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Showcasing Talent

Article taken from "Motor" May 1988

Entering its third season, America Barber-Saab Pro-Series offers aspiring young racers low-cost, well-promoted competition in ultra reliable machinery.

Co-founder of the unique One-make Saab single-seater series, Skip Barber, feels that his motor racing career suffered from having to drive inferior or oddball cars. "Climbing the competitive ladder for an aspiring driver," says Skip, "regardless of talent, is all too often a result of the size of his cheque book."

Today, after a 15-year driving career, Skip runs racing schools at 15 circuits across the USA with three permanent operating bases and more than 100 full-time employees. He also runs the successful Saab Pro-Series.

For 1988 there are 12 rounds in this championship, 10 as supporting events to the Jaguar v Porsche v Nissan IMSA major sportscar series, two as teasers for Indy-CART clashes with nine receiving networked ESPN TV coverage. The total prize fund tops $420,000, with each race winner collecting $6000 and every starter going home with some financial reward.

Last season, five drivers shared the race-winners laurels, including young Juan Manuel Fangio who ran away with the finale at Tamiami Park by the year's biggest margin - 13.98s. Average winning margin in this hotly contested series was 4.65s.

Preceding the new British Vauxhall-Lotus 'one-make' single-sweater series by two years, the Barber-Saab concept goes further to make 'all things equal and to showcase driving talent'. The identical spaceframe chassis are all shipped over from Mondiale in Vlster and are maintained and transported by Barber's own squad of mechanics, not by individual racing teams.

In 1988 race trim, the Saab 1985cc 16-valve twin-cam turbo engine produces 225bhp at 6000rpm and differs from the road-car engine only by limited changes. The boost is increased, emission control systems are removed, fuel-injection settings revised and a racing exhaust fitted, together with dry-sump lubrication. Maximum speed of these 1100lb machines is around 165mph, and all contestants run on Goodyear Racing Eagle slicks, seven inches wide at the front and a generous 12.5 inches in width at the rear. All cars have a minimum 2in ground clearance and 'flat bottoms' with front and rear wings adjustable only through a limited range.

Apart from the smooth organisation, adequate budgeting and innate competitiveness of the drivers attracted to this exciting series, a major ingredient in the Barber-Saab's success story has been incredible engine reliability.

In 1986, Saab-Scania of America race-prepared 32 turbo engines for their innovative series and, after 2600 gruelling racing miles without a single failure, their engineers decided to run them all again in '87 when only two spare engines were carried for the 30-car field. For 1988 the situation is little changed, with each entry allocated one mechanic and one engine.

According to Skip Barber, the remarkable engine and chassis reliability has played a crucial part in making the Barber-Saab a genuinely low-cost championship. "The Saab turbo sets this series apart from other US races running expensive Cosworth and Chevrolet engines. It sets us apart in terms of 'cubic dollars' both on initial cost as well as rebuild and maintenance expenses. It's one of the many reasons why the Barber-Saab Pro-Series has proven such a popular stepping stone for drivers in America today."

Barber series turbo engines produce 225bhp, pushing Mondiale cars like Brian Bonner's to 165mph.
This year's 25-plus driving squad includes aspirants from as far afield as Venice, Bogota, Oslo and Holland as well as home-bred US talent, Wayne Cerbo from lowaco is the youngest 'rookie' at 20, while series 'vet' title goes to Palm Beach's George Straub (47) out to beat his 21-year-old son and fellow contestant Glen. Whoever wins, Saab-Scania of America's president, Robert Sinclair, is there to hand out trophies in victory lane.

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