Lime Rock Drivers Club members test the track’s groomed autocross area. Photos by Rick Roso and Casey Keil.
Conventional wisdom says that winter marks the end of the competitive driving season, unless one lives in a place cold enough to offer ice racing, like Norway or Minnesota, or a place warm enough that winter exists only on prime-time news. Last year, Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park decided to change this by offering an autocross series that spanned the seasons from winter through fall, with events held regardless of weather conditions. This year, the track has taken things one step further: Thanks to the addition of snowmaking equipment, it will be offering true winter autocross sessions on a snow-packed (and groomed) track.
Lime Rock tests its snowmaking equipment on December 12, 2014.
We attended a January 2014 autocross session at Lime Rock and turned it into a feature in the May 2014 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car magazine. Though the weather was cold, it wasn’t snowing, something that Rick Roso, the track’s director of editorial, press and PR, regretted. He even admitted that Lime Rock was considering adding snow-making equipment to its dedicated autocross track, but that seemed like little more than wishful thinking at the time. Race tracks, after all, are businesses with steep overhead and seasonal profitability, making such a large investment in seasonal infrastructure seem unlikely.
The MINI is well suited to winter autocross.
Enter the Lime Rock Drivers Club (LRDC), whose members thought that adding snowmaking equipment sounded like a great idea. Connections were made, equipment was acquired, and as a result, LRDC members get a winter playground on which to safely hone their driving skills. Snowmaking and surface grooming at the facility began in mid-December, and the initial track sessions began the same month.
The LRDC’s improvements work out well for the rest of us, too, as Lime Rock has opened up the winter autocross series to drivers of all ages and abilities, with sessions planned for Fridays and Saturdays through March (or, realistically, as long as it remains cold enough to make snow). The entry fee for each event is $300, which includes professional instruction from one of the track’s Skip Barber School drivers, a lot of laps throughout the day, and access to a heated chateau with restrooms, hot beverages and snacks.
Instructor Don Drislane (center) supervises an LRDC session.
Snowcross, as winter autocross is also called, is an excellent way to learn or sharpen winter driving skills, and Lime Rock’s 1,200-foot autocross area provides ample run-off should things get out of control. Sessions typically see three or four cars on the track at any given time, which allows sufficient spacing for safety.
Wondering how a 2014 Mustang GT would fare on a tight, snow-packed autocross course? A 2011 Volkswagen GTI? Look for first-person coverage coming in the Hemmings Daily, as well as in upcoming issues of Hemmings Muscle Machines and Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
For additional information, visit LimeRock.com.