By Richard Seidlitz
Every year at the end of June, the Aston Martin Owners Club has a gathering that has become my favorite event of the year. The Lime Rock Meet is a three day event that brings together people from all over the eastern part of the US and Canada. Thursday is a road tour and lunch. Friday is a concour, the annual meeting, and then cocktails and a banquet. And Saturday is the track day at Lime Rock Park.
This was my second time attending the Lime Rock Meet. Last year was my first and, to be very honest, I went into it absolutely cynical. I'd heard horror stories about noise regulations, requirements for drivers, and other complaints that could easily make me miss out on a track day despite driving several hours to be at it. I've been black-flagged at Road Atlanta for being too loud during church hours (even though I'm sure my car sounds better than any choirs around there), and Lime Rock has more stringent noise restrictions than Road Atlanta. I was getting mad just thinking about driving so far only to be told I couldn't be on track. I'm happy to say my cynicism was entirely unjustified.
Last year I had a pessimistic cloud over my head. This year, sunshine and rainbows.
Most people stayed at the Interlaken Inn, which served as the home base for the weekend. I stayed at a hotel called the Whitehart Inn, which was really nice - comfy bed, great shower, good breakfast, and less than 15 minutes from the track.
I've yet to attend Thursday's road tour. I use this day as a travel day since it takes me around 7 hours to get to Connecticut and, frankly, that's enough of a road tour for me. But I'm told it's a lovely drive (just watch for a dip or two that can scrape a front lip or rear diffuser), and it includes a lunch at a house belonging to Tom and Robert, partners with an interior design firm.
Thursday night is a group dinner at a restaurant in town. For the second year in a row it was held at the Boathouse - not the finest cuisine around, but one of the very few places in the area that can host such a large group. The food is so-so, but the drinks were plentiful and the company and conversation is always fantastic. It is, after all, the first time many of us have seen each other since last year and there's catching up to do.
The heat was brutal on Friday. We were worried about rain, which would have made it difficult to get many of the cars out of the grass field we used for the concours, but luckily it held off. It was, however, incredibly hot and humid. We had a bunch of ice water, cold sodas, a keg of beer, some barbeque, and plenty of shade, but I still found myself sweating through my shorts. Not the prettiest sight, I'm sure. The cars, though... those were pretty.
I'm sure it's clear from the photo credits that the pictures below aren't mine. I didn't really take any pictures at the concours, despite the beautiful arrangement of cars. Instead, I spent nearly the whole time talking to people. I did plenty of socializing with people I know from previous events and ongoing friendships, and also got reacquainted with people I'd met at the same event last year. I also got to meet people with whom I'd spoken online (one of the "it's a small world" and "the internet is real people" joys of events like this). This wasn't the first event I'd been to where I'd met people that knew me from online. It happened only a few weeks ago at the British Embassy. But this time my work with Redpants was all the more in the forefront of conversations, and it made me think of the direction I'm going with this. I won't get into that now because that's a whole bunch of typing I don't have the wine for, but it's something I need to wrap my head around because it made me realize how much attention this little website of mine is getting.
The chapter's annual meeting was held after the concours. It was a quick affair, just a few notes to cover on finances and whatnot, and then an open floor for comments and suggestions. Things got fun once the meeting adjourned.
I'd like to introduce a guy named David Bond at this point. He and I have exchanged emails for some time now - he'll email me asking for parts for his DB9, and we'll chat about routine stuff. Turns out David and his wife were helping organize things for the Lime Rock Meet, so I got to meet them in person. Part of the organizing effort was for a champagne tasting with caviar pairings. David's wife Remy does PR and marketing, so she got Taittinger on board and they came loaded to the gills for the event. I'm not much of a fan of caviar. I don't mind it, and I'll eat it if it's put in front of me, but I just don't care about it enough to shell out the kind of cash it often demands. The champagne was great, though, and after several glasses of that I was, um, doing well.
I also learned that there are special terms for larger-than-standard wine bottles. I've heard of (and drank) my fair share of magnums, but didn't realize the bottles got larger than that... much, much larger like the 15 liter Nubuchadnezzar. Even crazier than the sheer size of the thing was that there were two of them! One was used in the silent auction, and the other was awarded to the fastest lap time of the track day. Not a bad way to spur some competition (as if bragging rights weren't enough).
I think there was a theme for Friday: over the top. A bit of a break followed the champagne and caviar to give time to clean up. And then came dinner. It was buffet-style and there were only a few trays of food out, but don't let the simple description fool you. The Buffet consisted of sliced steak or a full size steamed lobster and under those lobsters, I threw a little bit of spinach on the plate for garnish because, you know, I didn't want poor presentation to make me look silly.
We called it a night at a sensible time and headed to our rooms to get a good night's sleep. Our track day started early the next morning, and nobody wants to be tired or hungover for that.
Everything was soaking wet when we set out early Saturday morning. Not a great way to start a track day.
