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The Ferrari that raced here 54 years ago

On Friday, November 11, guess what showed up at the track for some tweaking and tuning, thanks to the track-time generosity of the Lime Rock Drivers Club and PCA – CVR? A 1956 Ferrari 500 TR, s/n 0650MDTR.

It’s owned by a father and son “team,” Dennis and Chris Nicotra of Fairfield County, Conn. Before the car was put on track, the car was gone over by Ferrari specialists Black Horse Automotive Services of Bridgeport. Black Horse’s Geoffrey Isabelle, who was also on site, kindly wrote up a thumbnail sketch of the car’s provenance, including what the TR did at Lime Rock Park’s first-ever race day, Sunday, April 28, 1957...

At the end of the story are a collection of photos by Rick Roso (Uphill shot by Ryan McIntosh) from last Friday’s “test” day; Nikon D300s, Nikkor 28-300 lens

The 1956 Ferrari 500 TR, s/n 0650MDTR
By Geoff Isabelle

Chassis 0650MDTR is a highly significant piece of American sports car racing history. It was driven by some of the most important players on the West Coast and East Coast scenes during the sports car boom years of the mid 1950s.

The 500 Testa Rossa represented an important turning point for Ferrari. The factory in Modena had just realized that there was a market for selling “turnkey” race cars to privateers around the world. Up to that point, the only way to acquire a proper Ferrari sports racer was to know the right people and deal your way into a well-used ex-works car or be one of Ferrari’s privileged few preferred dealers. The V12-powered racers were expensive, complex and sometimes dangerous for anyone but the most skilled drivers.

The Monza-series 4-cylinder cars (yes, Ferrari built many successful 4- and 6-cylinder racers) were designed as the workhorses of the Scuderia. Strong, reliable and fuel efficient cars that were meant to be there at the end of a race should the V12 “sprinters” crash or break down. But with sophisticated transaxles and independent suspension, they were also too complex and expensive for a private entrant.

What Ferrari needed was a car that was light, reliable, competitive and approachable for the amateur “gentleman” drivers. Using experience from its 4-cylinder engine programs, Ferrari devised a car that combined the light and durable Lampredi-designed engine in 2-liter form with a proven and simple tube frame, live axle chassis. The resulting car was very simple yet extremely well balanced, efficient and a delight to drive at the limit.

Chassis no. 0650MDTR was delivered new in July of 1956 to John von Neumann of California. Right away, this car is special for being one of the earliest sports racing Ferraris to be delivered new to the U.S.A. von Newmann was an entrepreneur, car dealer and amateur racer who was later recognized as one of the key founders of the sports car movement in California in the 1950s. He immediately had the car finished in his signature color scheme of silver with a blue stripe. He raced it with moderate success in 1956 until he hired a young hot-shoe named Bruce Kessler to drive the car for the ’57 season.

In the hands of Kessler, 0650MDTR gained a reputation as a giant killer, consistently beating out serious big-bore machinery such as Jaguar D-Types, Aston Martin DB3Ss, and V12-powered Ferraris. Kessler loved driving it so much that he bought it from von Neumann and continued to race it successfully. It soon passed through the hands of several legends of American motorsport: Fred Ambuster, George Arents, Pete Lovely and Richie Ginther all having owned or driven this car at some point. Both Lovely and Ginther would go on to race in Formula 1 – Ginther ultimately winning for the fledgling Honda team.

Thankfully, we know a great deal about the history of this magnificent racing car. A huge file contains hand written notes, personal correspondence, and a letter from SEFAC confirming its sale to von Neumann. There are firsthand accounts and glorious period photographs that explain the history in great detail – the highs and the lows! This is one of the most significant early American sports racers and the history is there to back it up. Here is just a sampling of 0650MDTR’s pedigree...

* Winner of the first 2-liter race at then brand-new Lime Rock Park on Sunday, April 28, 1957 (beating the fly-weight Porsche 550s)
* Second in the first Over 2-liter main event race at Lime Rock Park on the same day (just beaten in a drag race to the line by Walt Hansgen’s Jaguar D-Type. John Fitch was P3 in another D-Type)
* Winner of the first race at Laguna Seca in 1957 -- the smallest displacement car in the field!
* It also had wins at Thompson and Riverside

The impressive record shows top-10 finishes in almost every race it entered from 1957 through the early 1960s and is simply too long to list here.

From all of the records and correspondence, we can tell that this car was very special from the day it was delivered. From the time it was new, it is described as having perfect balance and precise handling. It’s one of the magical things about hand-built cars – sometimes everything falls into place and the perfect car is born.

After its long stint with Lovely, it was sold to a SoCal Porsche dealer named Sam Wiess, who continued to race the car along with his sales manager Gordon Glyer. At some point in their stewardship the engine was damaged and hastily repaired to make it through the next few races. Being a hard-driven racing car, it was ultimately blown up but replaced with a totally correct unit from another 500TR – s/n 0614MDTR. It retains this engine to this day and it is considered an important part of the car’s history.

0614MDTR has its own storied past – with records showing it winning in class at Sebring in ‘57 and carrying Olivier Gendebien to fifth overall in Cuba. The chassis of 0614 has unfortunately been lost, but its legacy remains under the bonnet of 0650MDTR.

Another interesting fact is that 0650 is known as being the only 500TR with a scoop feeding the oil tank/cooler on the left side of the car.

Following a long period of disuse, 0650MDTR was uncovered and sold by Rick Cole in “barn find” condition in 1997. It was soon restored by the renowned RM Restorations and shown at Cavallino Classic and Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance – continuing its winning ways, but in a more dignified fashion!

Very few opportunities arise for cars of this caliber. It is an incredibly important piece of early American sports car racing history yet remains in thoroughly usable condition. It would be most certainly welcome at any historic event – Mille Miglia, LeMans Classic, Goodwood, the Monterey Historics and most any concours event in the country.

Photos below

TRweb1jpg                           TRweb2jpg

TRweb3  TRweb4

TRweb5  TRweb6
Chris & Dennis with their jewel. That's ace shooter Pawel Litwinski on the trailer...

TRweb7  TRweb8

TRweb9  TRweb10

TRweb11  TRweb12

TRweb13  TRweb14

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The Kids Get Jiggy with Electricity

All Juiced Up and 20+ Miles to Go...

Students from all parts of Connecticut – and Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey – go electric at Electrathon races. Race results below. A small collection of photographs from the event can be found on Lime Rock Park’s Facebook page. A video from 2010 -- some of the same cars were here then -- can be found here.

The 2011 Connecticut Electrathon autumn competition was held Tuesday, October 25 at Lime Rock Park on the full infield autocross course in the track’s infield. There were a record number of entries – 20 – with high school and college teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

Electrathon is a national program for engineering and technical students who design and construct electric race cars under the auspices of teachers and professors in order to advance the state of all-electric mobility.

Twice a year, Lime Rock Park donates its facility and manpower to the Connecticut division of Electrathon, which is organized by former Torrington High School tech teacher Mike Grella. The spring race is usually in May, and the autumn contest in October.

Elec3Email

Yes, indeed, that's carbon fiber. Like an F1 car. Photos by Rick Roso

The winner of each class (there are four) is the team that can cover the most miles in one hour while lapping the 4/10s-mile Lime Rock autocross. Each team starts with identical, fully charged Optima 12-volt car batteries, so the test is one of design efficiency, minimal rolling friction and aerodynamic drag, minimal weight (the cars are ballasted with lead to equalize driver weights) and driving tactics, strategy and technique. Lime Rock’s autocross is a stern test, with 11 corners and significant elevation changes.

Even within the relatively strict rules of the Electrathon formula, the variety of designs and construction the students come up with is... fascinating.

Of note was the Long Lake, N.Y., Central School (pre-K – 12) team, which drove nearly 300 miles to Lime Rock from upstate New York, having to leave at 4:00 a.m. to make the race, their first time at this event. The team finished second in the Novice Class.

Also making “long hauls,” as is said in the racing business, were Rockport High School (shoreline north of Boston), Franklin County High School (central Mass., near Deerfield) and The College of New Jersey (TCNJ, Ewing, N.J., near Princeton).

The event is extremely well organized and with each team comprised of student engineers and their many friends and family – plus the invaluable help of Central Connecticut State University volunteers, who handle tech inspection, flagging and timing & scoring – there were close to 350 people on site. The weather was stellar, the competition was fierce but friendly, and everybody had a good time... and learned a lot.

A small collection of photographs from the event can be found on Lime Rock Park’s Facebook page. More information can be found at www.ctelectrathon.org

Results from the October, 25, 2011 Connecticut Electrathon autumn competition at Lime Rock Park:
Team, town (car no.), laps/miles completed (reason out)

Novice Class
Haddam-Killingworth H.S., Higganum, Conn. (133CT), 40L/16 mi.
Long Lake Central School, Long Lake, N.Y. (20NY), 35L/14 mi.
Ridgefield H.S., Ridgefield, Conn. (308CT), 3L/1.2 mi. (mechanical)

Classic Class
Lyme-Old Lyme H.S., Old Lyme, Conn. (5CT), 52L/20.8 mi.
Nathan Hale-Ray H.S., Moodus, Conn. (16CT), 52L/20.8 mi.
Lyme-Old Lyme H.S., Old Lyme, Conn. (236CT), 50L/20 mi.
Old Saybrook H.S., Old Saybrook, Conn. (395CT), 48L/19.2 mi.
Somers H.S., Somers, Conn. (209CT), 43L/17.2 mi.
Rockport H.S., Rockport, Mass. (66MA), 40L/16 mi.
Farmington H.S., Farmington, Conn. (520CT), 39L/15.6 mi.
Franklin Co. Tech School, Turners Falls, Mass. (007MA), 34L/13.6 mi.
Farmington H.S., Farmington, Conn. (522CT), 33L/13.2 mi.
Simsbury H.S., Simsbury, Conn. (651CT), 27L/10.8 mi.

