Lime Rock Park is known as a “bullring” of a circuit, due to its 1.5 mile total length. But it is so much more than that. The track is located in a natural bowl surrounded by woods in Northwest Connecticut and is one of the oldest tracks continuously in use in the USA. The track hosted its first race in 1957 and this year’s IMSA Weathertech Race was run as usual, on Saturday. Connecticut has a statewide ordinance that there should be no racing on Sundays, and as you approach the track, there are subtle reminders that racing on a Sunday is not welcome.
The race “weekend” for IMSA is therefore Friday and Saturday. It all begins with the practice session on Friday and then the Warm-up followed by Qualifying on the following Saturday morning, then the race begins Saturday afternoon. The practice sessions were very odd with the Corvettes at the back of practice 1, the #3 Corvette C7.R led the times in practice 2 with the #4 still eighth of eight in the GTLM Class and then in practice 3 the #4 Corvette was fifth and the #3 seventh.
Qualifying on Saturday morning and first up was Tommy Milner in the #4 Corvette C7.R. He set a blistering time of 50.048, good enough for provisional pole, only to see it eclipsed by a Porsche and a Ford; and then by his team mate Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette C7.R, who set the pole with an unbelievable 49.754 lap-time for the 1.5 miles of Lime Rock Park.
The race on Saturday afternoon saw Antonio Garcia in the #3 C7.R Corvette lead away from pole. There was then a full-course caution on lap two as two of the GTD Class cars got together along the No Name straight on their run to the chicane, resulting in both cars retiring.
From the restart, Antonio managed to pull out a small gap over the chasing pack and he held the race lead until the first round of pit stops at about 1 hour and ten minutes into the race. Jan Magnussen took over from Antonio and once the pit stop cycle had completed, re-took the GTLM Class lead, Tommy Milner pitted on the next lap to hand over the #4 Corvette C7.R to Oliver Gavin, who returned to the race in fourth place.
The two Corvettes pitted again for fuel and tires another forty minutes later when one of the GTD Class cars – the #63 Ferrari – had run off track and it looked like there might be a full-course caution. It seemed as though the Corvettes pitted too soon though. It was going to be a hard task to get both cars to the end of the race on the allotted fuel and without eating up the Michelins, as the recently relaid Lime Rock Park surface was very abrasive on the tires.
The Fords and Porsche pitted much later, and towards the end of the race, it became apparent that both Corvettes, but particularly the leader, were struggling for grip. The #66 Ford GT managed to hunt down the #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and in the downhill turn with about 13 minutes to go in the race – while trying to get by the GTD Class #63 Ferrari – the #3 ran wide onto the outside grass and the #66 Ford swept through into the lead and went on to take the race victory. Jan managed to hang on and bring the #3 home in second place and the #4 finished just off the podium in fourth place.
The silver lining to the result was that the championship leading #67 Ford finished in sixth place. That meant the points at the top of the leader board now read Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand (#66 Ford) at 208 points, second Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen (Corvette C7.R) at 207 and Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe from the #67 Ford are third with 206 points.
The next race is in less than two weeks. It takes place at Road America, the longest track the drivers tackle on the IMSA Weathertech schedule, measuring in at just over four miles in length.