By David G. Firestone
Forest Barber is a true racer in every sense of the word. He won as a co-driver and owner in the 24 Hours of Daytona, along with one of my other favorite subjects Christian Fittipaldi. He has 5 other wins in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series. He has also participated in motocross and enduro riding. He has had the most success in offshore powerboat racing, where he has 5 National and World championships. In 1999, he won the APBA National Championship as well as the Superboat International Championship while racing Drambuie on Ice. He wore this suit during that effort.
I never thought I would cover offshore powerboat racing in this blog, but this suit is a very interesting piece. It is a Sparco brand, single-layer suit that has full FIA certification. The light weight is used to accommodate the life jackets, and safety equipment that powerboat drivers need in addition to fire protection. Drowning is a real safety concern in power boat and other water sports. The front is designed with small DRAMBUIE ON ICE, TUBI STYLE EXHAUST SYSTEMS and KEITH EICKERT POWER PRODUCTS patches. Forest has signed the left chest and added WORLD CHAMPIONS 1999 as well. The back torso features a large DRAMBUIE ON ICE logo.
The sleeves both have a SPARCO logo, and one small patch. The right sleeve has a FEEL THE NEED RACING OFFSHORE CLASS 1 patch, and the left sleeve has a TNT CUSTOM RIGGING patch. There are no television logos, as the television coverage offshore powerboat racing had at the time did not have the cameras in the position for the logos to be seen.
Older Sparco suits have cowl tags indicating the size, and in this case, the size is 56, which is a large, with a 42 chest, 36 waist, and 42 hips. It also has two liability tags, one in the cowl and one behind the zipper in front.
The shoulders have no epaulets or any other design covering the seam. Epaulets as I’ve said before are designed to pull an unconscious driver from a burning car. In offshore powerboat racing, drowning is a big concern in addition to fire protection, so epaulets are not needed. The arms are gusseted.
This suit was worn in Class 1, which is considered by many to be the Formula 1 of powerboat racing. Two individuals race in the boat, one drives the boat while the other navigates. A track is set on an open body of water, and the boats race each other around that track. These boats have 850 horsepower engines and can reach speeds of 160 miles per hour. They are catamaran designs, having two hulls, which help not only with speed but with stability as well. The races are typically 55-75 nautical miles in length, over a course that is 11-15 laps long, often with one or two long laps.
This is the first powerboat racing suit I have ever seen, and I have to say, it’s a very nice piece.