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Lime Rock Park makes a proposal

by Antonia Shoumatoff
Mon Aug 8th, 2016

We ran a story last week drawing from only one source, which we do not usually do, regarding the conflict over noise regulations for Lime Rock Park.  That source was Music Mountain, the oldest continually-existing chamber music festival in the country.

This week we interviewed Skip Barber, the Lime Rock Park President, to get both sides of the story.  He told us that we did not ask how many Sunday afternoons that Lime Rock Park is asking for.  He said they are only asking for permission to race on two Sunday afternoons, one on Memorial Day weekend, which would obviate noisy racing on Memorial Day Monday, and the second Sunday on July 23, 2017, and, with two years’ notice, for any subsequent July dates. The track says it is not asking for additional noisy hours, but is asking to re-distribute the already allowed hours.

Scheduling for the day in July would require asking Music Mountain to move their afternoon concert time on that Sunday to 6 p.m. Mr. Barber said he spoke to the director of the Music Mountain Summer Music Festival, offering to make up the difference for any revenue losses on that date.  He also offerred to promote the Music Mountain Saturday night jazz series to his list of 40,000 subscribers.

Mr. Barber explained that every race track has a main event, which they pay to bring in, but that the racing time for the major races has become longer, around 2 hours and 45 minutes, which means less time for the smaller support series and their practice, qualifying and races. 

“With such a limited number of hours, we do not have enough time to present the shorter races, which are the amateur races that pay up to $25,000 to get in front of the cameras and the owners.”  These support series are what supports the racetrack [together with ticket sales].  The track is put in a difficult position if it’s writing checks for the major events and is not collecting checks from the smaller support series.

Every series, either main or support, needs practice time. At the moment, Lime Rock is allowed to have unmuffled test days only on Tuesdays, which does not make sense for teams that are spending  $10,000 a day when they’re on the road and can’t afford to be there more than three days.  Moving the test day to Thursdays is a partial solution to that problem.  Rick Roso, communications director, also explained:

“Thursday is needed for a promoter’s – in our case, Lime Rock Park – test day.  The teams need to come and test on Thursdays.  Four or five support series plus the main race… requires a lot of practice and qualifying track time.  Currently, we are using Fridays for what should be happening on a Saturday or Sunday. We will need to move our test days to Thursdays four times a year.”

But Mr. Barber also worries about the live TV coverage being switched to Sunday afternoons, as it has for other events which would mean no live coverage for Lime Rock Park races since there is no racing allowed on Sundays.

“We love Music Mountain.  We would only be asking them to asking them to move one of their concerts to 6 instead of 3 p.m.  We would redistribute Memorial Day Monday to Sunday and Saturday.  The County Court in Litchfield will decide who gets to make the decision, the town or the state.  The state says that you can race cars anytime except Sunday morning.

“But even if we are granted that permission we will still only want two Sundays and will put that in writing.”

Mr. Roso also explained that there is a very different crowd that comes to Lime Rock Park now as opposed to years ago when race fans were more raucous.  “People at a certain station of life are willing to pay for that privilege and love to be here to see the fabulous cars and enjoy the camping.”

“We have approached Litchfield superior court to modify the 1959 injunction.  We are in front of a judge saying that the Zoning Dept of Salisbury has exceeded their authority and that State Law, which permits racing anytime except Sunday morning, supercedes local law,” explained Mr. Roso.  

“If we can work everything out with the other side, the agreement will be in writing and it will be given to the judge for approval.  It would then become a judgment of the court,” explained Barber.