JA hot rods so powerful

It is no secret Cayman has a lot of great cars.

Some are machines armed with brute force and the potential to be track devils and others make traffic lights and parking lots look like car shows.

Yet Jamaica seems to have rides like that in endless supply. Moreover many seamlessly combine looks with power.

Last weekend I saw that for myself at Dover Raceway in St. Ann Bay, Jamaica. My first-ever trip to the country was a three-day visit that included two days spent almost entirely at the track.

The following is a look into my second day in Jamaica for the 2009 Caribbean Circuit Championship:

Like the rest of my time in Jamaica I faced an early start Sunday morning at 8am.

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast courtesy of Jeff Larmond and family I was ready to see all of the action on the track.

Frank Williams got Barry Mirage and I on our way to Dover at 11am. The hearty breakfast served us well in our long trek through the mountains.

We made our way through Alexandria, Spaulding and Brown’s Town before getting into St. Ann’s Bay at 12:30pm.

Dover would not be hard to find as it turned off the winding main road that overlooked the sea.

Getting to the parking area would be tricky though as Frank had to employ some skilful driving and manoeuvring to avoid the plentiful potholes.

After that it was on to the track and what a sight it was. The spectator area was up a hill and to get to it people walked over a make-shift bridge that consisted of essentially a cut-out container.

After walking up the hill I was greeted by an army of vendors lined up around the entrance to the pit area, selling everything from jerk chicken to cow foot and were a hub of activity throughout.

As I looked up I saw one of the most outstanding parts of the track in the massive blue tower. The tower saw spectators jammed in on one level to get a view of the action and commentators bunched in on the other. I had not seen anything like that.

Soon I was ushered into the pit area. Even though it was the second day of time trails the place was packed and crawled with race cars, pit crews and spectators with VIP passes.

The pit area was essentially one long slab of concrete with mini-garages or bays on either side. The track went around the pit area, allowing racers to quickly get on and off the track while giving select fans an up-close and personal view of the action.

Stepping into the pit area I stopped and looked around to get my bearings.

To my left were a one-story white building, a two-story building with a pink roof and a view of the opening turns of the track. The white building consisted of individual gated race bays with a fenced spectator area above it.

The two-story building held race bays on the bottom and spectators and race officials on the second floor.

To my right was another one-story white building holding gated mini-garages on one side and a line of tented race bays on the other side.

Frank and Barry would lead me to the tented section where I would find the Cayman race crew, with its big Cayman flag, smack-dab in the middle.

The Cayman crew consisted of Junior Hydes and a 1995 grey Mitsubishi Evolution III, Andy Bodden and the Tony’s Toys Honda Civic Type-R, Kevin Johnson and a white 1995 Mitsubishi Evolution III and Gary Barrett in a black 1980s Honda Civic hatchback.

The Cayman area, like the other bays I saw, was a hectic one as racers hurriedly tuned their cars in between runs.

Racing started from around 8:30am that morning so the guys were hitting their stride by the time I got on the scene.

Weather conditions would give a helping hand. It was a sunny day without a cloud in sight. Though it was hot for most of the afternoon a fair amount of cool breezes blew in to offset the heat.

The Cayman guys would have some interesting neighbours. To the left of Junior was Jamaican racing legend Gary Gregg.

Known for his exploits in rally racing with his Ford Focus, Gregg was busy in his bay looking over a blue mid-1990s Honda Civic hatchback.

Beside him was his teenage son Kevin Gregg. Kevin was following in his father’s shoes as he too was competing in a mid-90s Civic, though his was red.

Next to Kevin were a couple of Jamaican racers, most notable of which was Dwayne Rowe in a white 1980’s Toyota Starlet.

Beside Gary was a large tent that housed the Barbadian racers. Aside from Cayman, Barbados was the only other country represented at the meet.

The Bajans would be represented well in the form of the Maloney family. The race team had no shortage of powerful rides as Mark Maloney sported the track-ready Red Bull Mazda RX-3 and Stuart Maloney had the Mitsubishi Evolution VI sponsored by Automotive Art.

The racing would be fast and furious on the track as many cars ran well. Jamaican drivers Dean Corrodus and David Summerbell showed consistent driving.

Dean’s Civic Type-R and David’s AMS Evolution VIII made their lines and stuck to them throughout.

The Cayman guys had mixed fortunes. On the one hand Gary Barrett showed great promise with his consistently low lap times. He had little issues with his car and seemed to be sailing along.

The rest of the crew would not be so fortunate. Things went downhill around 1:30pm when Kevin Johnson wrecked his Evolution. It was a freak accident for the experienced driver that saw his car spin out and hit a concrete wall in two places after going over a bump near the finish line.

Johnson was fine but the front and back bumpers were destroyed. Looking on the engine was in one piece so the car was salvageable. If it wasn’t for Johnson’s roll cage and helmet he could have been in bad shape.

From there the Tony’s Toys Civic had engine troubles that saw a camshaft and crank rod break later in the day. Junior Hydes also ran into engine problems as his driveshaft was badly damaged and a head gasket blew up.

From there the crew spent much of the day trying to fix the cars. For all intensive purposes Johnson was done racing at Dover for the weekend. Meanwhile the crew scrambled to find parts locally for the Civic and fit in the spare gasket Junior brought with him on the trip.

Eventually we all left the track at 7pm. We arrived at our accommodations in Runaway Bay 15 minutes later. We were exhausted but readied ourselves for the big day on Monday.

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