A gem of a movie about a gem of a race track
I came across the documentary movie Lime Rock Park: The Secret Valley of Racing purely by chance. While skimming my local TV listings for something to watch, I came across a listing that began with “Lime Rock”. It had me right there.
This Lime Rock Park movie was presented on Connecticut Public Television as a nice piece of local interest. I had no idea the documentary existed and would have sought it out a long time ago had I known about it. Created in 2001 by director Chris Szwedo and narrated by Will Lyman, the laconic images and paced narration that opens the film serves an important piece of information about Lime Rock Park.
It nicely explains how weird it is to build a race track in the middle of nowhere (but genuinely beautiful) Connecticut.
I’ve been to Lime Rock countless times over the years for IMSA, Can-Am, Trans-Am, Formula Atlantics and friends racing their own cars. And of course the wonderful vintage event every Labor Day weekend.
If you have been there, you will enjoy this movie. A lot.
It’s a love story about Lime Rock Park
Yeah. A love story about a race track. But it’s not a race track. It’s a park with a race track.
The track is notably different from any other you have been to. It’s short, just 1.5 miles around and quite quick. That’s just part of its beauty.
It’s the drive to the track on winding two-lane roads amid the gorgeous surroundings of the Connecticut countryside.
It’s the trees, the grass and the stream along the pit straight. The little church on top of the hill. It’s diehard racers and diehard fans coming back year after year to a track that fits like home.
And that’s the feel the movie goes for.
Rare racing clips and a tale of the track’s creation
A couple of speed-crazy men driving their sports car into the ground in the fields of Connecticut. A builder who spent months carving a track out of the terrain. An American race driver that had raced at LeMans in 1955 and made sure that the new track had spectator safety in the forefront of the design.
Lime Rock Park: The Secret Valley of Racing starts slow and builds toward a smile-inducing crescendo. There are racing clips from the beginning of the track right up until the time the movie was filmed. The pilgrimages to Lime Rock that occur every Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends are lovingly documented. Including the wonderful Sunday in the Park car show.
It’s filmed in low definition. Meaning the movie will appear smaller in the middle of your television. Don’t fret. You won’t notice at all at some point. It gets truly interesting as told by the folks who were there.
John Fitch, Mark Donohue, Sam Posey, Paul Newman and Skip Barber
They all participate in historical racing footage and interviews as well. Mr. Fitch helped design the track and a car he built that he drives on New England roads for the camera. That’s Mr. Fitch jumping into the Corvette SS.
Local resident Posey raced there countless times in envy-inducing cars. He later designed the beautiful timing tower that sits in the paddock.
The footage of Mark Donohue in the 1971 AMC Javelin running away from the Trans-Am field at Lime Rock was great. There is an interview with him too. What he says about racing and life in that interview is haunting.
Mr. Newman was a frequent visitor to the little track. He cut his racing teeth there and moved on to drive Lime Rock in fantastic Bob Sharp Datsuns and later a Corvette GT1. He is also shown testing the Nissan GTP car at Lime Rock. Priceless.
Skip Barber purchased the track at one point and tirelessly improved the place year after year. It’s now a track where you can turn your family loose with little fear.
Catching the racing “virus”
The above drivers and other Lime Rock luminaries veer slightly off the movie’s subject and describe why they race. They concluded that getting involved in racing is like getting a pleasant virus you can never get rid of.
I agree wholeheartedly. Racing is seriously infectious.
Lime Rock Park: The Secret Valley of Racing succeeds at every level and is very fine moviemaking. It’s a compelling story about a place that exists purely for the pleasure of the racers and racing fans. The movie is 60 minutes of pure Lime Rock joy. If you have ever gone to Lime Rock or plan to go, you’ll want to watch this gem of a movie.
You can purchase or rent the movie on Vimeo and other outlets.
More esoteric racing fun is right here too!