December 12, 2023

Sim Racing Legend Alison Hine on Lime Rock Park

If you ever want to write the history of online sim racing, Alison Hine would feature in Chapter One. That’s because, back in the mid-’90s, while racing via modem in Papyrus’ IndyCar sims, she was offered a position on the beta team for Grand Prix Legends and, alongside engineer Randy Cassidy and her brother Nate Hine, tasked with enabling GPL users to race for the first time over the internet. The result was the dawn of online sim racing (and the legendary VROC racing club—a “matchmaking site” which allowed users to host a race in GPL which would be posted on the VROC app and website).

My first-ever on-track event was at Lime Rock Park. Circa 1973, I drove my ancient Alfa Romeo Sprint up from New Haven to an entry-level racing school event. An instructor drove me around in the Alfa before I was allowed to do some laps myself.

My most enduring memory of that day? Rushing toward the Uphill turn on No Name Straight with the guardrail and trees on the outside of the turn looming larger and larger, and me, expecting the instructor to get on the brakes. Inside, I was screaming, “Okay, he's gotta brake now. Now! NOW!!!” But he just kept his foot down instead. Finally I gave up, convinced we were going to crash. And that’s when he stabbed the brake, turned right, and suddenly we were shooting up the hill, the car getting light as we crested the crown.


We hurtled through West Bend at a speed I thought impossible for my rusty old Alfa, then plunged down the hill and under the bridge toward the last turn. Again, a guardrail and trees loomed. Near the apex, the outside wheels loaded up as the track leveled out, and the Alfa tracked beautifully, right up to the outside edge of the pavement. We zoomed down the straight into Big Bend again and this time I was a lot more prepared for what was to come!

During a Tuesday practice a few years later, after my brother Nate and I had finished building a Formula Vee, I stood in the pits watching P.L. (Paul) Newman in his little red-white-and-blue Datsun 510 howling past the apex of the Downhill, floating over the crown in the center of the track, and settling sweetly down as his car tracked out to the left edge of the pavement. A little while later that day, Newman was standing with a small group in the paddock, sharing racing stories and laughs. I stopped for a moment. Too shy to intrude, I kept walking back to where my Formula Vee was waiting.

On another Tuesday practice not long after that, I lost the rear end of my Formula Vee at the exit of the Downhill and did a half-spin to the inside, sliding backward across the grass and up the slope of the earth bank that lined the inside of the track. The little Vee then rolled over onto its roll bar, leaving me dangling from the harness, the top of my helmet resting on the grassy ground. My brother Nate along with other drivers and crew ran up from the pits and turned the car back over onto its wheels. The only damage was a bent mirror support.

Decades after that, circa 2002, in another Tuesday practice, I was exiting the Downhill, rumbling down the straight in the Factory Five Cobra replica that my brother and I built, when P.L. Newman thundered past me in his latest ride, a monster Trans-Am Corvette. I felt like I was standing still. A little later that day, as I walked through the paddock, I saw Newman sitting alone at a table by his transporter. Once again too shy to interrupt his quiet moment, I just kept walking.

I still regret never finding the courage to say anything to him.

New Englander and software engineer Alison Hine has always loved building and racing ever since she started with slot cars at age 14. She raced a Formula Vee and then a Factory Five Cobra replica she and her brother Nate Hine built together. With the help of the brilliant Doug Arnao (who also happens to be Straight4’s Handling guru), they transformed the handling of the Cobra from street-mushy to track-ready, and with it she won a time trial championship in COM Sports Car Club.

She crewed, managed, or drove on teams racing in 24-hour enduros, raced karts on pavement and dirt, and ran several races in the Skip Barber series.

Also a pilot, she built an airplane and flew in aerobatic contests. She’s built her own computers for sim racing, and with her nephew, Amos, built a terrific set of pedals too!

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