LAKEVILLE — Porsche race car drivers Dana Parker and Mike Peira, both of Newtown, put the pedal to the metal and hugged the turns at Lime Rock Park’s race track during the Historic Festival this past weekend.
It was a tremendous weekend for both drivers, particularly Peira, who won all four of the 20-minute weekend races in his group of 26 competitors, including Parker, who finished with an also-impressive result, coming in fourth.
“My car really hooked up in the first turn so I just put my foot down,” Peira said after his first win of the weekend, which included a pair of races each on Saturday and Monday.
Peira, 53, raced his 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 RS spec car, which he’s been racing since 1998, and has driven in the Historic Festival 11 times.
Parker, 67, raced his 1972 Porsche 911 2.7 RS spec car, marking the third consecutive year he’s competed in the event.
Each group comprises racers of cars of similar vintage and with comparable horsepower and handling.
Parker had a pair of third-place finishes in Monday races for his highest-ever finish in the Historic Festival.
“It was great fun racing with Mike. I can’t catch him but the challenge of keeping up with him is incentive for me to keep pushing harder,” Parker said.
Just being able to participate in the event, now in it’s 32nd year, was a thrill for both drivers.
“This event is a dream come true for me. I have attended every one as a spectator and now as a competitor. It’s the great people, the atmosphere and seeing the cars being driven as they were meant to be. It’s the stuff I discovered as a kid and have loved ever since,” said Parker, a retired professional pilot, who now “flies” around the race track, piloting his Porsche for fun.
Peira races approximately ten times per year, mostly in his 2008 911 GT3 cup factory racecar. He’s raced Porsches professionally, and also earned a win at Lime Rock in IMSA GTC class in 2011 in a Porsche GT3 cup. Peira started out autocrossing (SCCA Solo-II) and won national championships in 1985 and 1990. Peira said he tops out at approximately 125 miles per hour on the straight-aways at Lime Rock.
Peira and Parker both enjoy the track, which opened for racing more than half-century ago. The windy course runs through hills within the park. There are no bleachers or stands; spectators sit on picnic blankets or chairs along the hillsides to enjoy the fast-moving cars as they buzz around the mile-and-a-half-long track.
“It’s a fast track with a technical aspect to it. It’s always a challenge to do consistent fast laps and get the line just right,” Parker said. “It’s a great experience — the people are great. We see each other at different races so it’s kind of a social event as much as anything else.”
“It’s great to see all the old cars and old friends. And the crowd is awesome,” Peira adds.
Asked what he likes best about Lime Rock, Peira says the convenience factor, since it’s only about an hour from home, and the character of the park stand out the most. “I really like being able to sleep well in my own bed, but the track is fantastic. No matter how long you have been racing at Lime Rock, you will learn something new every time. It’s a very fast track, especially for it’s size. And it’s one of the most beautiful tracks, with the best spectating areas and the ability to see every turn up close,” he said.
Parker participates in a handful of races each year, including at Watkins Glen N.Y., and other locations. This year, Parker earned his first class win at the reopening of the road course at Thompson Speedway.
“Each year I try to race at a new track I haven’t raced at before,” Parker said.
Parker says the competitive aspect and the adrenaline rush are what he enjoys most about racing. “You have to be totally focused on what you are doing at all times with no lapse of concentration. What is called situational awareness in aviation is of paramount importance.”
“I enjoy the intense concentration which is required,” Peira said of what he enjoys most about racing. “It lets me forget my crazy work schedule and life.”
This is only Parker’s third year racing. “I never had the time until I retired,” he notes, adding that he’s participated in noncompetitive track events with the Porsche Club of America since 1986.
During the driving season, Parker is a high-performance driving instructor with the Porsche Club of America.
“I love having time to do the things I enjoy. I view retirement as a second childhood with no parental control,” says Parker, who has lived in Newtown since 1984.
When Peira isn’t stepping on the gas pedal he’s involved with a different kind of pedal. The five-year Newtown resident is the owner of Analog Man Guitar effects, and his company make effects pedals. He also plays guitar and sings in a classic rock band with some Newtown friends, and plays on several USTA tennis teams to keep in shape, and for competition.
The Historic Festival featured a variety of races and cars throughout the weekend, including old MGs. As is the case with any car racing event, there is risk of injury or fatality and, in some sad news from the event, Lyme’s Lee Duran, 73, died of injuries resulting from a crash in his 1930s MG during one of the Saturday races.
Peira noted that this was the first fatality in three decades-plus of the event and that it “reminded us that racing is dangerous and put a damper on the celebrations.”
Lime Rock hosts several events throughout the racing season, and also hosts the Skip Barber Racing School. For more information, visit limerock.com.