The July 4th “Big Bang at the Rock” weekend was louder than ever at Lime Rock Park, the “road racing center of the East.” NASA Northeast hosted its first unmuffled race weekend there in the history of the region. Since these “loud” days are limited by local ordinance, with only about a dozen possible days over the whole race season, NASA racers were eager to return to the track many of them have not run on since their HPDE muffled days. In a first for the Northeast, the event included a third race group consisting only of GTS drivers, 31 BMWs and Porsches to be exact, as well as the normal Lightning and Thunder groups.
On Friday, the first race day brought rain! Why would you expect anything less with so much anticipation throughout the paddock? But wet pavement did not stop most racers from heading to grid. The GTS grid was seriously quick with the top eight drivers qualifying with sub-1-minute times. The top two GTS3 drivers in the East, Josh Smith and Hugh Stewart, were separated by only .3 seconds. A serious incident in the GTS race ended GTS2 front runner Michael Sousa’s weekend and an off-track slide in the Lightning race did the same for Honda Challenge 2 leader Brian Casella. This opened the door to podium spots for D.J. Fitzpatrick in GTS2 and Jon Baker HC2. After battling door to door, lap after lap through the historic “Big Bend” Turn 1, former ST2 racer Devin Gregory landed his first win in Spec Miata.
As the Enduro racers prepared for the start of the 3.5-hour battle, the rain fell heavier. Even with worsening conditions, the entire race ran without one yellow flag. After 143 laps and three leader changes, Ratchet Head Racing’s ES car crossed the finish line first. John George in E0, Fred Constantineau in E1, Russell Ehrman in E2 and SeanCurran/Peter Thibault in E3 all emerged victorious. Champagne celebrations followed at our 4th of July barbecue blast.
On Saturday, with double sprints scheduled, perfect weather was a welcome change. In the Lightning group, Michael Fries’ S2000 took the win in Honda Challenge 2, with Pete McIntosh Spec Miata and Sean Curran Spec E30 also on top. In the Thunder race, Al Watson won American Iron, Ziggy Miejski won ST1 in his Corvette and Paul Plemenos took the ST2 win, also in a Corvette. Jake Parrott put down a hot 54.26 in his Camaro to win Super Unlimited.
The GTS race was red flagged for a serious incident, but resumed with a few laps left. Luke Pardi won GTS2 in his M3. Josh Smith took his M3 to the GTS3 win and Ratchet Head Racing won GTS4. In GTS5, Steve Katz’s Porsche GT3 Cup car finished first with a 55.63. Both Pardi and Smith scored track records for their efforts.
Our TT drivers also had a very successful weekend. After five sessions on Saturday, Joe Ascoli’s EVO in TTU flew with a 56.41, and Jake Namer’s Mazda RX7 in TT2 posted a 57.64. In TTB, Andrea Cairone’s M Coupe landed a 1:00.67 while Marc Cantor took his M3 to top honors in TTD with 1:00.91.
The challenges of Lime Rock, unique turns and 50-foot elevation changes uphill and down, did not disappoint the NASA NE racers. Lime Rock tests the racers’ ability to be smooth, precise and consistent. We look forward to the chance to repeat again in 2015.