For more than 40 area drivers, Saturday was a day to take their cars -- all rear-wheel drive -- to the autocross course at Lime Rock Park in Salisbury to test their track skills.The event was organized by Mike Lynch of Enfield. His racing club, Lock City Drift, had set up events at parking lots in the past, but the lot owners decided to discontinue the practice. When Lime Rock started renting their course, Lynch's club signed on early.
Over 200 people came to watch drivers in several models of Nissans, BMWs, and Mazdas, a Porsche 944 and an older Volvo sedan. There was a Ford Thunderbird as well.
Some cars were brought in by trailer, some driven to the track on their own.
“People have come from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maine,” said Lynch. “It’s an adrenaline rush...one of the most fun things you can do.”
Drivers had the choice of two different tracks: a longer straightaway to build more speed and another with more turns. Some drivers went solo. Others had a passenger along for the ride.
Autocross courses are mini race tracks, traditionally laid out on open pavement with traffic cones. Drivers on the course participate in time trials and other skills competitions to show their control of the vehicle.
Lime Rock has the two autocross courses, as well as a skid pad – a flat area of pavement set up to practice driving skills. The driving areas are designed so a car can go off the track and safely stop before hitting any walls, trees or guardrails.
The world renowned track just recently started renting the course to the general public. For $3,500, up to 40 people can spend the day with a driving instructor on the track's auto cross courses and skid pad. For the last 20 years, training and auto cross days were booked through the Skip Barber Racing School, which holds classes at the course.
Rick Ruso, Public Relations Director for Lime Rock said they expect most groups to run timed events, with chicanes -- an extra turn in a road, added to slow the drivers down -- to make it more challenging.
James Malone, of Brewster New York, brought his 1993 BMW 325. It’s the car he uses as his daily driver, and for the track he swaps out the street tires for ones he bought on Craigslist. “It’s about a passion for cars,” said Malone, “Someone else would say you’re out of control, but you are maintaining control.”
Malone also modified his suspension, steering and differential to optimize it for the track, at a cost of $500.
Alex Henry of New London took to the track in his 1994 BMW 530i station wagon. His car gets sideways glances from some of the other drivers as it’s largely stock and a station wagon in a field of coupes and sedans, but that doesn't stop Henry. At a previous event, he had 3 passengers and drove with the sunroof open and his passengers waving from the car.
Lock City Drift first rented the course in November. Lynch said the advantage at Lime Rock is the layout of the courses, which have varying elevations that provide an additional challenge for the drivers. With about 40 drivers, people have a good amount of track time, Lynch said.
Chris McCarthy brought his 2006 Nissan 350Z on to a course for the first time Saturday. McCarthy, from New London, said that it was nice to get out on the track early. “It’s cold, so it’s a little tough and the tires are spinning around, but it’d definitely nice to get out here,” McCarthy said.
Lynch said that Lock City Drift expects to be back in June, but may try for another day between now and then.