The MINI John Cooper Works Team travels east to scenic Lime Rock Park in Connecticut this weekend for the Northeast Grand Prix, the sixth race in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series. In the last two races, the team has had great qualifying and promising race beginnings, only to see the wind taken out of their sails by circumstances beyond their control. The team remains optimistic, buoyed by the ever-increasing speed and improved handling of the MINI JCW, and hopes for clear sailing at Lime Rock.
##One MINI JCW or Two MINI JCWs?##
The MINI JCW Team is fervently hoping to have both MINIs ready for Lime Rock, but the readiness of the number 52 MINI, badly damaged at Watkins Glen, is dependent on needed parts arriving in time. At press time, the completion of number 52 in time to make the Lime Rock trip was still nip and tuck.
For sure, the number 37 MINI will be there to continue its fine performance. At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park two weeks ago, driver Zack Meyer gave the MINI JCW team its best start of the season by qualifying number 37 in seventh place and running as high as fourth before the dreaded pit-lane drive through penalty occurred. This week, fast and experienced Stephen Simpson will co-drive number 37 with Zack. Two good drivers in a good car will hopefully result in a great finish.
##Lime Rock Park##
Lime Rock Park is the third-oldest continuously operating road racing track the country after Road America and Watkins Glen. Conceived in 1956 by Jim Vaill who, along with Bill Millikin of the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory and racer John Fitch, built Lime Rock Park using state-of-the-art road and highway safety principles of the time. They opened the track on schedule on April 28, 1957 and among the participants in the first event were future racing legends Briggs Cunningham, Bob Holbert, Walt Hansgen, and John Fitch.
The track has undergone significant improvements over the years including a new start/finish tower, new spectator chalets, improved track run-off areas, and the repaving of both paddocks. Spectator viewing has also been dramatically improved all around the circuit. The track was recently repaved and new alternative corner complexes were added at the Uphill turn and at West Bend.
The Lime Rock Park track is 1.5 miles long featuring a 40-foot elevation drop between the West Bend turn and the appropriately named Downhill turn. Lime Rock novices tend to smirk at what appears to be the simple tack layout, but they soon find out that the simplicity is deceptive—putting down a fast lap at Lime Rock requires mastering the nuances of each turn. The short track demands constant mental focus and simply does not give the drivers time to take a breath during intense competition.
##Two Hour Race Format for Lime Rock##
The race format at Lime Rock will be a bit different than usual. Instead of a two hour and thirty minute combined GS/ST CTSCC race, the race time will be shortened to two hours to facilitate televising of the race. The fans will get a bonus of extra time for the pre-race pit walk to chat with the drivers and take a close-up look at the cars.
##MINI Car Corral##
Following successful MINI owner’s Corrals at Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen, MINI USA and MotorWerks Magazine will bring another special event for MINI owners attending the Northeast Grand Prix, giving them a special area to gather and cheer on the MINI JCW Racing team. The corral will provide preferred parking for corral participants, soft drinks and water on Friday and a lunch on Saturday. In addition, there will be parade laps on Friday for the first twenty-five MINIS to arrive in the corral and, time permitting, a meet and greet, and an autograph session with the team members.
Ian Rae, MotorWerks Magazine editor is excited about the new location of the corral. “The great news for Lime Rock attendees is that the MINI Corral will be in a new location this year; one that provides a great viewing area and easy access to the pits/paddock. The new location is an elevated viewing area just before turn one and includes a view of almost 1/3 of the track. The outfield location will also make access easier. We expect the Corral to be a well-attended event and the new location gives us plenty of space.”
For up-to-date corral details, please see the MotorWerks Magazine Face book page.
##Race and Broadcast Times##
The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC) race will get the green flag at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 25th. For ticket information and a detailed race weekend schedule, please see the CTSCC website. If you can’t be there in person, you can still catch all of the MINI action—the two hour race will be streamed live on IMSA.com and IMSA Mobile App, and will be rebroadcast on Fox Sports 1 on August 2nd. Please check your local cable company schedule for the exact time and channel.