the great dailysportscar disaster in February, we lost most
of our 2002 coverage, but some of it survives…..
originally featured in our ‘One To Watch’ column, and
we’re delighted to reflect that someone, somewhere was indeed
watching Rob Barff.
fine drive in the factory TVR T400R at the gruelling 12 Hours of
Sebring, netting an unexpectedly competitive finish, Rob is now
joining a two car TVR effort at Le Mans.
will feature Rob’s exclusive insiders look into Le Mans week,
from the early ‘ceremonials’ through practice and qualifying
and into the great race itself. Read about him and the TVRs here,
throughout the week.
Barff – Thoroughly Modern Racing Driver
main problem is that he was born with the wrong parents!”
A controversial point of view, particularly when you consider
that the person delivering it was none other than his father Andy!
the line was delivered with heavily ironic tone, there is a serious
the ‘joke’. Motorsport
is very, very expensive and the patronage of wealthy parents has
been the master key to many a talented young driver’s passage
to the top of the sport.
that regard Rob hasn’t
been as lucky as some other hopefuls, but the constant support
and encouragement of his family has enabled
him to continue to climb the motorsport ladder, while others have
fallen by the wayside.
It has been though, and still remains, a real challenge not only
for his abilities as a driver but also as a businessman.
“When people hear the phrase ‘TVR Factory Driver’ they
immediately assume you must be either privately wealthy or paid
an absolute bundle.” So says the newest addition (in April ’02)
to the TVR factory family.
Rob’s 2002 performances, in what was universally regarded
as a stupendously rapid but difficult to master TVR Cerbera Speed
12, proved that he has the talent to justify the title ‘Professional
Racing Driver’, but the harsh realities of modern life meant
that he had to bring a substantial amount of personal backing to
earn the opportunity to display his talents on such a stage.
“I’m lucky to have excellent sponsors who have helped
me to make it all happen. Without their backing there is no way
I could have made the jump to the GT class.” From Eversheds
(Business lawyers), Microscan (IT hardware, Telecoms and Office
Equipment Suppliers), Jebson Homes (House Builders) and Arai (crash
helmets), Barff has attracted an impressive range of sponsors from
a wide variety of businesses, a credit to this very modern racing
28 years old, Rob’s racing career, like so many others,
began on the kart tracks, in Barfff’s case back in 1987.
Six years later, in 1993 he was Champion of Oulton Park in Formula
Ford, a success that led to a works Swift drive the following season
(albeit a season cut short when his main sponsor went bust). It
was at this point that Rob started to earn money full time from
Motorsport as an instructor, before re-entering the fray in 1998
with a short programme of Caterham races.
sportscar bug clearly bit hard and 1999 saw a full season in the
championship – a season which
very nearly ended with a championship title, Rob eventually finishing
runner-up to Rob Jenkins on countback when the drivers had to drop
had, however, inspired him to push onwards and upwards and, responding
Autosport, he contacted Martin Short about
an interesting looking project to introduce the TVR Cerbera Speed
Six into the GTO class of the British GT Championship, with Short’s
Rollcentre Racing team.
Barff was immediately impressed with the car, the boss and the
project. Shorty for his part was sufficiently impressed with Barff
to do a ring-round of his Caterham opposition to find out what
kind of racer and what kind of man he might be handing over his
He must have liked what he heard, because Barff was confirmed
in the Cerbera alongside the boss for an attack on the 2000 British
GT Championship. The
first outing at Croft was a mixture of highs and lows. The
on the class pole straight out of the box,
but a mechanical failure pitched Rob into the barriers midway
through the race. The potential though, of both car and driver,
for all to see.
team made steady progress throughout the season, culminating in
and emotional class win at the late-lamented
Spa round of the championship. The result was particularly significant
as it marked the first ever non-Porsche win in ‘GT3’ anywhere
in the world (two weeks before the BMW M3’s first success).
By now, the highly motivated team boss was working on the follow
up. The soon to be familiar Tuscan R was built with lessons learnt
from the Cerbera project, and carried the team to further race-winning
success in 2001. The highlight for Barff though was a run in the
Suzuka 1000kms in August.
“Suzuka was my first proper endurance race and I’m
not ashamed to say that it blew me away. The race itself was an
incredible experience and I absolutely want to do far more like
By this time Rob was already planning for a move up to the bigger
GT class cars in 2002: his performances behind the wheel of the
Rollcentre TVRs had served him well and his reputation as a safe
and rapid driver had spread. A TVR factory drive for 2002 was a
major career boost.
“It’s another step up and I’m still learning
a great deal. Budgets allowing I’d prefer to do GT / GTS
next year in selected UK races and the FIA GT Championship. If
the chance arose to get my hands on a prototype, perhaps in LMP
675, I’d jump at it. Beyond that I really want to do Le Mans
very, very badly.”
so he would….
all comes down to budgets however and now, more than ever, they
One major boost was the confirmation of
Barff’s membership of the British Racing Drivers Club. “As a source of advice, support and contacts it’s
invaluable, to say nothing of the honour of being a member.” That
support both from his BRDC colleagues and his sponsors and family
will indeed be invaluable. The life of a professional racing
driver nowadays is a tough one.
typical weekday for Rob starts at 5am, with 6.30-8.30am taken up
the gym (Barff shares a trainer with Andy Priaulx)
before starting the day job at 9am (Rob is now a full time race
instructor at Silverstone). The end of the day job marks the start
of his evening’s work in his office at home, as he continues
the drive for backing for both this season and the future.
is where the glamorous image gets a bit faded. On average I spend
than 10% of my time in the race car and 90%
or more on fitness, the day job and office work.”
returned to the scene of his Spa triumph for the Proximus 24 Hours
2002, racing not only with Martin Short but
also with his replacement in the Rollcentre Racing squad – Simon
Pullan - and with the very same Cerbera Speed 6 that Rob and Martin
won at Spa with back in 2000.
Barff has his sights set on a long-term future in sportscars. He’s highly motivated: “I hate losing, I really really
do!” He’s highly mature and professional: “I
bring it home, I don’t crash!” And he’s a dream
for his sponsors and the media.
You can contact
Rob either through his website www.robbarff.com
or learn more about sponsorship opportunities via www.sponsorshiponline.com