Lime Rock Park Is Terrifying in the Rain

The baddest bullring in the East really kicks when you drive it in a hurricane.

Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com

Did you know one of the remotest locales in the northeast is only two hours from New York? I know this because I drove a winding, high-speed country road all the way to its center at the start of torrential rains that are right now lashing the Atlantic seaboard. And I forgot to bring a raincoat.

By the time I was within a 60-mile radius of Lime Rock Park—the most beautiful and terrifying race track in America—there was not a single store where I could purchase a poncho.

Ford invited me to test the monstrous 2016 Ford Mustang GT350 and even more monstrous GT350 R at Lime Rock, the home track of Paul Newman, who learned to race here in his 50s—so well that he would go on to finish second at Le Mans in 1979. When I arrived, the rain really started in earnest and soaked the track through the night. The next morning, Henry Ford III surveyed the standing water and the still steady rainfall, and decided to garage the Rs.

And here’s why. This track is fast—it has the highest average speed of any road-racing track in the East—and its 1.5 miles pass whiplash fast. There are just seven turns and one left-hander. There’s also zero room for error. This isn’t your granny-state, FIA-approved racetrack, with vast gravel runoff areas and gentlemanly SAFR barriers. You screw up, you’re in the Armco steel. Behind that steel? Granite.

Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com
Jonathan Harper/thedrive.com

It all starts with Big Bend. Exit pit lane and dive right into this sweeping right-hander, which is really two apexes, where you’ll settle in for what seems like forever. Sam Posey, who was Newman’s teammate and driving mentor in the Seventies, calls it a very “sensuous” turn that you have to feel with your ass. When it’s pouring rain, what you feel is a drift so pronounced it’s like sitting in a swiveling office chair. Then it’s through the Esses—first a left and a critical right that you have to nail just right, because the No-Name backstretch awaits, tugging you uphill to a very fast right-hander called, well, Uphill. when you reach the crest, the car’s apt to unload, so if you haven’t already made the turn, prepare to kiss every inch of the Armco.

Because I’m a coward, I ducked around the Uphill by taking the optional chicane, rolling first the left then the right tires over the big, Stalinist-era concrete curbs. Pass under the bridge, shifting into third and rocketing through the Downhill. Lifting gently off the throttle for Turn No. 7 and gathering all those lateral Gs to set up for the 550-foot Sam Posey Straight.

It’s not until now I realize I haven’t breathed in a mile. Inhale, exhale, shift to fourth. Repeat.