The Premature End to the Race Was Disappointing but the Right Call
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Those of us of a certain age never sat in a child safety seat. We never wore helmets while riding a bicycle. Evel Knievel was our damaged hero – every broken bone of him – and we have the scars of wannabe-ism to prove it.
We didn’t come home until the streetlights came on. We drank directly from a garden hose, possibly after touching frogs and snakes, and we didn’t think twice about playing outside during a thunderstorm.
We weren’t a terribly bright bunch, but it’s possible that our behavior was responsible for some changes in modern safety precautions, including the decision Saturday by IMSA officials to end the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park because of lightning.
That in mind, here are three takeaways from the weekend:
IMSA’s lightning safety procedure in 2021 is similar to that followed by most organizers of outdoor events: If lightning is detected within a certain radius – in this case, within eight miles of the venue – activity is halted and all on the premises are strongly encouraged to take cover for 30 minutes. If no other strike is detected, activity resumes.
If, as was the case at Lime Rock, lightning continues after the initial strike, the delay continues. In this case, it ended the race short of its intended two-hour, 40-minute time frame.
It was a difficult decision to accept, but it was the correct decision. Last year, 17 people were killed by lightning in the U.S. As of June 8, nobody had been killed by lightning in the U.S. in 2021.
That’s a remarkable statistic that underlies the importance of an abundance of safety. To some, the eight-mile/30-minute rule seems overly cautious. To those who left Lime Rock Park safely on Saturday, it’s appropriate.
Lime Rock Park is the third oldest continuously operating road course in the U.S., but it may sometimes get overlooked beyond racing enthusiasts in the Northeast.
The knocks on Lime Rock are it’s: a) too short, and b) too narrow.
Those aren’t drawbacks. Those are strengths.
Much like oval tracks, road courses need variety. A road course referred to as a bullring is variety. At 1.474 miles in its configuration for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge uses a slightly longer, 1.478-mile layout), Lime Rock is roughly one-third the size of Road America, the next stop on the 2021 IMSA calendar.
It’s ridiculously fast, highly entertaining and worth the visit. Lime Rock Park defines scenic, with the Berkshire Mountains looming in the distance, and the compact layout combined with the hilly terrain provides fans in attendance with plenty of great viewing options to enjoy throughout each race.
Long live Lime Rock.
Some love for the No. 4
Imagine having the same resources, the same equipment, the same driving skills and the same engineering minds as your teammates. You’re effectively equal entries on the same team, with one small detail.
Your teammates have won four of the first five races this season. You have not won any paying full points.
That’s the situation inside Corvette Racing. The team’s No. 3 Corvette C8.R co-driven by Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor has won four of the first five GT Le Mans (GTLM) races in the WeatherTech Championship, while Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner in the sister No. 4 car won the not-for-points Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit and the qualifying-points-paying Motul Pole Award 100 that set the field for January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
After another victory Saturday at Lime Rock, Taylor said something telling: “Just as easily, we could have lost all of those wins.”
He’s right. Sometimes success is as much about circumstance as it is about resources, equipment, skill and brains. Sometimes you hit red on the roulette wheel four times in a row. The smart player bets black on the fifth spin because it’s bound to change at some point.
Bet the No. 4. It’s bound to change at some point.