Wayne’s driven to promote his sport

Automotive Art on Shedden Road used to run a TV ad with hot girls singing about the qualities of its motor products.

wayne kirkconnell

Kirkconnell hopes to do better at the next Time Attack Photo: Ron Shillingford

No beautiful women burst into song when I went in there to interview Automotive Art managing director Wayne Kirkconnell but, hey, you can always live in hope.

Motor racing fan Kirkconnell is one of the organisers of the increasingly popular Night Battle Time Attack races at the Progressive site. He competed on Saturday but was no winner.

‘I didn’t do that well,’ he smiles wryly. ‘We had a different course that favoured the four-wheel drive and front-wheel drive categories and it was very difficult with my car to manoeuvre around the course.’

His Nissan 350Z, a rear-wheel drive, was not ideal for the tricky little turns. There are three basic categories plus one unlimited category for those using race tyres.

The only driver over the weekend with race tyres didn’t actually do that well. Because of its intricacies, the course really favoured the smaller cars.

‘Our previous winner managed to take it with his car, a Subaru SCI, Keith ‘Speedy’ Tibbetts, which is really cool.

‘Motor sport is a fun tool to get out there and exercise your car. If you like fast driving we encourage people not to do it on the street.

‘There’s basically somewhere once a month where you can push your car to the very limit and compete with your friends.’

Kirkconnell, 32 and newly married, makes sure that the last Saturday of each month is his boys’ night out. That’s when the Cayman Motorsports Association runs its Time Attack night at the Progressive loop behind CUC.

‘We race you against the clock. There’s no head to head battle so there’s no danger of getting into trouble with cars colliding.

‘We have helmets in place and as the sport progresses and we speed up, more safety measures will be introduced. Like we’ll mandate roll cages when a car reaches a certain horsepower or safety harnesses above a seat belt.’

This is all branching out from what used to be auto-cross on the island. Cayman used to have a 0.9 mile track at Progressive which was basically dirt and they used to race there from the late Eighties until 2003.

The land was sold for development and motor sport was pretty dormant until last year when the Time Attacks started.

‘We were basically in a hiatus and had nowhere to race,’ says Kirkconnell.

‘No outlet for our sporting needs. Again, this is temporary and we’re working with the Progressive area because we’ve been told that a road is going through there shortly. Once that happens – maybe next year – we’ll have to find a new home.

‘Our goal now is to build the membership and interest. We’re trying to work with other associations to find a permanent home.

‘Breakers is a completely different facility. That is drag through. What we do requires corners and whatnot.

‘What we’re looking for is to go out and race again on an easily developed piece of property where we can have a sanctioned event on a closed course. Where we are now is public during the week.’

The Progressive course is roughly 0.8 of a mile long. It is redesigned for every event on the night to ensure that no one can learn it and sneak an unfair advantage. One competitor, Mario Sanchez, drove well but he too found the technically difficult course a little too tough.

That’s why Kirkconnell claims he did so badly this time. ‘The designer put the chicanes really tight which suited smaller cars.

‘The track we hope to develop will hopefully be just over one mile long. I can’t say where it is at the moment but if it works out, pollution won’t be that big an issue.

‘Our intention is to bring interest off the road and try to get young guys with very powerful cars on to a safe environment where they can learn how to drive their cars and push them to the absolute limit.

‘It’s also a place where they can be taught by more experienced drivers.

‘We actually started a skills day on the middle Sunday of every month. At a skills day we take the course and break it into pieces. We may do a braking session or a turning session or a 360-degree session to show how to get around a cone.

‘We let everybody go, time them and then show them how to improve. That’s going really well.

‘The very first session we got 14 and didn’t expect more than ten. That was excellent. It was a very nice surprise.’

Wayne is part of the Kirkconnell businesss dynasty, started by his great-grandfather who opened the first supermarket in Cayman Brac over 100 years ago. Wayne’s grandfather Charles and Charles’s brother Eldon continued the family trend in business.

There are so many Kirkconnells with an entrepreneurial spirit that when asked to break down the family tree Wayne laughs: ‘That’s a tree and a half, you haven’t got space.’

Joseph Kirkconnell, the brilliant cricketer is Eldon’s grandson. Many Kirkconnells are into sport. Besides motor sports, Wayne is a keen triathlete.

Automotive Art is actually a franchise of a company based in Barbados where rally racing is popular. Cayman doesn’t have the roads for rallying.

‘We’re her just trying to develop racing in Cayman. It’s taking a long time!’

Kirkconnell, Bobby Hulse (president of the CMA) and Keith Tibbetts are the main organisers of the Time Attacks. Gary Bromfield, is the only one of the board members of the CMA who competes.

Weather permitting, the next Night Battle Time Attack will be on Saturday 30 August. ‘Ultimately, we hope to team up with other groups to make the roads safer.

‘Unfortunately, we get these really fast vehicles out of Japan for little or no money and get these really young guys in them who don’t really know how to drive them.

‘It’s very funny. They come for the first time and they’re really confident. They run and do really badly the first time. By the third or fourth time they improve their skills and start to be competitive and then they realise they actually learned something.

‘It’s really exciting to see some aged 18, 19, or 20 picking up skills at such a young age. They’re highly committed to not racing on the roads as a result. They do these events and that’s an outlet for their speed.

‘We all have vices in life. This is a very safe environment to deal with that. I’m happy what we’ve accomplished so far and hope we can continue to evolve.’

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