Spectators and competitors alike will find themselves with a feeling that everything is familiar yet also very different this weekend at Lime Rock Park, when they see for themselves the fruits of a major off season upgrade in amenities.
The classic Connecticut track has undergone a large programme of renovations as it gears up to celebrate its 60th year in 2017. Under the banner of the 'Road to 60' programme, track owner Skip Barber has invested $3 million to a wide variety of projects to rebuild, refine and renew Lime Rock's infrastructure. The project marks the biggest improvements to the facility since the track itself was repaved and modernised in 2008.
This time there are no changes to the track layout – instead circuit management says the upgrades take the track from "pre-historic infrastructure to modern and gorgeous". Some of those projects will be complete in time for Lime Rock's season-opener – the Memorial Day Weekend Trans Am Series and Royals Sunday Car Show which takes place this weekend – and many more in time for the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar weekend on July 24-25.
"In 2008, the track itself had to get done – it was exceedingly bumpy, it needed more guardrail, better run-off areas – and that's what we did for the competitors. Road to 60 is for the fans," Barber said.
The target for completion of all Road to 60 projects is 2017, when Lime Rock Park celebrates its 60th anniversary. "We're doing what we need to do – what we want to do – to ensure the track's professional racing future," Barber says. "Major sports car races have defined Lime Rock since the day it opened, and I'm making sure that continues well into the future.
"It's important to note that everything we're doing, all the changes, all the improvements... all will make Lime Rock more useful, easier to navigate, more sensible – but all with an eye to making Lime Rock even more beautiful than it already is. I have no doubt that, just in the case of our paddocks, Lime Rock's will be the most attractive in the U.S."
Of the multitude of Road to 60 projects under way, the key upgrades are:
Laser-graded-and-paved to eliminate standing water; it will be landscaped with defined spectator walkways and cobblestone curbing, while the roadways through the paddock will be much wider. The new A-Paddock is specifically designed to allow two complete race rigs, tractors included, to park in-line – with a fan walkway in between – from inside Big Bend up to Victory Circle.
Paved in its entirety (and also laser-graded to eliminate standing water), there'll be much more usable space. Like A-Paddock, it will provide large and extremely efficient driving exercise and hospitality acreage.
Close to 100,000 square yards of earth was moved, re-contoured, re-sloped and/or removed to dramatically improve and expand the sightlines as well as make Lime Rock's famous "picnic-blanket-and-lawn-chair" experience even more enjoyable. Thanks to the re-working of the hill, close to 45 percent of the track can now be seen from this Hillside – with just a turn of the head. Additionally, the Infield Spectator Hillside has been extended all the way through the inside curve of the Righthander, creating an entirely new and exciting viewing area of No Name Straight and the Uphill. The Hillside reconfiguration has also allowed the spectator fencing to be moved even closer to the circuit in many locations.
There are now a total of three large areas of Lime Rock property dedicated to corporate, race team and VIP hospitality. The popular Outfield hospitality acreage remains essentially the same but the existing hospitality area in the Infield (between the Chalets) has been significantly increased in size and laser-graded. The third is an exciting new hospitality area that overlooks the Righthander and No Name Straight.
The Men's Room will be completely rebuilt, and the Ladies Room totally refreshed.
It will be improved and/or added throughout much of the facility
There'll be a new PA system; expanded and robust wi-fi; improved cellular phone service; and improvements and expansions to the other spectator areas.
Barber says: "Road to 60 accomplishes many things for Lime Rock's future, both short term and long. For each project, I asked myself, 'What's the best way to do this to make the Lime Rock experience better for the fan?' While not forgetting the competitors, sanctioning bodies, the car makers, hospitality clients, the Lime Rock Drivers Club and all the driving and racing organizations, I'm pretty sure we've made good decisions."