Since the weather forecast has finally crept up into the 60's this Spring in beautiful upstate NY, now might be a safe and appropriate time to remember a wintery expedition from a few weeks back. Truth be told, I have been holding on to these for a little while now for fear that I might jinx us and cause yet another storm. Thankfully I think we are past that!
It was the second to last major snow storm of the season that happened to fall on Valentine's Day weekend. We arrived at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut early in the morning. Seat heaters on full blast!
If you've never been, then I highly recommend a visit. Lime Rock is located about an hour and twenty minutes Southeast of Albany. As you can see from above there is not only a racetrack and facilities there, but also very scenic and picturesque back drops. The image above is of the notorious "Up Hill" where on warmer days, some race cars drive up fast enough to catch air and "fly" over the crest. I say notorious because it is quite tricky to keep control of the car here and the uphill has claimed many of the un-attentive or inexperienced as victims over the years.
We made our way to the upper infield of the track where the autocross course is located. We were greeted by some of the friendly Lime Rock staff. They had a bonfire going and hot chocolate to keep us warm. It was a lovely day as you can see from the above shot of the parking/staging area. Enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes had come from as far as Boston and NYC to enjoy some snowy drifting fun on the snow and ice covered autocross course. We were all excited and not sure what to expect. As you can see from the photo there were several makes and models represented.
Our trusty steed for the day. Brett's 2003 911 Carrera 4S. Her all wheel drive and snow tires make her an excellent car in the snow, in fact, Brett drives her daily on his commute from upstate NY to NJ for work. She was ready to attack the course and send up some white rooster tails for sure and so was her pilot.
As you might have guessed there were some characters mixed in amongst the group. Here we have one of two Miatas that showed up! The other was a later generation car that still had summer tires on her. Needless to say she didn't fare well and had to give up after getting stuck several times on her first run. This one however, did not have a problem. In fact she and her loose nut behind the wheel were fan favorites all day. The driver's goggles revealing his ear to ear perma-grin the whole time. Snow tires, rear wheel drive and worn rear shocks made for one bouncy, exciting, and side ways ride! He had the GoPro hooked up and the top down the entirety of the day! Awesome.
Although autocrossing and motorsports in general can tend to be a male dominated sport, this day found several women behind the wheel. The white Infiniti FX pictured above was piloted by a young lady in her 20's and she proudly put many of the young (and older) men to shame with her smooth control and speed. She even took another autocrosser's wife for a ride at one point, the two of them giggling and high fiving like little kids upon their return from the course.
On a closed private course, regular street laws and rules do not apply. This Porsche 993 C4S had two drivers. Dad was driver number one and an experienced racer. Driver number two was his young son, just barely tall enough to reach the pedals. I think Dad said his boy was thirteen. Officially the coolest Dad ever and one of the luckiest thirteen year olds I've ever met. And what a great car! Also daily driven, all winter long. Right on!
A Mistubishi EVO exits the last turn before the paddock area. There were a few Japanese contenders on the day and this one was probably the quickest.
This Toyota Tacoma was fun to watch, except when he was coming up in your rear view mirror at a high rate of speed with those brush bars looming out front. Pick up trucks can definitely go in the the snow and this one was no exception. He could have easily completed the course before the plow had cleared it.
This E30 BMW 325ix was a real crowd pleaser. Her driver bought her cheap off of Craigslist or something and has been beating on her ever since. This day was no exception. A student at Northeastern University, he had driven her all the way from Boston and had absolutely no doubt in his mind that she would easily make the trip home. Here you can see him enjoying the art of trimming back the inside snow bank ever so slightly as he counter-steered down the main straight away after the last corner.
Then Brett decided everyone was looking a little chilly and needed some exercise. So he rather smartley high sided his C4S on the snowbank on the inside of the exit of the first corner. A former boy scout, he was prepared with his folding shovel to start digging her out...
Go big or go home, right? Well she was thoroughly buried into the bank. You can see the cavalry trotting along the course in the back ground. On their way to help dig and pull her out, no doubt. Brett and I couldn't stop laughing, who knew it would be so much fun to crash!?
Brett's grin and double thumbs up said it all. Maybe this would be a good shot for next years Christmas card, what do you think? Man was she buried! Wonder how fast we were going...
After some serious digging and a half hours worth of pushing and pulling we called for the wrecker/tow truck to yank her out. Finally she was free and no worse for wear. Back to the paddock to clean out those radiator vents and clogged up wheel wells. The joke around the pits was that they thought we were going to roll her as we went off. Not quite! All four stayed on the ground, for the most part.
Truth be told, Brett and his C4S were among the quickest and most entertaining around the snowy course. The rear weight bias of the 911 had some clear advantages in these conditions which to put mildly, can be difficult to manage. While looking for speed and drama (read: sideways fun!) it was highly likely that they would eventually slide off course. The real measure of driver skill however is more easily illustrated when comparing mistakes. Brett over did it on the way out of turn one, once. Learning, adapting and adjusting his inputs to better keep the balance, maintain some serious speed, and an ear to ear smile that lasted all day! (Porschephiles take note: Brett is an engineer, writer and photographer that will be featured in an upcoming issue of Porsche Panorama Magazine.)
The scenery and setting could not be better on a snowy Saturday afternoon. The temps weren't actually that bad considering the rest of the winter we had. It was right around 32 all day with almost no wind and a few snow showers. All in all a great day!
Until next time! Who would've thought that only a few short weeks after winter ended I would be sitting her getting all nostalgic about the snowy autocross and missing that slippery white stuff so much. Don't worry, a quick lap around the block in the sunshine ought to erase that from my mind for a while. If you ever get a chance to participate in an winter autocross, I highly recommend it! And what a fun way to celebrate Valentine's Day!