Skip Barber: Still revved up after all these years
LIME ROCK â€” It was more than a quarter century ago that professional race car driver Skip Barber purchased the race track at Lime Rock Park. The business is still moving briskly forward, he said. In fact, he believes that professional automotive racing, is experiencing a renaissance.
â€œIn the last five years, more people are coming to watch car races,â€ Barber said.
He said that attendance at the track peaked in the 1980s, then declined in the 1990s.
â€œWe were hurt by the recession due to a lack of corporate sponsorships,â€ he said. â€œBut people are still coming to attend major events. Our guess is thatâ€™s because itâ€™s a convenient day trip for them. People are forced to give up big vacations in a recession like this. Instead, they do things like coming to Lime Rock because itâ€™s close to home.â€
Barber, 74, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and was always fascinated by cars.
â€œI started driving when I was 10,â€ he confided.
The interest endured, and he began racing in 1958, while a student at Harvard University.
â€œWhen you started your racing career back then, everyone paid for everything themselves,â€ he said. â€œMost of the drivers worked multiple jobs.â€
You could be a good driver, he noted, but not be able to afford to race.
During his career, he won the 1969 and 1970 Formula Ford National Championships as well as several Sports Car Club of America races.
He retired in the mid-1970s and started the racing school in 1975.
The racing school has grown substantially since then and is now on about 30 tracks across the United States and Canada.
Barber sold the school 10 years ago, but he still owns the race track.
â€œMy advice to racers just starting out is to begin as early as you can,â€ he said. â€œSome kids are starting with go-kart races now at 10 or 12 years old.â€
As for his own racing career, Barber said he is fully retired.
â€œNo, I donâ€™t miss racing!â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t go around the track any more. I donâ€™t need that.â€