McLaren Pace Car Takes A Spin At Lime Rock Park (with Video)

LAKEVILLE, CT – There’s never an opportune time to suffer a tire puncture, but Bob Green can recall a case of particularly bad timing. He was behind the wheel of a Dodge pace car at Lime Rock Park racetrack and was about to lead drivers out for the start of a race before a national TV audience.  

“I picked up a big bolt in the tire of a Viper once when I was sliding it around, and it was a televised race. I had to go on,” said Green, who has driven the pace car at the Lakeville racetrack for 28 years.

“They finished singing The Star Spangled Banner and I had to go out with a bolt sticking out of the tire, hoping that it would hold air and not fly out and hit somebody.”

Bob Green, left, and Simon Kirkby

This year’s pace car at Lime Rock Park is a 690-horsepower McLaren Artura plug-in hybrid. “The performance of this car is far beyond what I really need to start a race at 50 (miles per hour) or so,” said Green earlier this month after taking the McLaren out for a few mild laps around the circuit.

“I’ve driven it pretty hot on a  number of occasions and what it does is it makes high performance driving almost effortless. It shifts so smoothly, it’s almost imperceptible.”

See the McLaren pace car on the track in this YouTube video…

The McLaren is on loan from luxury dealership Miller Motorcars in Greenwich, which is an investor in the racetrack. The 2025 Artura coupe has a base price of $256,308, while a Spider convertible version costs $281,008.

Also getting to drive the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive McLaren at Lime Rock Park is Simon Kirkby, director of the Lime Rock Drivers Club. Speed enthusiasts can pay $100 for him to take them on “hot laps” around the track with the proceeds benefitting The Hole in the Wall Gang.

“This car will do 155 miles an hour on a hot lap,” Kirkby said. “McLaren quotes the car as being zero to 60 in three seconds. It’s more like 2.5.” McClaren says the top speed for the Artura is 205 miles per hour.

A native of England and a resident of Falls Village, Kirkby is impressed by the McLaren. “They thought about this car a lot,” he said, noting it incorporates four types of carbon fiber to decrease the car’s weight to 3,303 pounds.

“It has adaptive shocks that work incredibly quickly to adjust the shock absorbers to whatever situation you’re in in terms of how fast you’re going, whether you’re going over bumps, if you’re going through the turns.

“Once you go into track mode and performance mode both motors are working in conjunction with each other. And one of the things that the electric motor does, it overcomes the typical turbo lag because the electric motor has such instant torque that you don’t even feel the turbo lag. It just goes.”

The Artura’s axial flux electric motor is located within the housing of the eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

“The brakes are just huge on this car, which you need for the kind of speeds it attains,” said Green, who reported that serving as driver of the pace car is “not real taxing.”

He kiddingly said the job makes him a bit of a first responder.  “It’s not difficult but you have to be available at any moment to respond,” Green said. “Driving a pace car is 90 percent waiting and then about five percent activity, sometimes a lot of chaos.”  

The pace car driver has two primary roles – to get races started (and restarted) fairly and to ensure the safety of track workers who clean up after wrecks. 

“I see all the wrecks. Unfortunately, when I am called out to restart a race, I see what people’s errors are. When there’s a crash and people have to go out and attend to the driver and the machine, that’s when you have to gather everybody up and restart the race,” Green said.

Said Kirkby, “It is an incredible important component in terms of making sure that the starts are done correctly. You’ve gotta make sure the cars behind you line up properly, bunch up properly, and you’ve gotta to turn the lights off at the right time, and you’ve gotta get out of the way of the race cars and get into the pits as quickly as you can just before the start.”

The pace car also has a promotional role. “What could be better to really put a stamp on what an upscale experience it is to come to Lime Rock than to have a wonderful car like this McLaren in all its glory and the way it sounds, and looks, and everything about it,” Kirkby said.

Green agreed. He knows from having previously driven pace cars made by such manufacturers as BMW, Chevrolet and Dodge. “This is a gorgeous car. All of these cars certainly have more capability than I really need to do the job, so it’s really a marketing thing. This is advertising,” he said.

Earlier in his life, Green worked as a crewman on a dirt track team and even raced at Lime Rock Park in the 1980s. He lives within eyesight of Lime Rock Park, and serving as pace car driver fulfills a need. “I’m a lousy spectator and so I’d rather be involved. I need to be involved in the racing. It’s a nice way to be involved,” he said.

(Photos by Bud Wilkinson)

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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