Race Report: BMWCCA Club Race At Lime Rock

Where I live, there are very few fans of auto racing. I am surrounded by writers, doctors, architects and scientists and an horde of earth-toned Subarus with scuffed bumpers. Most of my friends don’t own cars, and the few that do tend to consider them necessary evils. Understandably, a number of them have a hard time understanding why I disappear every now and then with my old BMW in tow, only to return several days later, exhausted, with several hundred dollars of gas station charges on my credit card and having done nothing more, as my girlfriend puts it, than “drive in circles.”
So I attempt to explain. Aside from a lifelong fascination with cars that even I don’t fully understand, my best answer is usually the sheer, all-encompassing intensity of the experience. Racing is an activity that demands your complete attention.
Truth be told, there really aren’t any very good logical explanations because on a purely logical basis, racing is an exceptionally dumb sport. It’s expensive, dangerous and bad for the environment. But it is fun like few other things, and doing it well requires tremendous skill, experience and mental toughness to absorb the intensity and use it to your advantage.
In the grand hierarchy of races, though, few will be more intense than a competitive race at Lime Rock Park. Some call it a “dizzying little fishbowl;” only a mile and a half per lap, with average speeds, depending on the car, of around 85mph. There’s really only one place on the track where one has to slow significantly; in every other corner, you’re trying to keep the momentum up at all costs. In a competitive race, it’s hard to find places to pass other cars.
Monday morning’s practice didn’t go very well; some last minute brake work caused one of the calipers to grab early under hard braking, which made the whole car jump about 2 yards to the left on the entry to Big Bend. I came in early and spent much of the morning readjusting the brake pedal and taking apart the left front caliper in an effort to root out the problem. By qualifying, my efforts made enough of a difference to help me to my best-ever time at Lime Rock — a 1:02.7, good for 5th out of 11 in my class and 8th overall out of about 25.
I started the race on the outside, in 7th place. On the start, I stayed right on the tail of the car in front of me, but lost a few places places as a car in front of me slowed and swerved to avoid an especially late braker coming across from the inside, leaving a big gap for other cars to pass on the inside. After the first lap chaos sorted itself out, I found myself behind Scott Casagrande, who was in his first race with his new M3. I hassled him for a few laps — at one point, he put two wheels solidly off in the downhill — but wasn’t able to get by. My tires started to get greasy, and he pulled away a bit, only to be pushed off the track late in the race while passing a backmarker. Thanks to Scott’s minor incident and another racer who lots his motor late in the race, I finished 7th overall, and 4th in my class.
Tuesday’s race was frustrating. I started again on the outside, and lost several places on the start to people coming up the inside. After the opening lap melee, I wound up behind a driver in a more powerful car in J-prepared, but couldn’t get by despite numerous attempts over 15 laps. More than once, other drivers in my class were able to use our battle to get by both of us at once. I finally got by him two laps before the finish. Lesson two: I have a lot to learn about racecraft.
In the end, a successful event: I didn’t crash, I didn’t hit anyone, my lap times were in the hunt, and I didn’t embarrass myself. Had a little fun, too. I have much to learn.