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“The greatest new track in America”

“The greatest track in America—perhaps the world”

“The Augusta of racetracks”

“Comparable only to the Nurburgring—but safer”



These are only a few of the accolades that have been endowed upon Barber Motorsports Park. I’ll give you a few more: technically challenging, exhilarating, forgiving and more overtaking places than any other track in North America.

Now, that last comment will not apply for track day, of course, but note this in the Vintage and N.A.S.A races that will take place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—particularly by my Gold Leaf Team Lotus 47! In fact, you might want to study the vintage racers and take advantage of the lunchtime lapping sessions to get acquainted with this most challenging track.

Designer Alan Wilson laid it out to “link” the turns. This means you have to give up a bit in one to optimize the next. When racing here I can get past a car with far more straight line speed by getting a “run” through two or more turns to let momentum carry me around the more powerful car—just what a Lotus was made for!

On entering the facility you will be struck by the pristine beauty of the park like setting. The Bauhaus style museum dominates the dual carriageway entrance that sweeps two miles through the forest. The grounds are meticulously manicured and watered by a self-contained on-site irrigation system that keeps various plants blooming for ten months of every year. In late May the native magnolia trees and oak leaf hydrangeas should still be displaying their white blossoms while the annual calilillies should provide a dazzling yellow around the many wetland areas.

Please note the many sculptures at the museum, around the track, and even in the paddock area. You will also note how clean the paddock area is—even the restrooms and the pavement! Mr. Barber is very proud of the appearance of the track and wants to keep it that way. If you spill any fluids you may request assistance from any of the Barber uniformed staff. A cleanup truck will be immediately dispatched to remove the spots for you at no charge. Failure to call them will result in your being assessed a $500 cleanup fee. This may sound draconian, but this policy has preserved this facility in its pristine state for 5 years of heavy use.

You will notice that you are responsible for your own tech inspection. We recognize that every participant is a responsible adult and that only someone extremely foolish would not be thorough with this. We will check your helmet (auto or motorcycle ok but must be a 95 or later) and that mats and loose articles are removed. Things that your regular street mechanic might not be aware of would be the importance of bushings’ not being distorted due to wear or being soaked with petroleum based fluids.

They may also mistakenly think that full tread tires are preferable to shallow depth tires. Those of use who have raced on DOT tires know that 2-4/32nds of an inch will corner better than 11/32nds in the dry. The track surface has been repaved 3 times to meet George Barber’s demanding standards. It is a polymer and aggregate that grips well but is not very abrasive, so it won’t wear your tires rapidly. You can, however, easily flat spot a front tire in the “corkscrew” or “museum” turn so be sure you have a good spare.

I would start by inflating the tires to the maximum pressure. You don’t want them rolling over in the turns. You might let them down a bit until you barely see them rolling to the edges of the tread but not onto the sidewalls.

On the other hand, in spite of extensive French drains to prevent rivulets and ponding, I’ve noted it is extremely slippery when wet and dries slowly. Please be aware, as our spin rule will be in effect wet or dry.

This track is not really hard on brakes, but I’ve noticed some Lotus brakes are marginal and Mercedes-Benz builds heavy cars. Please start with at least 3/8” of pad material and change your brake fluid before the event. If it’s dark, it has too much water.

Please also be aware that if you damage the guardrail, it will be repaired - at your expense! If this sounds like adding insult to injury, they have protected the most frequent impact areas with tire walls, and the Barber staff has negotiated a sponsor price of $1300 to replace two pieces of it. We did not have any damage charges at LOG 24, so I’m confident the LOG 29 drivers will be as competent.

We will be basically using the PCA and MBCA rules which state that any streetcar must have rollover protection from the manufacturer (i.e. the pop-up roll bars or built in roll bars of Mercedes-Benz or Porsche cars - this includes the “Targa” bar of the Lotus Elise or the windshield and hardtop of the Mercedes-Benz 107 SL’s). If you have one of these open cars with factory protection, we will ask that you have the top on or up, or have arm restraints to keep your arms in the car in case of upset.

For other open cars we will have paced laps at highway speeds -- U.S. not German! I defy anyone to take every turn at 75 mph. You will still have fun.

Thanks to PCA, MBCA, and Lotus Ltd, we should be able to have an instructor for each driver. Believe me, you will need and appreciate this. I have been racing for 38 years all over Europe and North America, and only the Nurburgring takes longer to learn. It took 6 sessions in the first race weekend to get comfortable and 30 more to learn how to pass in 6 different turns and on both sides of 3. No other U.S. track even comes close.

We would like to group drivers by their track experience rather than by the car’s potential performance. This should provide you more clear track time.

There are 5 different straights for overtaking, but we want a clear signal by the slower car. Please watch your mirrors: if a car is closing on you - particularly in the corners, the driver is clearly faster. You should signal him/her on which side to pass and lift.

You will find that most right turns are followed by lefts, although the final sequence of right turns goes effectively 180° degrees up and down two hills. Getting this right is one of the greatest rides in racing to me.

You will also note that most of the apices, or more correctly, “clipping points” are not visible as you approach the turns, so you must learn that they are over the hill. The exit of turn 14 or “tunnel” turn is even over the crest of a hill. This has caught many people out which results in running off in the grass. If you gently lift and gradually and gently regain the paved surface, no harm will be done. If you wrench the wheel right or brake, physics and gravity will prevail delivering you to the inside (right) guardrail which is downhill with a resounding thump causing damage to your car, the guardrail and the double insult to your wallet.

Done correctly, this long right is preceded by just a settling of the nose for the left kink preceding it. The throttle is held flat down to the deep dip where quick hard braking and one gear down at the apex sets you up for a flat to the floor rush up over the tunnel.

Be careful to position yourself one car width right of the apparent track edge (note that it continues right over the top of the hill). A late turn-in should let you upshift as you drop down the steep hill. Take all the concrete on the right at the apex of 15 and work on holding the throttle flat for all of this.

Move left to get parallel to the left side of the track approaching turn 16 (pit in). Make a late apex at 16. A low torque car can even use trail braking to make it rotate to go straight down the right side of the track to make a late apex through the left turn 17 onto the straight. This never ceases to thrill me when I get it right and scare me, if I get it wrong. It takes lots of practice!

What does not take practice is being courteous on pit in: you don’t need to slow until you leave the racing line at turn 16 (pit in). You will continue straight, so you don’t need to even brake until just after the turn in. People creeping all the way up the hill are a major aggravation and safety hazard.

If this sounds interesting, stay tuned as we will have more details later as well as tech sessions on this track by three professional drivers who will be racing three Lotus Esprit X-R’s in the vintage races.

I may make a comment or two myself!

If you have some track experience and would like to be an instructor, please contact Jim Roberts at [email protected] or (800)228-2997.

Jim Roberts
4 time SCCA National Champion
8 Time HSR Champion
 
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