Shortly after arriving at Lime Rock we had a drivers meeting in the classroom to discuss wet, intermediate, and dry lines on the track. Someone raised their phone up and said we were about to get hit with a nasty storm, the radar image on the phone's screen too small to see from where I was. Someone stood up quickly and said they had to go put their windows up, followed by several others doing the same. Then I realized that my windows were down, too. Out we all went and not even fifteen feet from the building, we got dumped on. People ran to their cars to get their windows up, hoping to limit the amount of water already pouring in. Not a great way to continue a track day.
My thrice-wrecked V8 Vantage was one of the least valuable cars there (if not the least!), and I couldn't imagine having so much rain get into a nicer classic car. Regardless, our shirts were drenched but our spirits weren't soggy in the least. Despite the rainy forecast, there was a nice variety of Astons ready to drive.
The rain wasn't a show-stopper for us. Nor was it for the rest of the drivers that day, and they brought an impressive array of cars to show it.
AMOC shared the track with the Lime Rock Drivers Club, with each club getting an hour at a time. LRDC went out first and mostly dried the track out for us, which was very kind of them. Our first session was very slow, but served as a great opportunity to be reacquainted with a track I hadn't seen in a full year - and one I'd only driven once. By our second session, the track was completely dry.
I was nervous about getting on track. The last track day I went to resulted with me putting my car into a tire wall. I went on a rally with a group of friends after rebuilding the car and I was a bit gun-shy around corners during that. The thought of being out on a track again, especially with a new setup and after having dumped so much money into the rebuild... that really did make me nervous.
Luckily, the day went great. I never got even close to the limits of my tires (I've swapped out theBC Forged RT50 wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires for a set of BC Forged RZ05 wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires in a wider fitment). Not that I'd want to find that limit on my first day returned to the track after wrecking, of course. I also used Hawk HPS 5.0 street brake pads this year instead of the Porterfield R4 track pads I had last year, so my braking was far more conservative on the main straight going into turn 1. I still shaved two seconds off my best time from last year and had plenty of room for more, so I'm happy with the overall result.
Saturday night was the awards banquet. Dinner was a nice steak and untold amounts of wine. I would have held back on the wine had I known I was going to win an award because I got pretty emotional when I won 2nd place for the track event in my class. Truth be told, it's the first award I've ever won for something on my own as an adult. I'd won 2nd place in a mountain bike race (beginners group) when I was in high school, and place 1st or 2nd or 3rd in a Spelling Bee in third grade, but that's pretty much it. So to win an award at an Aston Martin event was a really big deal. The moment had even more weight because some people in the crowd yelled out "Redpants!!" as I made my way up front and Kathy, one of the main organizers of AMOC events, stood up and insisted on presenting me with the award.
Holy shit the support was unbelievable. I can't remember the last time I felt that way - if ever - and it really put a lump in my throat.
The real star of the evening was my dear friend Blade. I've mentioned him before, but if you missed it I've got a rather short but important story about him on my about page He won a 1st place award for the track event (he was the one that beat me in our class), 3rd for the concours, and a special award for Best Overall Performance at the event for a current production car. I tend to shy away from a spotlight, but not Blade. He owned the moment and put on a show for the photographer.
David Bond, the guy I mentioned earlier, won an award for his DB9 at the concours as well. When reading off the award, the presenter said that David has actually been an active member of AMOC for a few years now, even though he didn't get his DB9 until last year. For a brief moment I was surprised, but the surprise faded away quickly. He isn't the only one that was a club member before he became an owner. There's another guy named CJ that is in that same spot - he's been an AMOC member since he was fifteen years old but doesn't yet have an Aston Martin. David and CJ are great examples of the type of people you meet at AMOC events. Members are almost always (almost, but not always lol) great people that really put themselves out there for the benefit of the group. The club and its members come first, egos are on the sidelines. It was great to see David get that award not just for his car, but also for his contributions.
AMOC MEMBERSHIP AND OTHER THINGS NEEDING A SEGUE
The Aston Martin Owners Club is a great group of people. As a club, there's plenty of room for improvement (it's in the works). But the people are why I'm a member and why I'll drive several hours each way to make it to an event. I'm very often the youngest owner at an event, but I never feel out of place. Something AMOC does better than most groups is they make you feel welcome. they're inclusive. They're nonjudgmental. Be a good person, be kind, be social, and you'll fit right in.
One of the perks of AMOC membership is the Vantage Point magazine. I got to meet and chat with the Chief Editor, Richard Kollins, and it looks like I'll be contributing to the magazine. To be honest, it's always been a dream of mine to be published. I wrote almost daily as a kid, but lost my attention span before hitting adulthood, so I never pursued writing. This blog was my own personal success - I published myself, in a way - but being able to write articles for a magazine is even better. I'm actually really excited for it and I have a feeling I'm going to be as emotional seeing my name in print as I was getting my track day award.
donated by (c) AutoPhotos 2017, ed hyman;
photos courtesy of Roland Westerdal