Bodden’s a Dover vet

For most local drivers racing at a proper circuit track is a step.

However Andy Bodden is no stranger to motorsports and proved recently he is used to the tightest corners Jamaica can toss at him.

Late last month Bodden was at Dover Raceway in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica competing in the opening round of the 2009 Caribbean Circuit Championship.

Three other racers travelled with Bodden to represent Cayman. Among them was Kevin Johnson. The trip was made possible by Tony Williams of Tony’s Toys and Ray Hydes of Hydes and Sons.

In spite of car problems during qualifying and hindering starting spot, Bodden ran the Tony’s Toys Civic Type-R well. His knowledge of the track and driving skills shined through as he consistently improved his lap times.

The result would be he nabbed a number of top 15 and top 10 finishes, including a fifth place mark.

Meanwhile Kevin Johnson would be literally knocked out of the competition early. During time trials Johnson wrecked his white Mitsubishi Evolution III. The car went over a bump, spun out of control and hit a concrete wall near the finish line in two places.

Kevin would be fine and even fielded phone calls from people in Cayman. However the front and rear bumpers of the car were destroyed.

Johnson could not be reached by press time for comments. However the understanding is he suffered no after-effects of the crash. The white Evo is a write-off and the engine needs substantial work done to it including a new intercooler. Since the crash he purchased a new Evolution shell that he will outfit with the wrecked car’s motor and other race parts.

Meanwhile last month’s race marked the third time Andy Bodden had been to Dover. Bodden spoke about why he keeps going back to Dover to race.

‘The first time I went to Dover in 1998 I was driving a turbo Toyota Starlet and part of a contingent of racers the Cayman Motorsports Association sent.

‘I was ‘bitten by the bug’ then, so to speak. I had really liked dirt racing and autocross before that but Dover changed things. I love the track from the elevation changes to the high-speed straightaways.

‘I’ve raced in Trinidad and Guyana (in pursuit of the Caribbean Circuit Championship) but Jamaica has the nicest track. It has it all to me and you can’t get bored with it.’

Bodden’s last race there was arguably the most impressive as he overcame monumental odds; chiefly with his car.

The Civic’s all-motor K20 engine (taken from an Accord Euro-R) was badly damaged in the lead-up to race day and needed a complete re-build less than 24 hours before his race.

Bodden spoke about the problems with the car.

‘During practice the car went down with brake issues. In the time trials phase I wasn’t revving the engine hard or going near redline yet I saw the engine sputter and a cloud of white smoke rise through the hood.

‘Come to find out the car threw a connecting rod through the block and destroyed the engine. We found another long block or whole assembly and my mechanics had to transfer the cylinder heads and everything from the blown engine onto the block.

‘On race day the brakes were non-existent on the car so I had to use compression to balance the lack of brakes. There were also fuel starvation problems, especially on right-hand corners.

‘Nevertheless I must admit I ran the car hard and maxed out all of its power. As a result the oil pan was broken twice and the suspension had to be jacked up in the front to prevent that (which took away from the car’s cornering ability).’

Another difficulty Bodden overcame was fatigue. With a body that has logged over 20 years of seat time and had to cater to a wife and kids racing for Bodden was anything but pain-free.

‘It was a total mind and body experience at Dover. It was real tiring. I’m a lot older and I have to admit my limitations. I feel the pain of racing more now. In Dover adrenaline took me through the races but I felt pain in my back once I got out of the car.’

Nevertheless Bodden, like many of the Cayman supporters, felt his performance at Dover was a success.

‘I feel it was a victory. In spite of all the shortcomings I felt proud that I did so well and passed so many cars. Much of the credit for that goes to the mechanics who basically rebuilt the engine overnight.

‘I’m very grateful for the opportunity to just race someone’s car and not worry about anything else. Many thanks to Tony Williams for that chance. Most importantly I thank God for keeping all of us safe that weekend.’

With the car in Jamaica undergoing repairs and fine-tuning, all signs point to it being ready for the next race in August.

Bodden, who has had little rest back in Cayman working for Paul A Bodden Heavy Equipment Services, spoke about his plans going forward.

‘At the end of the day it all worked out, in spite of the limitations, and I have to give thanks for that. I’m very pleased with the experience and next time I’m sure we’ll conquer all the problems; if not then the time after that.’