Hallowed Connecticut track sets plans for the year ahead and beyond but remains in a fight for expanded hours of operation.
Steve Sewell, general manager of Lime Rock Park, says he is remaining positive about the future of the track, but admits the venue’s battle to expand and develop major events is a challenge.
“It’s out of our hands to some extent,” he remarked to Motorsport.com, “but that’s not to say we aren’t thinking about the potential outcomes. However, we must stick to what we’re doing which isfurther establishing Lime Rock Park as the premier racing facility in the northeast.”
Sewell described the 2016 schedule at Lime Rock as “impressive,” explaining: “In 2016, we’ve got the Pirelli World Challenge on Memorial Day weekend, along with the inaugural U.S. Formula 4 race. We’ve got IMSA returning in July, bringing the GT Le Mans class, which brings manufacturers, and manufacturers bring hospitality – the lifeblood of any racing event.
“And then on Labor Day Weekend, we have our Historics, which has become an established premier event, with a very big concours show on Sunday and Ferrari Challenge returns after a two-year hiatus in September.
“So that’s all good. However, in order to remain competitive as a professional motorsport facility, Lime Rock Park is petitioning the State court for greater flexibility in operation, while doing our best to remain a good neighbor to surrounding property owners and area residents.”
Sewell explained the dispute over Lime Rock’s operational hours only arose at the start of 2015.
“At the beginning of this year, Skip Barber [track owner] was looking to have the original 1959 injunction updated with more realistic hours of unmuffled racing operation,” said Sewell. “Right now we’reallocated a limitednumber of Fridays and Saturdays only – and strict hours, too – a total of just 17 hours of available track time. That makes things very hard, when the average IMSA event involves 36-40 hours of track time.
“So we’re seeking a series of amendments to the existing injunction that would allow reasonably expanded days and hours of operation, but this petition hasn’t been heard by the local courts yet.
“But in response to the concerns of a local resident’s group, in November the area Planning & Zoning commission approved a series of amendments that essentially provides them with the ability to directly interpret and enforce the current injunction. We’ve since filed a legal appeal to these amendments as they could ultimately be used to micromanage our ‘permitted use’ during major events.”
Asked what the timeline was on getting matters resolved, Sewell said: “We can’t speed up the legal process. It is what it is.”
Despite the ongoing battle, Sewell says the track is pushing forward with its plans to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the track in 2017, with improved facilities in place before then.
“A reinvigoration program was kicked off over the last four years, but this was the first real year of putting those processes into effect.
“We put our skin in the game this year to the tune of $4m of improvements. And we’re going through a second round of fundraising through partnerships and sponsorships for another $2-3m over the next two years.”