In racing, like other sports, looks are deceiving.
The person who looks the most promising often times is not the best. On the other hand persons who look like also-rans can emerge as contenders.
Where racing differs is that many times wins and losses come down to how well a driver knows the course and how well he/she can get the car to run.
This reporter saw that first-hand for the first round of the 2009 Caribbean Circuit Championship the weekend of May 23. On my first-ever trip to the country I travelled to St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica to take in two days of automotive excitement at Dover Raceway.
The following is a look at my time at the track on race day Monday May 25:
It was no surprise the day was an early one. Sunday’s time trials presented the Cayman race team with a lot of questions that needed to be answered early, starting from 8am.
It was a good thing Tony Williams, Ray Hydes and the others started out from Runaway Bay early as the 15 minute drive from the villas took a half an hour due to the heavy amount of traffic.
It was understood that there would be a lot of people as it was Labour Day and a Jamaican national holiday. But it was incredible to see so many so early.
The racers were equally on the ball as the pit area was a hub of activity. The Cayman area would be no different as we met up with a group of some eight mechanics that had stayed at the track late into the night to work on the cars.
In spite of their efforts the news was not good. Junior Hydes’ Mitsubishi Evolution III would be unable to compete. Attempts to install the spare head gasket Junior had brought with him on the trip proved unsuccessful.
The head gasket, which was a factory replacement part, failed to fit the aftermarket rods Junior had in the first gasket (which blew up on Sunday).
Junior was the second Cayman driver forced to the sidelines. Kevin Johnson crashed his white Mitsubishi Evolution III into a wall near the finish line during time trials.
Johnson was fine (due in large part to the car’s roll cage) but the front and rear bumpers of the car were destroyed. It needed too many repairs to be ready for race day.
In under 24 hours the Cayman race team went from four racers down to two. Only Andy Bodden in the Tony’s Toys Honda Civic Type-R and Gary ‘Rambo’ Barrett in a black Honda Civic hatchback remained to restore Cayman’s honour on the day.
Andy Bodden would get his first crack of the action for Cayman. With the Civic running and sounding well the morale and expectations of the crew were high.
His first run was a solid one. Bodden started from the back of the pack of 28 racers but found room to manoeuvre, finishing in the top 20.
Bodden got consistently better on the day. In spite of continuously starting at the back, Bodden would creep his way up into the top 15, the top 10 and even finished as high as fifth by day’s end.
With the car in order, Bodden was free to focus on mastering the tight hair-pins and S curves Dover is known for. Bodden maintained his line well and maximized his power by fettering the boost.
Bear in mind Bodden faced a potent field of competitors. The leader of the pack throughout the day would prove to be Neil ‘Hollywood’ Gore. One of many family members firmly entrenched in the Jamaican race scene, Gore lead the way with his yellow and blue Evolution X for team Mo Bay racing out of Montego Bay.
Barrett was next up for Cayman. The unassuming veteran racer had a relatively quiet day on Sunday. His car ran flawlessly, saw little tinkering under the hood and generally held its own.
On Monday Barrett made plenty of noise with his driving form. Aided by a favourable starting spot in the top 10, Barrett kept pace well. In his first run he showed the consistent form that would make him a force throughout the day.
Rambo excelled in large part due to his tenacity in the corners. Living up to his unique nickname, Barrett sliced through the bends and consistently hit his apex. As a result he was quick to get going on the straightaways.
Though he ended up sixth in his first run, Barrett would have many high finishes. In fact he would go on to nab a fourth and second place spot before clawing out a hard-fought first place finish.
Among Barrett’s toughest competitors were Sebastian Rae in a yellow and blue Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback and Alan Chen in a black Toyota Levin. Rae took it to Barrett early on in the day, beating him to spots in the corners. Chen meanwhile would be a tough cookie with what sounded like a heavy amount of boost as he gained much ground on the straightaways.
As a result of Cayman’s fine form, the crew area got extra attention from the crowd. Everyone wanted to see what was under the hood, even a group of models for Castrol (who also happen to be one of the sponsors of the Tony’s Toys Civic).
Meanwhile a bevy of racing continued on the track. From motorbike to street car classes Dover constantly saw machines burning rubber on the track.
The non-stop action kept the 25,000 people who came to the track buzzing all day whether they were watching from on top of a building or at the top of hill adjacent to the track.
Arguably the highlight of the day was seeing the ‘big boys’ go all out. With the likes of Mark Maloney in the Red Bull Mazda RX-3 and Bull Thompson in the May Pen Ice RX-7 on the loose there was no shortage of power.
When it was all said and done David Summerbell would emerge victorious in the AMS Evolution VIII. Summerbell was flawless on the day. His knowledge of the track and his car’s ridiculous power came to the fore and he was never out of the lead.
Granted he did get solid competition from Bajan Stuart Maloney. Maloney stuck with Summerbell in every race and his Automotive Art Evolution VI made things interesting in the last race of the day. However Summerbell prevailed.