AR37 Through The Esses
Vintage Memories At LRP
© Andrew S. Hartwell
It was billed as "one of the largest vintage
and historic racing weekends in the East",
and it did not disappoint. The annual LRP
Vintage Festival was held the weekend of
August 30th through September 2nd at the
beautiful Lime Rock Park circuit located in
the northeastern corner of the state of
Connecticut. Again this year the event
brought together cars and members from
two different vintage racing associations. Cars from the SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association) and the VSCCA (Vintage Sports Car Club of America) were on the track and they gave the many fans in attendance a wonderful chance to stroll down memory lane.
Of course, speeding Bugatti's and cool Camaros throughout the weekend were traversing the lane, so the fans had to take their stroll on the grassy hills.
But what a day for a stroll.
Under Bugatti-blue skies and Chaparral-white clouds the grounds of LRP were a most beautiful setting for watching classic race cars go sliding through the corners, tires ablaze in squeals and smoke.
This year marked the 19th edition of this Labor Day weekend tradition. The feature attraction this time was the "return of historic Trans-Am machines from the late 1960s and'70s, '80s and early '90s." It was an opportunity to see some, but not nearly enough, Trans-Am cars from the days of the Pony Car Wars, the late 1960's and early 70's. The most famous of those at the track had to be the 1967 Mark Donohue / Roger Penske 'lightweight' Camaro. (See this column in AR# 35 for the whole story.) Current owner Pat Ryan took the car temporarily into the lead, and twice more off the track, during the feature race on Monday. Still, it was good to see the Sunoco blue warrior in action and, all you needed to do was watch the car for a moment, close your eyes and then remember when Mark himself was behind the wheel.
Trans Am racing is very much in possession of a few pages of the LRP history book. All the great drivers from Mark Donohue to Parnelli Jones, and George Follmer to Peter Revson raced here. And the cars were equally memorable with the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Pontiac Firebird, and Plymouth Barracuda all looking to bring home the victory. Trans Am racing continues today as the longest running road racing series in North America. And this weekend provided a glimpse of what was at the heart of that sustained existence.
But if the pony cars were not your cup of tea, LRP did not take your tea bag about too soon. Fans of the 'real' vintage racers the great cars of England and Europe that raced in the period between 1930 and 1960 or so were steeped in nostalgia. There were Bugattis, Morgans, MGs, Alfas, Lolas, Triumphs, Jaguars, and even a Lotus or two. Colors, sounds, movement, all choreographed to provide titillation of the senses.
If you have never been to a vintage festival, I simply have to ask you, why not? There are so many cars, representing so many eras in racing history, that any fan of sports car racing is bound to find cars that peak their interest. And the atmosphere at a vintage festival is so much more relaxed and unhurried than at a modern race event. The time you spend with these cars is time that passes more slowly than time spent at an ALMS or Grand Am race, but it seems to pass all too soon none the less.
If you have any interest whatsoever in the cars that came before the Audis, you will find your hours at a vintage festival to be among the best of those you spend around cars. Who knows, you might go around a corner in the paddock and find yourself staring down a very rare, original, Shelby Daytona Coupe. Jerry Grant and Dan Gurney drove the one at LRP this weekend at Le Mans, in 1965. The current owners (a group of individuals who wished to not be identified) 'picked up' this classic for a mere $4 million. And when it took to the track, the value of the car was quickly appraised upwards by the many who witnessed this legendary marque at speed.
And move just a bit to more to your right and you might find a sleeping beauty resembling a John Wyer Automotive / Gulf-blue FORD GT40. Actually, the resemblance was unmistakable as this too was an original, an actual Le Mans winner. And it was in pristine condition. And it was magnificent to look at. And I want one in my garage.