Birmingham, AL - It was George Barber's lifelong passion for racing that led him to become a driver with the Sports Car Club of America in the 1960s.
After his father's death in 1972, the Birmingham native put his racing career on the back burner to take over the family dairy business. But by the late 1980s Barber's obsession with collecting and restoring vintage cars and motorcycles eventually resulted in one of the most impressive collections in the world, and in 1995 he opened the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.
In 2003 Barber sold his dairy business and invested more than $50 million to build the Barber Motorsports Park. The sprawling 740 acre park, just east of Birmingham, is home to the Museum, as well as a 16-turn, 2.38-mile racetrack that has hosted both motorcycle and car racing events ranging from Grand-Am and NASCAR to AMA Superbike and Mustang Club of America.
"The state of Alabama has never had a race course as pristine as this one," says Lee Brock of Birmingham-based Music Alley, the designer and installer behind the track's high-end audio system. "It started out as a motorcycle course, but in no time at all it evolved to become one of the area's most unique racing rings."
As Brock explains, the track's fast-growing popularity inspired a series of upgrades including a large-scale sound system covering the entire area. "When Indy got involved a couple of years ago, management decided it was time to get away from those old horns they were using and put in a system with full-range, high-quality sound," says Brock. "They demoed a whole bunch of different loudspeaker products, and when we showed them the Community R-Series, that's what decided it."
The system is comprised of more than 100 Community R-Series loudspeakers, including a mix of R.25, R.5 and R.5SUB models. The R-Series' legendary power and intelligibility was key to its selection, Brock observes. "The R-Series is unmatched when it comes to getting the announcers' voices out there so people can understand it," he says. "It delivers without having to work very hard." QSC RMX and ISA-Series amplification powers the system, with a Rane RPM-88 providing digital signal processing.
The track hosts a wide range of events, from high-testosterone to more family-oriented fare, and Brock adds that the sound system had to be versatile enough to deliver both power and musicality. "Of course, for a racetrack environment volume is critical," he says. "But their program material also employs quite a bit of music, from singing the National Anthem to a lot of high-energy material, and sound quality was an important consideration."
Another major consideration was durability, says Brock. "We don't get a lot of snow here, but we do get a lot of extreme heat and humidity in the summer, and some heavy winds in the spring. The R-Series loudspeakers survived the tornadoes we had in April, and were still sitting on the wheel fence. Honestly, the system's been in place for a year now and we haven't had to replace a single component."
The track's wide acreage presented one of the project's biggest challenges, says Brock. "We had a number of speaker runs that were going to be well over half a mile, and that just wasn't feasible using copper wire," he explains. "But we were able to use the park's existing fiber connections from Race Control over to four corner stations around the park, and convert it to analog from there. There are a lot of nice hills and turns where the fans can sit on the grass, put out a blanket and have a picnic, and now we can get them good quality sound wherever they are."