Lime Rock Park Names 2024 As Year Of Skip Barber

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Lime Rock Park Names 2024 As Year Of Skip Barber

Barber’s living legacy to be honored at Lime Rock Park in 2024 

LAKEVILLE, CONN. (20 March 2024)– Lime Rock Park is proud to declare 2024 as the Year of Skip Barber.

As Skip Barber looks forward to the 65th anniversary of his first visit to Lime Rock Park, the track will pay tribute to Barber’s contributions to motorsport and Lime Rock Park through special events, exhibitions, and commemorative merchandise throughout the season.

“As Lime Rock Park celebrates its 67th year of operation, it does so with a deep sense of gratitude and reverence for the man whose vision and passion have left an indelible mark on this iconic racetrack,” said Lime Rock Park President Dicky Riegel. “His commitment to excellence and his relentless pursuit of innovation have earned him the respect and admiration of his peers and racing fans. The Year of Skip Barber is a fitting tribute to a man whose passion for motorsports knows no bounds.”

Born in Philadelphia in 1936, Skip Barber’s journey at Lime Rock Park began in 1959. He took his senior year off from Harvard in 1958 to join the Merchant Marines to save enough money to buy his first race car, a Bugeye Sprite. Back at Harvard a year later, he attended his SCCA driver’s school at Marlboro, near Washington DC, and raced his first race. That race was at Lime Rock Park, the first time he visited the track. Actually any track other than Marlboro. Little did he know that this would be the start of a remarkable career that would not only shape his own legacy but also transform Lime Rock Park into one of the premier racing destinations in the world.

Barber raced a variety of machinery in the 60s and the 70s, ranging from sports cars to high-powered formula cars. Barber delivered some shining moments while in the driver’s seat, including beating Jim Clark in an identical car at the then Mosport in his first professional race and setting the ultimate lap record at Lime Rock Park to help push his name to the top of call sheets. Along the way, he won three SCCA National Championships, set 32 different lap records, and earned the President’s Cup.

Success in Formula Ford ultimately propelled him to drive for the March factory in Formula 1 and Formula 5000 with help from team owner, Gene Mason. He ran six Formula 1 races while the first March Formula 5000 car was being built. The highlight of this period was outqualifying Ronnie Peterson, Niki Lauda, and Henri Pescarolo, who were also driving Marchs at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in 1972. Unfortunately, the brakes were gone by the 10th lap and Skip spent the day waiving competitors by.

The March 5000 car was one that Barber will freely declare as being a “disaster” and basically ended his career. Shy and not good at promoting himself, Barber usually drove cars the owners or manufacturers wanted to sell. At that time, the guru of track racecar engineering in North America, Carrol Smith, said “he was the fastest guy who never made it big.” He occasionally raced Porsches in IMSA over the next few years.

Barber was only beginning to build a lasting legacy in American motorsports. Believing that racing was a coachable sport, he formed the Skip Barber Racing School in 1975 at Lime Rock and Thompson started with four students and a pair of borrowed Formula Fords. Since then, over 400,000 students have become racers and champions. He was President of the Road Racing Driver’s Club during this time.

His eponymous school not only created champions in every professional racing series in the U.S. and produced winning drivers at the Indy 500 or Daytona 500 for decades. In addition, the school saved countless lives on the roads through safe driver training programs, as well as having had a profound impact on the sport, training and developing an entire generation of mechanics, administrators, and marketing specialists who often, like the driver graduates, found their way to the upper levels of motorsport. Paul Pfanner, of Racer Magazine, repeatedly has stated “The school was the major entry point into motorsports for so many for so long.”

Understanding the key role that the facility could play in building his growing school, and with a deep desire to preserve the track from development in the very high-value Connecticut countryside, Barber led a group of investors, all racing school graduates, who purchased the track from Harry Theodoracopulos in 1983, eventually becoming the sole owner.

Barber sold his school in 1999 and continued to work there until 2001. Today, the Skip Barber Racing School continues to be the world’s largest automotive education and entertainment company, offering driving and racing schools at the finest tracks in America.

In 2021, Barber sold the track to a different group of investors who were equally passionate and deemed well-suited to carry out Lime Rock Park’s legacy into the future. Barber remains a large shareholder in Lime Rock Group LLC and is an active track management team member.

The Year of Skip Barber commencement ceremony will be held during the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic (May 24-27), more information will be released closer to opening weekend.

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