BRASELTON, Ga. - For some racing veterans, it will be a return to familiar territory. For others, it will be the first time at a place of racing lore and legend. Historic Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Ct., will play host to the American Le Mans...
BRASELTON, Ga. - For some racing veterans, it will be a return to familiar territory. For others, it will be the first time at a place of racing lore and legend.
Historic Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Ct., will play host to the American Le Mans Series for the first time in 2004, and drivers on the international professional sports car racing series are eagerly anticipating the Independence Day weekend event that will also mark the first time that the six-year-old series has raced in the Northeastern United States.
The series, which features many of the same drivers and cars that compete in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, will hold a two-hour, 45-minute timed event on the 1.54-mile Lime Rock circuit on Monday, July 5. ALMS races include four classes of cars, all competing at the same time for both class wins and the overall race win. Practice, qualifying and support series races will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 2-3.
"Lime Rock has always been a very special place for Dyson Racing," said Chris Dyson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the 2003 American Le Mans Series driving champion in the Prototype 675 class. "The track is less than an hour away from home, so we've always considered it our 'home race.' My father (team owner Rob Dyson) began his racing career out there, and I did as well. As a group, we've been very successful at Lime Rock."
The Dyson team runs Lola EX257-AER/MG machines, and other drivers on the team include English veterans James Weaver and Andy Wallace, as well as Butch Leitzinger of State College, Pa. All have extensive experience on the track from previous sports car races, including IMSA events that were so popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
"All of the drivers on our team adore the place," Dyson said. "The track layout is fast and challenging and it rewards commitment.
"On race day, the atmosphere is electric because the Lime Rock fans are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about sports cars," said Dyson. "It's incredibly energizing to be from the area and compete in a race there. Whenever we race there, friends and family come out and there's always great support for us."
"The track is perfectly suited for sports car racing," said Eliseo Salazar of Chile, a former driver in Formula One, CART and the Indy Racing League who now drives Ferrari 360 Modenas for JMB Racing USA in the GT class of the ALMS. "The layout is a challenge to drivers and the fans will welcome the ALMS.
"Lime Rock holds a very special place in my career," Salazar said. "I got my first pole position and obtained my first win in the United States there in 1994 in a Ferrari 333. I look forward to the opportunity to race there again."
Johnny O'Connell, who is also native of nearby Poughkeepsie but now lives in Flowery Branch, Ga., is another veteran of past races at Lime Rock. O'Connell and co-driver Ron Fellows of Canada, himself a former winner at Lime Rock in Trans-Am racing, won the 2003 GTS class championship in the ALMS for the factory Chevrolet Corvette team.
"I think it's great that we are getting to race in New England again because it's a very important market for all the manufacturers," said O'Connell. "We have lots of Corvette fans in New England and this gives them all a great opportunity to see our Corvettes up close."
All races on the American Le Mans Series feature open paddocks so that fans can have the opportunity to watch teams at work, see the cars and talk to team members and drivers. In addition, the events include scheduled autograph sessions that all drivers participate in.
Additional information about the event is available online at www.limerock.com or by calling 1-800-RACE-LRP.
"The American Le Mans Series racing at Lime Rock on the Fourth of July weekend should be quite a spectacle," said Dyson. "Personally, I can't wait."