Hot Rods muscle in on East End

With local motor sports on an upswing an old racing body is looking to come back to the forefront.

mustang muscle

The Mustang is a favourite hot rod. Photo: Matthew Yates

The Cayman Hot Rod Association, which began around 1986, is currently in negotiations with the local government.

The talks centre on the renewal of the current lease agreement which the CHRA has in place for the High Rock racing facility in East End.

As President of the CHRA Armando Ebanks states the goal of the talks is to come away with a professional facility.

‘We’re currently in talks with the government for a lease extension. We’re in the final stages which includes a request for more run-off space.

‘We’re aiming to put down a 4,000 square foot track in East End. It will be National Hot Rod Association-spec and used strictly for drag racing.’

The NHRA is a drag racing organization which governs the sport in North America. It began operation in California in 1951.

When the track is built it will be able to accommodate NHRA racers like John Force and Tony Schumacher and their 330mph ‘funny cars’.

Currently the High Rock facility is some 2,800-2,900 feet in length. As it has not been used for racing in some time there is light vegetation growing on the area of gravel once used for drag racing.

Even though the facility lacks paving Ebanks feels the work involved in building a proper track at High Rock is manageable.

‘The land doesn’t need much development. The track is essentially laid out there already. Within six months the track can be pretty much completed.’

The actual track surface is expected to be given extra attention. The plan is to make the surface all concrete or hot mix asphalt.

In addition provisions will be made for rain-water to drain away effectively without leaving puddles on the drag strip and for NHRA-spec retainer walls around the track.

Ebanks admits he would like to see the track with all the trimmings in place. Among the items of interest is a NHRA-spec timing system, an announcer area, a substantial concession hub and a VIP section. All of which are planned to fit into one large structure.

Ebanks says that though those things might sound very lofty that they can be a reality in a short span of time.

‘The building of those things, like the track itself, will be done in stages. Within nothing more than two years we’re aiming for everything to be finished.’

The history of CHRA is a long and colourful one. Association members say its true roots are back in 1979 with the Cayman Motor Club.

Started by Ezzard Miller and Billy Ebanks among others, the group was a social one that came together to enjoy testing and tuning cars.

Those same guys went onto make the Cayman Autocross Association in 1983. The focus of that group was on racing, particularly around Bobby Thompson Way near the current Smith Road Oval.

At the time that area was all land that belonged to member Chuck Thompson and his father Bobby Thompson.

From there the club would go in two different directions. The Cayman Motor sports Association would come into being under the guidance of Courtney Myles and Tony Williams among others.

Meanwhile the CHRA would officially form in 1986. Association members say the CHRA would hold large-scale races almost every month that would attract roughly 1,200 people on a regular basis.

The group would go strong for 18 years before holding its last event in September 2004 just before Hurricane Ivan.

Ivan would hit the CHRA hard, destroying equipment, cars and membership. At one point there were some 450 members actively involved.

Since then the club has had quite a slim presence on the local race scene, participating in yearly car shows and giving presentations on safe driving less than 10 times in three years to schools across Grand Cayman.

Ebanks hopes the current talks with government will get membership back to previous levels. He says the executive committee could also have a hand in speeding up the process.

The current executive committee sees Rohelio Wright as vice-president, Dwayne Bodden as secretary, Phillip Rankin as CFO, Billy Ebanks as director of race operations and Kendra Ebanks as public relations director.

With Breakers Speedway already in place and making strides there is a question of how a proper race track in East End would coexist and fit into the local race scene.

For Ebanks that is a non-issue. He essentially feels that High Rock can reinforce the positives that Breakers has had on the community.

‘The CHRA and Breakers have a common goal of safe driving and giving a venue for racing.

‘With Breakers we’ve seen a drastic reduction in street racing. Back in the old days it was rampant.’

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