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As journalists, we have failed you, dear readers. I say this because you probably don’t know too much about the Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama. And you should.
Considered to be the largest philanthropic investment ever in the Yellowhammer State, the $63-million complex is, without question, the nicest auto-racing facility in North America – and possibly the world. Opened to the public in 2003, Barber Motorsports Park is the brainchild of George Barber, a local businessman whose family fortune stems from the dairy industry. What began as an idea to purchase forty acres to build a motorcycle museum turned into this stunning state-of-the-art motorsports park.
The 80,000 square-foot museum that started it all houses 1180 motorcycles – the largest motorcycle collection in the world. The five-story museum is truly breathtaking, even to a lukewarm fan of motorcycles like me. Bikes dating as far back as 1904 are displayed, as well as those produced within the current year. Sixteen countries are represented by the bikes on display, which were built by 140 different manufacturers.
The track itself was conceived only as a means to allow the museum-housed motorcycles to be driven – just about all of them can be running and on the track in a manner of minutes. Coming down the hill into turn eight, the all-glass faade of the museum reflects the track.
When the building was originally built, the reflection was too wavy for Mr. Barber’s tastes, so the glass was replaced with higher-quality panes. But don’t think for a minute that you’ll notice that reflection while driving the track – I did multiple laps before I even saw my own reflection – because that corner is not the place to break concentration. A seriously downhill, somewhat blind and off-camber corkscrew, it’s the most exciting turn on the track.
The entire 2.38-mile, sixteen-turn course is as smooth as glass. The same thing can be said of other tracks, of course, but at Barber it’s different: the grass run-off areas are as well manicured as a golf course. There are enormous sculptures lining the track (all placed out of harms’ way).
Barber is considered a club-level track with limited run-off, albeit one of the nicest in the world. Rather than read a description of each turn and nuance of this road course, watch the video below for a guided tour of the track by Patrick Long, the only American Porsche factory driver.