During his formative days in race officiating, IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race director Beaux Barfield came to know and respect the late Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting. Like many in his profession, the Briton’s sudden death struck a heavy blow for Barfield (pictured above).
“There’s so much crazy news out this day, I was hoping it was a hoax, but I heard from none other than [FIA steward] Tim Mayer, so I knew it was from the source, and it was just a shock,” he told RACER. “And so my first thought was of years of doing this, beyond his officiating and race directorship, what a lot of people may not necessarily know about Charlie and all the things he does is he’s FIA’s number one track inspector. And so he would travel to the US for all the Champ Car races on temporary circuits to sign off on the track.”
Having worked for Champ Car, IndyCar, and IMSA as a senior official, Barfield says Whiting treated his presence as a well-known representative of the all-powerful FIA in a uniquely humble manner.
“The coolest thing he did when he would come over, is he would stay for the event,” Barfield continued. “All the other track inspectors, if we had any over the years, they’d do their thing on Wednesday or Thursday, sign the track off, and go off to wherever they’re going. Charlie would stay all weekend. And the relationship that he had that I’ll never forget, it was with [Champ Car official] Chris Kneifel. I don’t think Chris gets enough credit for his forward-thinking and the things that he did at the time, but Charlie was very intrigued, inquisitive and engaging, and would talk to Chris and ask questions.
“And for this guy, with all of his history and experience, and what he brought to the table, he was incredibly selfless and eager to learn, and understand the different ways that different people did things all over the world. Just an incredible guy and presence, and wonderful man to be around.”
Beyond mourning Whiting’s loss as a peer, Barfield wonders how big of a professional void has been left behind.
“I think that it’s hard to replace a guy like that that has all that history of what he did from an engineering standpoint, and his team involvement, and then years and years — decades — of officiating and involvement at the top of the FIA,” he said. “There’s a lot of individuals that show up at any race on any given weekend that have so much knowledge in their brain that is documented nowhere else, so what’s lost in terms of institutional knowledge when this guy arrives at a track.
“And so many people prior to an event are … ‘Go ask Charlie. Charlie would know. Charlie’s got the answer to that.’ So where do you go, and how does that change the culture of what gets done and how it gets done at any given Formula 1 or FIA event? So I think you’ll feel that kind of loss with the knowledge that’s only in that brain for years if not decades to come. In terms of the man, and how he engaged, and how humble he was, it’s irreplaceable.”