime Rock Park is a true motorsport icon. Instead of grandstands, Lime Rock features a big hill – the Infield Spectator Area – that descends toward the track and overlooks parts of the main straight, turns 1 and 2 (Big Bend), and turns 3 and 4 (the Esses). On this spacious, grassy hill, a considerable number of spectators can spread out on picnic blankets and chairs to follow the race action in a most laid-back fashion. One has to experience it to truly appreciate it.

And experiencing it you can! Watch GT RACER’s Legends of Lime Rock film.