History got a nod at historic Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. on the first of July. The all-conquering Audi R8 raced in the spotlight — and won — one final time before being sent to pasture in favor of the new, Le Mans winning R10. Roger Penske's Porsche RS Spyders either lead or bit at the heels of the mighty R8 the entire race, coming up just short, but proving Team Penske is as dangerous as a Playmate with herpes in any race series in which they choose to compete — despite being in a lower, less powerful class than the Audis.
In The American Le Mans Series, four classes howl around the track at the same time in any race on the calendar: two prototype classes and two production-based Grand Touring classes. That means spectators watch four races happen simultaneously. At Lime Rock this year, paying crowds saw a heavyweight fight reminiscent of Ali/Frasier's Thriller in Manila, between the Corvette C6-Rs and the Aston Martin DBR9s. The two cars traded places throughout the race — the 'Vette's seven-liter V8 roaring deeply in counterpoint to the skull-shredding wail of the Astons' V12 — as they streaked down the front straight. In the end, the race was decided by 0.033 seconds — the closest finish ever in the history of the series.
One of the 'Vettes had been rudely shoved off the track by a prototype at the end of Lime Rock's esses, and now a lone C-6R was all that stood in the way of an Aston Martin 1-2 sweep in the final four minutes of a two-hour and forty-five-minute race — and it was well over a half mile behind the V12 banshees. During the next three minutes, the Corvette carved the competition on the narrow track like Billy Madison in a game of dodgeball. The crowd was screaming for America's sports car, and each time it passed it ate huge chunks of the Aston Martin lead. The cars were almost two wide as they launched into the dangerous downhill sweeper that lead to the front straight and the win. The Corvette had a run on and slid past the Aston Martin just after the finish line. The Aston had won it by a bumper after nearly three hours of action. The crowd kept cheering out of appreciation for a great race, no matter where their loyalties lay.
The Lot Scene and the Paddock
One of the most beautiful things about Lime Rock is that race fans get a show as soon as they pull into the parking lot. The cars spectators drive to watch the race are absolutely arresting. Parked two spots over from me was a British racer from another era, and probably a million-dollar car, in this Bentley.
Close by, on the other side, sat a red Lotus Europa.
Walking through the grass parking lots inside and outside the track I saw, within feet of one another two Ferrari 512TR Testarossas and a pair of sparkling new V10 BMW M5s.
Must be nice, right? One the other end of the sports car spectrum, but a short walk away, was this Lotus Elise — practically a matchbox car next to a Cadillac and an F-250.
Included in the price of your ticket is the privilege to enter the racers' paddock and get drool-on-the-tires close to the cars. You may also drool on the Pirelli girls, but the cars don't slap your face and call you a creep.
The nose section of the R8 was on display, showing off a special decal highlighting its eight overall series wins and its five wins in six years at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Here is your Penske Porsche Spyder RS team, about to storm to second and third place in class and overall.
The Corvette team was putting the finishing touches on their cars as I walked by, too bad this number three car was wadded into the wall after all that hard work.
The eventual race-winning 009 Aston Martin DBR9 showing a clean and organized engine bay. Not pictured is its teammate and eventual third place 007 car. Yes, like that 007.
This Dyson Lola's 3.6liter twin turbo V-8 is a little more complicated. Its driver, Butch Leitzinger, was on home turf at Lime Rock as a Connecticut native.
The winners in GT2 were Petersen Motorsports and their Porsche 911GT3 RSR. This was a brand new car, since their old RSR was annihilated in the eleventh hour at Le Mans two weeks earlier.
The drivers of the second place RSR of Team Flying Lizard, (and most other drivers in the series) wear shirts that pump cold water over their bodies to combat in-car heat that can top 150 degrees throughout the course of an hours-long stint behind the wheel. If that air were water, it would be hot enough to boil you alive.
BMW is back in ALMS racing this year with a strong showing out of a pair of E46 M3s. The duo finished third and fourth in class, and ninth and tenth overall, behind the RSRs.
The Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT Berlinetta is a beautiful thing. Or was. This one didn't finish the race after sliding off track at about 110mph on the downhill and hitting a prototype car which had wrecked in the same spot seconds earlier. The pictures came out great, though.
[by James Gribbon]