GALLERY: I Treated Myself To A Weekend Of Vintage Motorsport In Alabama
Photography by Kenneth Midgett
Motorsport weekends come in all sizes and guises. From the very well-known, world-class professional-grade modern races like the Monaco Grands Prix of the world, stuffed with glamour, exorbitant amounts of money, and enormous crowds, to the other end of the spectrum featuring local grassroots events held on almost any paved surface available. For the latter, these are typically made up of accessible cars prepared for competition on slim budgets, utilizing whatever may be lying in the local parts bin network.
The same spread more or less exists in the vintage racing scene as well, though I suppose it’s up to you to decide whether or not NA Miata spec racing is historic by now! Modern classic perhaps? Anyway, it’s easy to get distracted by the headlining vintage get-togethers—the Festivals of Speed, the Rolex Motorsport Reunion, et al— with the long entry lists replete with all-star cars and most expensive grids of automobiles you’re likely to find outside of contemporary F1 events. It can be a bit repetitive though, the “big ones,” and sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the huge crowds and the same old same old to give the lesser-known vintage race weekends a try.
So, a couple weekends ago, I took a short drive down Interstate 65 to my backyard track, Barber Motorsports Park, for some laid-back grassroots-style racing. While my actual backyard is occupied by children’s toys and more weeds than grass these days, Barber could easily be confused with Augusta Masters Golf Club—if it weren’t for catch fencing rising up through the rolling Alabama hills. Quirky metal sculptures are scattered about the grounds, and the safety requisite Armco is lined by well-groomed rose bushes and other shrubbery, lending a more pleasant aesthetic element to the photographic flow of the place.
The Barber Historics festival is a relatively new addition to the United States’ vintage motorsports calendar, and for this year’s running Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) and the Historic Motor Sports Association (HMSA) joined forces to put on a great show. To my delight, the addition of HMSA seemed to bring along with it a selection of cars to which I’m not typically exposed to in the immediate area. For example, there was a whole slew of Formula Junior racers, as well as original Lola, Cooper, and Lotus prototypes having a go at each other among the immaculate tarmac twists of the rather good-looking circuit itself.
As the racing went on into the late afternoon, I found my lens pointed at a few standout cars on a per lap basis, like the immaculate 1964 BRM P261 pictured above, which quickly gained and held my attention. This particular chassis was piloted in the 1964 Formula 1 season by Graham Hill, and was eventually sold off to play a part in the famous and aptly-titled Frankheimer film, Grand Prix. It just goes to show that you’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t first have a look a little closer to home.