Composite-Construction Class
*Nathan Hale-Ray H.S., Moodus, Conn. (17CT), 56L/22.4 mi.
Somers H.S., Somers, Conn. (211CT), 45L/18 mi.
Somers H.S., Somers, Conn. (210CT), 44L/17.6 mi.
Nonnewaug H.S., Woodbury, Conn. (665CT), 43L/17.2 mi. 
Rockport H.S., Rockport, Mass. (56MA), 40L/16 mi.
Cheshire H.S., Cheshire, Conn. (107CT), 38L/15.2 mi.

Solar Class
TCNJ, Ewing, N.J. (011NJ), 45L/18 mi. 

*Overall winner

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Brand-new Sunday in the Park video

Want to see a really interesting video about the most recent Sunday in the Park Concours? Then please click here!

Dom Miliano is a freelance auto writer. His god son is a young man named Stephen Candio. Dom wrote a story a couple years ago for Forza Magazine about Stephen titled "The Making of a Car Guy." At the time, Stephen was 13 and the piece was about his first time at a race track: Lime Rock Park. Stephen is a recent graduate of Full Sail University in Florida and is the cinematographer and editor of this Sunday in the Park story. He did a great job.

We're pretty sure you're going to like it...

 


 

 

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Thule Mounts Lime Rock

Thule_white_on_black

Roof racks for race cars? No. Well, not yet, anyway...

LAKEVILLE, Conn. - You know those really trick Thule ski racks, aerodynamic roof carriers and zoomy bike racks that you see mounted on everything from Pintos to Pininfarinas?

Yes? Okay, so how cool is this...

From now on, those Thule products, and others, will have been tested at Lime Rock Park before you head off to the store to buy them.

Management at Thule’s U.S. research and development facility in Seymour, Conn., has signed an agreement to conduct its rigorous field testing of existing and future products at Lime Rock Park, beginning this month.

Click here for a short video taken during the first test day

Click here for photographs

Thule (“TOO – lee”) Inc., the Sweden-based makers of a wide range of vehicle carrying and towing accessories, including its instantly recognizable roof, bike, kayak and ski racks for cars, trucks and SUVs, will have near year-round access to the track’s test facilities. Until now, Thule’s non-laboratory product testing was conducted at its Seymour factory and parking lot.

Karl Wiedemann, channel marketing and PR manager for Thule, Inc., said, “We have a lot of racing and driving enthusiasts here at the factory who are already fans of Lime Rock Park, which is a bit more than an hour’s drive. When our test engineer insisted that we could improve our testing protocols and procedures at a dedicated track... well, it just made perfect sense to pick up the phone to talk to Lime Rock.”

Lime Rock Park and Thule also expect to take advantage of numerous marketing and promotion synergies as the partnership develops.

Even before this test-facility agreement with Lime Rock Park was finalized, since 1999 Thule has required its field test engineers to graduate from a two-day Skip Barber driving school.

Reed Frick, one of Thule’s test engineers and driver, says, “Testing at Lime Rock is a tremendous advantage – it gives us a whole new level of repeatability. And in such a strictly controlled environment, we can be even more aggressive with our protocols.”

The Seymour, Conn., plant, along with a facility in Chicago, manufactures 80 percent of the Thule products sold in North America.

The Thule Group is a world leader in products and brands designed to transport lifestyle equipment securely, safely and in style. Under the motto “Active Life, Simplified,” the Thule Group offers products within four areas: Vehicle Solutions (roof racks, bike racks, ski boxes, snow chains, etc.), Towing Solutions (towbars and trailers), Carry Solutions (laptop and camera bags, backpacks, etc.) and Work Solutions (ladder racks, tool boxes, etc.).

The Thule Group has 3,100 employees at more than 50 production facilities and sales offices worldwide. In 2010 sales amounted to SEK 5.7 billion (US 700 million).


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Marine Motivated to Get Back Into His Z

Liam Dwyer of Southbury, Conn., is a member of C.A.R.T., the Connecticut Autocross and Rally Team club that rents track days at Lime Rock Park. He's also a Marine  sergeant who lost his left leg in Afghanistan in May. But watch him in this NBC 30 segment produced yesterday and you will know he's going to be back in his car, a red Nissan 350Z, to lap Lime Rock Park again, no matter what...
http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Wounded-Marine-Wants-to-Drive-130382758.html

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