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SVRA Barber Motorsports Park Races 2006
at Barber Motorsports Park
2006 SVRA Barber Motorsports Park Vintage Races

Blending “Form and Function” – With early spring finally greening the dull landscape of browns and tans, the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) switched gears this year, opting for the exquisite Barber Motorsports Park (BMP), Birmingham, Alabama in lieu of its seasonal and traditional trek to Roebling Road, Savannah, Georgia. Deemed the Barber Motorsports Park Vintage Races Presented by MotorCheck On–Site Analyzer, SVRA once again presented its lineup of Michael Stott/USB Financial sponsored Sprint Series shootouts, a MotorCheck enduro and featured IMSA RS/2.5L Challenge Reunion race this past April 7–9.

Any negative thoughts spawned from the supplementary fuel costs needed to fill my tank with unleaded gold and seat time traversing into the Central Time Zone, swiftly evaporated when we entered the gorgeous BMP facility. Moreover, if you on any level think this oasis is simply a visual illusion, the Alan Wilson (renowned race course designer and builder) creation is as technically challenging as it is beautiful. It’s a driver’s course that “works you hard,” remarked Triumph pilot, Mark Craig.

Other drivers just loved the 80 feet of elevated change, 16 turns and switchbacks, and all agreed it’s a wonderful layout for both driver and spectator alike. The millions invested in the trees, shrubs and flowers doesn’t hurt the eye either, and exemplifies the goal of the track’s visionary, George W. Barber to construct a family–friendly park that he wants to become the “The Augusta of race tracks.”

By chance, Friday’s predicted severe weather conditions veered north, allowing a full day of practice, culminating with the event’s first formal contest, the MotorCheck Dixie 150 endurance race. An all–comers race, just shy of two–dozen vintage varieties took the green and ended approximately two hours later with a win for Dan Baker’s Ralt RT1 FA machine. The trackside RS/2.5L Challenge Bean/Dog/Beer Feast sponsored by Brian Walsh (#93 Pinto) concluded the day.

Regrettably, another band of brutal storms arrived around midnight. As sirens blasted warnings of nearby tornados, the concrete reinforced restrooms at the track became a welcomed and solid fortification for overnight paddock inhabitants against the elements. Luckily, no major damage was reported.

Saturday opened with plenty of track–drying sunshine, sunshine that would remain for the balance of the racing weekend as the Michael Stott/UBS Sprint Series qualifying asphalt skirmishes provided a plethora of action throughout the day, and concluded with the event’s second prolonged battle, the one–hour RS/2.5L Sedan Challenge duel.

In that particular race, IMSA Camel GT founder, Jim Dowling, recoiled from a late black flag deficit to inherit the lead once again with only two laps to go, beating second place finisher, Tom Benjamin’s Alfa Romeo GTV in his #63 Mazda RX3 (racing since 1963) by less than a car length. “This is the most fun I’ve had in a while,” beamed a very excited, Dowling. The SVRA party carried us into darkness.

Nice weather conditions continued as Sunday’s Michael Stott/UBS Sprint Series races took the green. Dowling once again garnished podium top honors, winning the RS Sedan Sprint race, followed by Quinn Derby’s victory heading a podium Group 1 Triumph Spitfire sweep, Dan Baker proving untouchable again as Group 2 top dog and Group 3’s George Balbach’s 356 beating Brian MacEachern’s wind–robbing Lotus 11 (Group 4 racecar) by a tad .104-seconds. Other winners were the following: Group 7–Henry Payne, IV; Group 5-Henry Payne’s Porsche 907LH (Lang Heck); Group 10-Ron Zitza’s 914, Group 6–Sean Ryan ’70 Camaro; Group 8–Fritz Seidel’s 911S and Group 9–Dan Baker’s Ralt again.

Yeah, for anyone from the north, the trip’s length could be very taxing, especially with a tow, but once you arrive, BMP’s 720 acres of gentle beauty quickly purges the tension from the body and opens up your soul for a truly unique experience, blending explosive vintage racing and a visual paradise that was deemed by all in attendance as “an exhilarating layout that not only merits your full attention”, but as racing veteran, Houghton Smith (racing since the mid–60s) noted, “it’s a drivers’ course that’s just fun to drive.” Add the consensus of high praise and kudos for the friendly, clean, and spotless racing oasis, and all collectively prove that form and function can work well in the real world. PS: The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is a must–see, too!.....Walter Pietrowicz


Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum