Eastern Series at Lime Rock Park
Tuesday, July 18, 2006 It was a large, Eastern Series-only Race Weekend at Lime Rock Park, for rounds seven and eight. It was the East’s first Lime Rock race of the year and we ended up with five groups: two Championship and three Sportsman. The weather was hot but clear. The Skip Barber mechanics did a tremendous job when they switched-out the clevises on all the cars, and thanks to that Herculean effort, we got all the Friday race groups in except for one.
Here are the highlights from the Lime Rock Park race weekend…
A.J. Riley led the most laps, but Bill Hammer was always right on his gearbox. Hammer took the lead on lap 17, but A.J. grabbed it back a lap later. Hammer again got around to on lap 23, but again Riley snatched it back. Hammer then waited until the last lap and executed a great outside pass in Big Bend for the win. Good stuff – and Hammer put up the fastest race-lap, the only driver in the :57s. Very close behind those two were Stevan McAleer and Jim Craige, who had an equally resounding battle for third, which McAleer eventually took. R.J. Smith went from 10th on the grid to fifth in a fine effort, too.
The fastest laps for McAleer, Riley and Hammer in the Saturday race were all :57.8s!, Hammer was the best at :57.837, Riley next with a .842, then winner McAleer with a .868Hammer led early, but fell to fifth on lap five as McAleer took over and led the last 20 laps, eventually 1.6 seconds over Riley. Hammer got back to third, followed very closely by Craige. Chris Weldon bagged fifth place.
Tim George, Jr., walked with this one, leading every lap and finishing 3.7 second up on Steve Rooyakkers, who had distanced himself from George McArthur and Charles McManus by 20 seconds. Michael Kratz started ninth but worked his way to fifth at the checker.
Tim George and Rooyakkers traded the top spot for the first laps, then Chris Brassard worked his way into the mix. On lap seven, Rooyakkers fell out of the lead (down to ninth) while George, Jr., took over the lead. For the next 17 laps, it was George, Jr., Brassard and McManus, with Brassard making his move three laps from the end to win. In the meantime, Rooyakkers made amends and got all the way back to fourth, just a half-second behind McManus. In fifth was Angelos Angelopoulos, all the way from 12th.
It was Hammer Time all the way, as he took the lead from poleman Alex Doman and led flag-to-flag. (Doman never really had a chance, as a fuel regulator failed and he MDNF’d after five laps.) Through the first four laps A.J. Riley was P2, but Jim Craige got around him and stayed there until lap 17, when Riley took it back. That put Craige into the clutches of Dom Bastien and with five to go, Bastien made the move that got him P3. Reid Stewart and Jared Fisher went at it almost all race long for fifth, with Stewart finally winning the spot three laps from the end, just a half-second up on Fisher.
Riley put his stamp on this race, leading from lap seven onward. Hammer led the first lap, then Doman the second (but he would fall victim to another unfortunate mechanical). When Riley took over P1 from Hammer on lap seven, he edged his way further and further until the checker, eventually six and a half seconds up on Hammer. Craige was running fourth behind a strong Bastien, but Dom also had a mechanical with eight to go. Stewart bagged a fourth and Fisher fifth.
Geoff Arnold walked this race, leading the whole way to an eventual 20-second MoV over Chris Gaydos, who took over second place from Bob Grien on the second lap. Grien was third all the way until lap 24, when Kevin Huang got around him. Grien stayed right with Huang but fell a couple tenths of a second short. Michael Kratz brought his car home a solid fifth.
With Geoff Arnold moving to a Championship group, this became a dice between Gaydos, Huang, Kratz and Grien. Huang led almost to halfway with Gaydos in second. For the first five laps, Gary Baluha was P3, but Kratz got it on lap six. From then til the end it ran Gaydos-Huang-Kratz. Fourth place, however, changed hands just past halfway, when Grien, Mark Bartholomew and Robbin Conner all went past Hamilton Smith. When Conner fell back to seventh with four laps to go, that gave fourth, fifth and sixth to Grien, Bartholomew and Smith.
At the start Pat Daly led over Lee Carpentier and Tom Capizzi, but then Carpentier spun on lap two so the order was Daly, Capizzi, Bob Manzella. Lap five Manzella took over P2. Next lap, Capizzi got it back. Two laps after that, Kevin Hoffman, coming up from fifth place, became the new owner of second place. So, up through 15 laps, Daly led over Hoffman who was up on Capizzi. But Manzella wasn’t done and he took over third place from Capizzi – who one lap later got P3 back when Manzella spun. Now it’s five laps to go and that’s when Hoffman got past Daly for the lead and the win (less than a half-second over Daly), with Carpentier getting the other podium. Capizzi got fourth while Rick Johnson quietly earned a fine fifth.
Daly and Hoffman put on a show, trading first and second more than a few times, Daly finally getting the advantage five laps from the finish and winning by 3.5 seconds. Capizzi ran fourth the entire race, until Carpentier fell from third to sixth on lap 23. Johnson and Steven Meyer had good runs to round out the top five.
Every year, one of the Race Series’ most eagerly anticipated events is the ‘‘combo’’ event at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant. Midwest, East and Masters National all come together July 28-30 to race Canada’s premier natural road course, in a vacation destination area that’s extremely popular with Americans and Canadians alike. The next weekend, the Skip Barber National Presented by RACER joins the Grand-Am Cup guys at Trois-Rivieres. Then, one month after that, everybody heads to Mid-Ohio, another combo that includes the National. There’s a lot of good racing coming up!