On the weekend of October 5th, the 13th Annual Barber Vintage Festival welcomed fans from all over the world to its iconic track in Birmingham, Alabama. Among the crowd of almost 100,000 were Damian, Marcelo and the MotoDoffo crew. Damian, who came ready to race, shares with us his experience at the Barber Vintage Festival and how it felt to ride on the famous pavement.
It is incredibly difficult to describe the entire experience of attending the 13th Annual Barber Vintage Festival. Unless you’ve experience it for yourself, there is no way to possibly convey the magnitude of the event. There were conservative estimates of 100,000 people in attendance and it truly felt like we were participating in an international road-racing event. The Barber Motorsports Complex is a world-class facility, and for us gearheads, it’s the Mecca of racetracks. Everything from the perfectly manicured landscaping to the overwhelmingly extensive motorcycle museum is immaculate.
The level of organization and professionalism by the entire staff that weekend was beyond any motorcycle event I have ever attended. We made the mistake of being so entrenched in our racing that we were not able to completely enjoy all the events that were happening on the campus. The festival not only included vintage road racing, but Barber also hosted a massive motorcycle swap meet that spanned acres of the park. There were also vintage motocross races and vintage trials competitions. The facility was humming Friday night as the campus had quite literally thousands of people camping with live music, vendors and my favorite: food stands! It truly was heaven on earth for moto enthusiasts. While I’m almost positive that the threat of Hurricane Nate heading straight for Birmingham deterred its fair share of people, it was obvious that the moto-community still came out in droves.
The race weekend started with one and a half days of practice and fine-tuning. It was supposed to be two full days, but we decided to dedicate Thursday morning to do a “quick” tour of the Barber Museum. The so-called “quick” tour took us approximately four hours and it still felt rushed. Perhaps the anticipation of actually getting on the track was at fault. On the other hand, it may have been the gigantic windows that provided a crystal-clear view of the famed “Museum Corner.” It was torture standing there while hearing vintage race machines rip through the gears. With every passing motorcycle, the anxiety to get to our pit was speeding the pace of our self-guided tour.
The collection of motorcycles is beyond imagination and the way they are arranged keeps you engaged. The displays are creative and captivating with my favorite being the section dedicated to the board track motorcycle racers. The display had a replica section of a board track with what seemed to be a 45-degree angle. It truly gives you a perspective of how insane those board track racers were. High speeds, virtually no brakes, no helmets, no air-fences; just pure glory!
As we exited the gift shop (I couldn’t leave without buying a little something for my boys), we concluded that to do the museum tour properly one would have to easily spend 8-10 hours there. It may seem like eight hours is an exaggeration, however, the Barber Museum truly allows you to get lost in motorcycle history. It’s an experience!
Now the question we are sure you’re all asking: How did team MotoDoffo do at Barber’s? This may be the perfect time to open a bottle of MotoDoffo wine and pour yourself a healthy glass!
The Barber Motorsports track has an incredible layout with elevation changes, blind crests and off-camber corners that reward the brave. I was grateful that I was running a few different bikes that would allow me to practice in three different practice groups. I needed all the seat time I could get! We arrived at Barber with three freshly built motors, and our plan for Thursday’s practice sessions was to do engine break-in, heat cycles, and most importantly learn the track. By the end of Thursday’s practice, I was 10+ seconds off pace. Shawn, our race engineer, and I were not overly concerned with the benchmark time, as we both knew my father and I had plenty of speed. It was just a matter of learning the lines and getting comfortable with the late braking points.
Friday morning my father and I both improved our pace significantly and now we were beginning to really fine-tune the bikes for racing on Saturday. I had one small off track excursion that resulted with me getting a face-first visual inspection of the grass in that notorious museum corner. Luckily, both rider and motorcycle survived fairly unscathed! I was quickly reminded the lesson about not hitting the front brakes while on grass, a lesson I’m pretty sure I learned at the age of eleven.
After practice sessions concluded Friday night we reviewed the time sheets. My father and I had lowered our times significantly, with our pace putting us amongst the top five. The hunt for the podium was on! Now, we just had to do some final adjustments and wrenching as the races started early Saturday morning.
We went off to work on the bikes, but it was hard to buckle down as the environment of that paddock felt electric. It was buzzing with people stirring about and bouncing from pit to pit, greeting old friends and making new ones. We probably should have made it an early night, but our adjoining pit decided to throw a margarita party. Suddenly, our pit was filled with all kinds of people. The crowds swarming into our neighbor’s pit created a welcomed distraction. Once we wrapped up, the margaritas were a nice reward and made for a great memory thanks to Gary Swan of Toad Town Racing!”