President, Lime Rock Park
Skip Barber, a legend in American motorsport and an icon at Lime Rock Park, will be the Honored Guest at the Fourth Turtle Invitational.
Best known for the legendary racing school bearing his name, and his long-term ownership of Lime Rock Park, Barber first raced at Lime Rock in 1959 in a Bugeye Sprite, while he was attending Harvard.
Shy, and not then known as much of a promoter, he came out of college in debt, with no financial resources. Consequently, Barber’s rides throughout his career often depended on a race car dealer or manufacturer anxious to sell cars or motors, who would put him in a car to demonstrate its worth. Barber proceeded to race a variety of machinery in the 60s and 70s, ranging from sports cars to high-powered formula cars, beating Jim Clark in an identical car at Mosport, and setting the ultimate lap record at Lime Rock Park at the time.
When his career appeared to be ending, he stepped back to Formula Ford, winning 3 national championships, and setting multiple lap records in the process. This ultimately led to him to a drive for the March factory, with help from Gene Mason in Formula 1 and Formula 5000. He ran six F1 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. Sadly, the brakes went away early.
The Chevrolet-powered March 5000 car was a “disaster” and basically ended his and others’ careers, though he raced Porsches in IMSA over the next few years. The guru of at track racecar engineering in North America, Carrol Smith, said “Skip was the fastest guy who never made it big”.
While no longer a competitive driver, Barber was only beginning to build a lasting legacy in American motorsports. Believing that racing was a coachable sport, he formed the Skip Barber School of High Performance Driving in 1975 at Lime Rock with four students and a pair of borrowed Formula Fords. The following year, he began the Skip Barber Race Series. The rest as they say, is history, as over the years, his students formed a “Who’s Who” of successful drivers, ranging from sports cars, IndyCar, NASCAR, and Formula 1. Barber sold his school in 1999 and continued to work there until 2001.
At Lime Rock Park, Barber led a group of investors who purchased the track from Harry Theodoracopulos in 1983, eventually becoming the sole owner. A group of investors assumed ownership of the circuit in 2021. Barber remains a large shareholder in Lime Rock Group LLC, and is an active member of the track’s management team.
“Skip Barber was and is an inspiration to me and generations of young racers, “said Paul Pfanner, Founder & CEO of Racer Media & Marketing. “No one in the racing business has done more to make the dream of driving a racing car real. He literally launched thousands of lifelong adventures and careers in motorsport.”
Skip Barber will celebrate his 40th season as an owner of Lime Rock Park in 2023.