November 6, 2023

Doug Arnao (Lead Handling Designer)

Lead Handling Guru Doug Arnao’s Lime Rock Park Memories

Lead Handling Designer Doug Arnao came to Lime Rock for the first time in 1978. A few years later, he was an instructor at the track and a serial race winner in his home-brewed Porsche 914/6.

I first saw Lime Rock Park in ’78 when I was invited by some Porsche buddies to the IMSA Camel GT race weekend. Sportscars of all types and sounds attacked my senses, but it was the Brumos Porsche 935s driven by Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood that truly arrested my imagination. More than that, they captured an urgent desire in me to experience road racing for myself.

Looking back at it now (can it really be almost half a century?), that weekend was the start of a path that defined the rest of my life, one that would eventually include my own racing career, and later, a second career in the sim racing industry. And it all goes back to that one weekend at Lime Rock Park. Strange how these things work sometimes.

After that weekend, it was a matter of months before I bought and then rebuilt my own Porsche 914/6 and started driving in Porsche Club track events. My first race being—where else?—at Lime Rock.

I was hooked of course. I advanced quickly, too, finding I had some natural affinity to motorsport, and after a decade or so, I found myself as a driving instructor at Lime Rock where I spent many a weekend over the next 25 years instructing and racing.

Lime Rock Park is special. A truly picturesque track that has that strange ability to lure you into it a bit of calm bliss. But don’t get taken in by that: Once on the track and up to speed, you’ll find yourself in a road-racing version of a NASCAR bullring. This place is 1.5 miles of constant turning requiring unrelenting concentration and singular focus. Even the front straight gives you no real time to relax. It does have a second straight, but that one isn’t even straight at all, but rather something that requires intense focus as it sweeps left and right with changing cambers that careen you towards the edges of the track back and forth. It was called “No Name Straight” for a reason (though it’s been renamed to the “Paul Newman Straight” these days).

And that’s not to mention the double apex “Big Bend”, the crest at the top of “Uphill”, and the gut-testing “Downhill”. It’s a bullring and rollercoaster all in one, Lime Rock. A track that looks simple … and is anything but.

It takes time and many laps to get it consistently right here. Weirdly, though, it’s a track that just clicked with me. I won every race I ever ran here. Most of that, I suppose, was down to the time I spent learning it as a member of the Porsche Club and then working as an instructor. There’s really no substitute to churning those laps, particularly on a track like Lime Rock that holds so many secrets in its tight, compact setting.

So let’s take a quick run.

Track Guide

Crossing the start/finish line, you’ll start to drift the car slightly right and then hit the brakes at the “3” marker in anything like the Porsche 914/6 (basically, any car that isn’t a downforce-carrying beast). Carry your braking all the way down into the first (early) apex. You’re looking to trail-brake past the apex here, and after that, you want to let the car have its head and aim for the outside edge mid-corner while tightening the steering.

Get off the brakes because you want neutral throttle as you tighten up the steering more for the second right hander. You’ll want a late apex here before full throttle out.

After exiting, make sure to bring the car back to the right quickly. You want to be in the middle of the track to get set up for the only left-hand corner at Lime Rock. This requires a very late apex so hold it out for as long as you can and be patient—it’s about squeezing the throttle and keeping the balance right through here.

Just as you get it full left, you need to quickly lift the throttle to stick the car into next right-hander, using as much curb as you dare at the apex and exit.

This leads onto Paul Newman Straight. Bouncing from left, then back right, amid all this jostling about, you need to keep focused on the rapidly approaching entrance to the “Uphill”. This is, for many, the most demanding turn on the track.

Keep left and somehow pick your braking point. It’s mostly visual, and the entry is also a bit of a late apex affair. The turn begins with a very large compression point that generates a lot of grip and confidence. That means you go full throttle briefly, but don’t be tempted to let the car out wide near the top, as your car will get very light up there. You’ll need to lift at this crest, or you’ll spin the rear wheels, go off wide, and catch the dirt. And after that, it’s anyone’s guess where you’ll end your afternoon.

Stay left as the next short straight is barely long enough to think before you dive right into “West Bend”. This requires just a breath on the brakes before a mid-point apex that’ll leave you flat on the throttle, under the bridge and diving down into the “Downhill”.

This corner is the final key to a truly fast lap here. It’s quick and it’s daunting. Going quick through here takes real commitment. Most cars will need to tap the brakes on entry, but it needs to be done at just the right point so the car compresses properly at the bottom of the hill for maximum grip. Miss it and you’re off wide. The apex is on the late side, too, and there are bumps to upset the car if you drag it in too tight. Get it right and you carry good speed down the only real, yet still short, straight.

And that’s it. One re-grip on the wheel and one deep breath and it starts again!

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