For reasons, obvious to some and confounding to others, many of us are unabashed collectors. Well designed, beautifully executed objects hypnotize us into swirls of fantasy and, at times, an obsessive need to have these items for ourselves. Pens. Watches. Bells. Glass sculptures. And, perhaps the most consuming … automobiles.
As adolescents, we gazed lovingly at a Chevrolet Corvette as it purred down the street in front of our house. In our 20s the perfectly tuned whine of a 911 snapped our heads around to appreciate the fullness of Ferdinand Porsche’s enduring vision.
Even as we have matured, we observe an elegantly created vehicle and project ourselves, hands securely on the steering wheel, navigating the turns or the Mulsanne Straight of Le Mans … a quaint French village few of us will ever visit. We sit forlornly in our minivans, waiting at a stop light, dreaming of what it would be like to see the snapping green starter’s flag and invoke the sheer brute power of a 670 horsepower NASCAR.
Cars are in our blood. Sure, there are some among us who profess that we “don’t care about cars …” but for every non-believer, there is a devotee who can identify the distinguishing characteristics of a Shelby Mustang or recall the names of the winners of the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, and the US Grand Prix. For them, “Hamilton” means Lewis … not Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Festival of beauty and speed
Labor Day weekend in the bucolic hills of Northwestern Connecticut is a five day festival presented by Lime Rock Park in Salisbury, CT, that dives deeply into the affections, passions and appreciation of car lovers who flock to days of racing, a unique race car parade and a car show that is simply mesmerizing.
September 1-5 will mark the 40th year that Lime Rock Park is presenting the Historic Festival. From pre-war, open wheeled sports cars racing bravely around the mile and a half road course to seemingly endless opportunities to see this plethora of mechanical sculptures on full display to programs designed to inform, engage and delight, this weekend has it all.
Each Historic Festival selects a marque – a brand of automobile – that has stood out for a variety of reasons in competition. 2022 is certainly no different, with an exhaustive bit of research and direct invitations providing a truly unique program saluting the Chevrolet Corvette through its creation to competition. The Corvette is approaching its 70th anniversary with all the deference and respect that motoring longevity can muster. Throughout the weekend, there will be a growing number of singular Corvettes on hand with the unique tales and triumphs of each car on full display.
Corvettes in full bloom
A moment of nostalgic pride must be recognized as the Corvette SS, a 1957 vintage racing machine that was piloted by local legend John Fitch at the 12 hours of Sebring will be on display. Other competition Corvettes with celebrity ties will also be on hand, including the 2008 car which was the last competition car driven by actor/driver Paul Newman who competed on the Lime Rock track for many years.
The festivities begin on Thursday, September 1st when the Vintage Racecar and Sportscar Parade begins at Lime Rock Park, winds its way through 17 miles of local roads, visiting villages, gliding past farms and forests, ending up in Falls Village, where the drivers will park their cars and be greeted by a family-friendly fair.
The race is on
Friday is the moment the “roar” begins to echo through the hills. Drivers will be taking to the track to refine their skills, determine the best “line” through the seven corners of the track and make sure their classic racecars are tuned and ready. This is the day of practice and qualifying as drivers engage their skills to find a place on the starting grids of two days of racing. There will be early sports cars with their limits being tested in counterpoint to thundering Mustangs, Camaros, Firebirds, Javelins, and Cougars that will relive the Trans Am races of the 1960s and 70s.
Saturday, September 3 is wall to wall racing – Day One. Arranged by class – determined by the size of the car engines – the day will be filled with moments of consummate skill, bravado and grace. With a range of vehicles and types that span over six decades, all meticulously maintained, each race will delight. Crowds will find it just as easy to cheer on a vintage MG as it will to stand and salute a triumphant Camaro.
Sunday is a quiet day at Lime Rock Park … as far as the roar of engines is concerned. The sounds that will emanate from the track will be those of amazement and delight. Sunday in the Park places 600 amazing vehicles along the straight away named for legendary driver and local resident Sam Posey and extends the assembled vehicles around the curves of the track. With easy access from both Lime Rock Park entrances, the display invites spectators to walk from car to car, take photos, talk with the proud owners and indulge in that wonderful fantasy of dreaming of themselves, hair blowing in the wind, motoring through the countryside. At the close of the “concours” there will be recognition of the meticulous work that owners have put into keeping their sculptures in spotless condition. “Best of Show” is no small designation, and the beauty of the contestants is enduring witness to their efforts to be identified as “best.”
On Monday, it’s back to work. Race Day Two. The Labor Day race card brings the classic racecars back to the track for a full day of competition that ends, as all motor races do, with winners atop the winner’s stand, trophies in hand and the applause of a crowd that has been fully rewarded in their devotion to the moving sculpture of the automobile.
Something for everyone
Along with racing, parades, and car shows, the Lime Rock Park Historic Festival offers a variety of diversions for participants that begin with camping on the track infield, a Gathering of the Marques that assembles cars by manufacturer to create seas of Porches, BMWs, Corvettes, Alfa Romeos, MGs, Jaguars, Austin Healeys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis … and many more.
And, there is food. With a full complement of catering choices, visitors can pick and choose the cuisine of their choice, washed down with their favorite beverage. Displays of “automobilia” will offer everything from stylish wearables to collectables and a “swap meet” will attract the attention of those dedicated aficionados who are looking for that special part to complete that special car that might, with some luck, be on display when the 41st Historic Festival appears next year and automobile fantasies bloom, again, in the Litchfield Hills.