BUSHY PARK, Barbados -- Rally cars and superbikes bring extra variety to the action at the Digicel Williams International Race Meet this weekend (July 5/6), emphasising the multi-purpose mission of the redeveloped Bushy Park Circuit. The timetable includes the opening rounds of the Seaboard Marine CMRC Superbike Championship -- the first of these is on Saturday afternoon -- and three races for the Barbados Rally Club Track Challenge.
Only Barbados and Guyana are represented in the superbike contest, but the new governing body of regional competition, the Caribbean Motor Racing Association (CMRA), is committed to growing this side of the sport. Guyana, where the earliest form of circuit racing was on two wheels in the 1950s, has a strong following for both 125cc and superbike classes, and South Dakota hero Stephen ‘Rossi’ Vieira claimed back-to-back CMRC titles in 2011 and 2012, the only two years in which the series has been contested.
Five riders are making the trip north, led by Nikhil ‘Mad Max’ Seereeram (Yamaha Y2F R6), who has taken the domestic bike racing scene by storm over the past 12 months or so. A former kart racer, his switch to two wheels has been followed by a string of race victories, leaving more experienced riders in his wake, including Vieira.
The entry includes three more Yamahas: Carlos Rodrigues, who has raced in Barbados before, winning his first race on Old Bushy Park in 2012, when he finished fourth in the CMRC superbike standings, fellow-returnee Joel Neblette and newcomer Nicholas Boodhram. Third-generation racer Matthew Vieira -- son of Mazda RX-8 driver Mark -- represents the family this time round, riding a Kawasaki ZX-6.
Of the local riders entered -- all on board Suzuki GSX-R 600s -- Terrance Ollivierre is by far the most experienced as far as regional competition is concerned; apart from ‘Rossi’, he is the only rider to have contested all nine races in a CMRC superbike season, in 2012 on his former Honda Repsol RR. He is joined by Kris Brathwaite, Brook Miller, both with former Bushy Park experience, and Devan McCartney, making his debut.
The Barbados Rally Club's (BRC) connection with Bushy Park dates back to the 1970s, when it played a key role in establishing the venue and its infrastructure, including the original club house, then as organiser in 1971-75 and again in the 1990s.
The 15-strong entry includes some of the club's most consistent two-wheel-drive contenders, led by Rhett Watson (BMW M3), eighth overall and top 2wd in Sol Rally Barbados this year; his strongest challengers will include Andrew Jones (Ford Escort MkII), who finished ninth, plus Josh Read (Toyota Starlet) and Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi), both of whom were heading for top 10 finishes until they dropped out of the overall running.
Although short on seat time, 2008 Caribbean Motor Racing Champion Stuart Maloney (306 Maxi) should also pose a threat -- he won one of the two BRC Track Challenge races at the 40th Anniversary Race Meet in 2011 -- while others with circuit racing experience include Martin Atwell (M3), whose father Mike was a Caribbean Champion in the 1970s.
History in the making for Jamaica's Natasha Chang
Jamaica’s Natasha Chang will make history at the Digicel Williams International Race Meet this weekend (July 5/6), when she becomes the first woman to race on the full two-kilometre Bushy Park Circuit... although Kiwi Emma Gilmour did compete on the shorter Red Bull Global Rallycross circuit in her Hyundai Veloster during Top Gear Festival Barbados in May.
‘Chiney Dolly’, as Chang is fondly known, will race her hi-tech 1.8-litre Honda Civic in the Bushy Park Motor Sports Inc's (BPMSI) SuperModified 1 class, where she will face experienced local aces Sammy Cumberbatch (BMW M3) and Steve King (Nissan Skyline). The Jamaica Race Drivers' Club's Reigning Champion in Modified Production 1, a realignment of classes sees her in MP2 this year, currently second to Kyle Gregg.
A former kart racer at Jamaica's Palisadoes International Raceway, Chang switched first to rallying, with a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V, the first female in the Caribbean to campaign a turbo-charged 4wd rally car; seventh overall in Rally Jamaica 2008, she then ventured to Trinidad in '09, where she finished 12th overall, fifth Group N.
On turning her hand to circuit racing, she soon become a force to reckon with in MP1 and her Bracket class at Dover Raceway; she has also competed at the island's second venue, Jamwest, and toured to last year's final CMRC meet at South Dakota in Guyana.