BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- Multiple British saloon and sports car champion Tim Harvey has given the ‘thumbs up’ to the newly renovated Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados, which he described as “brilliant” when he toured the facility last week. During a short break before television commentary duties at this weekend’s opening rounds of the British Touring Car Championship, Harvey was keen to inspect progress.
Phase one of the 40-year-old circuit’s redevelopment into a multi-purpose motor sport facility remains on target for completion within weeks; just a few hours before Harvey arrived, paving the 2.2-kilometre circuit was completed, with work on-going on the drag strip launch pad and ancillary roads. In addition, construction work is under way on the pits complex, with trackside barriers and safety fencing also being installed.
A successful all-rounder in saloons and sports cars, Harvey was a class-winner in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1987, driving for Spice, the team founded by Gordon Spice, one of the first British competitors to race at Bushy Park in the 1970s. Harvey went on to win the BRDC C2 Championship for the following two years and then the British Sportscar Championship in 1999; he was also British Touring Car Champion in 1992 in a BMW 318, and has twice won the Porsche Carrera Cup GB (2008 and ‘10).
Of his first impressions of Bushy Park Circuit, he said: “From the moment you come in, you can see it offers fantastic viewing, with spectator banking around the circuit, brilliant. It has a bit of feel of the Brands Hatch short circuit, because it’s a natural amphitheatre for motor sport... although, actually, I think it’s probably wider than Brands is in some places.”
Nearly all the 1.3-kilometre layout from 1971 remains, although excavated and widened to a constant width of 12 metres, to blend in with the new southern loop. The circuit is designed to achieve Grade 3 certification from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), while internal link roads create a kart circuit of 1.2kms, which will meet Grade A venue requirements for CIK-FIA events.
Having looked down from the spectator banking, Harvey was keen to get closer: “Now that we’re actually out walking on the track, I can see the elevation changes, and imagining I’m in the car; drivers like a circuit that dips and climbs. It’s fantastic what has been fitted in to the space, and it is a relatively small area... it’s a very wide track, with lots and lots of overtaking places. I think it’s going to be great to drive... and it has also given me another excuse to come to Barbados on holiday.”
Bushy Park Circuit is already attracting worldwide attention, key to the facility’s positioning as a driver for the island’s vital sports-tourism product, as the build-up to Top Gear Festival Barbados (May 17/18) continues; confirmation of the participation of 2008 Formula 1 Champion Lewis Hamilton and the inclusion of the opening round of the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship has guaranteed huge interest.
Harvey also endorsed the facility’s potential value in that context: “It can only enhance the interest of competitors, the public... and international competitors to come over here. It could be for racing, or for exclusive testing at a relatively secure circuit without too many prying eyes. It could be very attractive, especially to teams in those countries where the weather during the winter can so often hamper testing programmes.”