So day one is in the books for the trip out to Barber Motorsports Park, so I figured i would offer some impressions as it is my first time here. I usually spend the first day of any track experience just scoping out the area and getting a feel for the facility. The only word that comes to mind when talking Barber is WOW. Words cannot truly describe the beauty of this facility. Who would have thought that buried deep in the heart of NASCAR country, there would be a place that rivals any venue on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.
On my way to the track (all mile of it) I was curious as to how things would look around the facility. I have seen the place on TV, but I like to see things for myself. The drive up to the track was really pleasant. The wooded areas around the facility gave it a very exclusive sort of feel. The landscaping job was amazing. Plenty of really good looking flowers and clean cut grass. Almost like i was rolling up to cover The Masters, not a motorsport event. The facility was nice enough to send shuttles after us to limit the amount of walking we would have to do. Again, very thoughtful and pleasant which makes the overall experience enjoyable. The little things.
I started the morning by getting to the track and tooling about the paddock. The Grand Am series was starting to move towards pit lane for practice. If you have listened to one of the recent episodes of the podcast, you would know the Rolex series was something I had to see. I have been a hater of Rolex for sometime given the NASCAR influence, but after one practice session I was sold! The cars were very beautiful and very loud which is always a plus in my book. I was a huge fan of the Mazda as always and spent a majority of the time drooling over them. One of the first things that struck me was the way the paddock is laid out. The area around Barber is full of rolling hills and the paddock reflected that. It was set up on like a slope with different tiers. Each tier housed a row full of rigs and work stations for the teams. A very unique paddock and something that added to the facilities charm.
The track itself is just as impressive. The hills are really rolling with the course and it makes for some truly special photos. Say what you will about the on track product, but the scenes are truly unreal as a pack of cars goes rolling steep downhill and then straight uphill over some corners. I found the elevation shifts to be more than Mid-Ohio in the heavy complex areas. The course itself is very technical and may not provide as many overtaking zones, but again, watching the cars move as a pack through the complexes is pleasing to the spectator’s eyes (or at least this one).
The atmosphere was very good as well. There were a number of fans out to see the cars on Friday. Both Rolex and IICS fans were present and watched each session. There was a real positive buzz around the place. The tweets that were coming in regarding the experience were all very positive. The weather was perfect for the most part and aided in the great mood. After a long winter, 80 degrees and sunshine was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Overall first impressions are you must add this place on your list of places to see a race. It is an absolute must for road course fans especially. From what I have seen thus far, this place is the total package and does not miss much. I am really looking forward to the rest of the weekend as the fan population picks up and the serious on track action occurs.