John 'Skip'Barber is a former racing driver from the United States, best known as the creator of the famous Skip Barber Racing School.
Skip Barber in his race winning days
Late start of the racing career
He was born on November 16, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and started his racing career pretty late, at the age of 22. While he was studying English at Harvard University, Barber became interested in motorsports and began racing at the local level. "Going to college wasn't right for me, I had gotten a big scholarship to Harvard and I really had to go but I wasn’t interested. All I cared about was cars and girls", states Barber.
Video - A lap with Skip Barber Racing School
Over the years, he learned a thing or two about racing and progressed to the higher level. Competing in the SCCA national championships, Skip won three consecutive titles during the mid-1960s. He was also 3rd in the 1967 United States Road Racing Championship, created by SCCA a couple of years earlier. That was followed by two consecutive titles in Formula Ford National Championships in 1969 and 1970.
Formula 1 debut
Before the beginning of 1971 campaign, Barber bought a March 711 formula car, with an ambition to race in the selected Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix events and after that to return home and to compete in Formula 5000 championship which was popular in the US. "The first car I drove was a Lotus 23, a rear-engined English sports car in the 1960s that didn’t have a lot of power. And that was a joy. Ten years later, I drove an F1 car", commented Barber.
Skip Barber driving a March, Formula 1 World Championship
However, his F1 career wasn’t a glorious one. Barber failed to qualify for the 1971 Monaco Grand Prix, while in the Dutch Grand Prix he retired on lap 60. Before the end of the season, Skip entered another two races: at the Canadian Grand Prix, he retired on lap 13 while in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, he retired on lap 52.
In 1972, Barber had another try at Formula 1 with the same car. It was in Canadian and the US Grand Prix but again he failed to impress. He retired on lap 24 in Canada while at Watkins Glen he finally managed to finish the race, taking the 16th place. At the same time, that was his last appearance in the most popular racing series.
Establishing the Skip Barber Racing School
After the Formula 1 adventure, Barber continued racing with GT cars until 1975. When he retired as a racing driver, Skip established his own driving and racing school. His opinion was that racing is coachable just as every other sport. That’s why he acquired two Lola Formula Ford cars and with four students, he began a new project in 1975. In 1976, Barber also created the Skip Barber Race Series.
Skip Barber is an owner of Lime Rock Park
The success of the school was imminent and it had soon attracted many young and talented drivers across the country. Skip Barber is also the owner and the operator of Lime Rock Park, a natural-terrain motorsport road racing venue located in the hills near his home and the town of Lakeville, Connecticut. In 1999, Barber sold the school and had the time and enough resources to focus solely on Lime Rock Park and the creation of Lime Rock Drivers Club.
In 2013, Skip Barber was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame.