BUSHY PARK, Barbados -- Reigning Seaboard Marine CMRC Group 2 champion Kurt Thompson will face the most competitive field yet assembled for the regional competition when he lines up for the opening race at the Digicel Williams International Race Meet in two weeks time (July 5/6) at the redeveloped Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados.
The provisional entry list includes the three previous champions, Thompson's brother Mark (2012) and fellow-countrymen Kenrick Husbands (2011) and Edward Corbin (2010), while a strong regional entry includes Jamaica's Kyle Gregg and Sebastien Rae -- champion driver at the Dover Raceway in 2013 and 2012 respectively -- and each leading his class at home this year.
Rule changes introduced for 2014 by the Caribbean Motor Racing Association (CMRA), which now runs the CMRC, are intended to create a more level playing field and encourage greater participation, moves welcomed by regional competitors. Very few drivers have contested every round each year, a key issue being that of tyres, as Group 2 was run to the rule book of each host country, with differing tyre regulations resulting in extra cost for drivers on tour. For 2014, there will be a common rule for tyres across the four rounds, while 2-litre and 1600cc cars will now run together, thanks to a formula to balance weights, also intended to create closer racing.
Reigning champion Thompson will campaign his title-winning Honda CRX, while brother Mark, who finished runner-up last year, is entered in the Honda Civic driven for the past couple of seasons by their father Peter; Toyota Starlets are listed for Husbands, who won races in Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana in his title-winning season, Corbin, twice the Overall Champion at Bushy Park, and Steve King, who will debut a newly-built car. A second Civic, entered by rally ace Daryl Clarke, who recently finished an impressive 12th overall in Sol Rally Barbados, brings the total to six.
Since 2013, points scored in the Group 2 races are added to those in Group 4 to decide the year-end standings in the Country Championship, an innovation which helped Guyana to a second title after a strong showing on home ground last year. Team Guyana's John Joseph, Shairaz Roshandin and Chet Singh -- all drive Honda Civics -- made a significant contribution to that total last year, as did Andre Dhanraj (Volkswagen Golf), the only member of the team with no previous experience in Barbados. Joseph has been a regular in the CMRC Group 2 series, finishing third in 2011, while Singh's best year-end result is fourth in 2011 and Roshandin's seventh (fourth 1600cc) last year.
Of the Team Jamaica trio, Sebastien Rae is the only one to have raced in Barbados before; since his 2012 visit in his Mitsubishi Mivec -- he won the 2-litre class twice -- Rae has had mixed fortunes: he was the Jamaica Race Drivers' Club's (JRDC) champion driver that year, but a fire at Dover last Easter badly damaged his car.
Becoming champion driver last year was the culmination of a string of title successes for Kyle Gregg, son of Rally Barbados 2006 winner Gary, including four consecutive years as Modified Production 2 Champion and two (2011 and '12) as Thundersport 2 Champion in his Honda Civic.
The third member of Team Jamaica is Vivian Mitchell (Civic), who is representing his country for the first time. A former drag racer, he came to prominence at Dover in May, when he won seven of eight races in Improved Production 29, TS1 and MP2, and was joint meeting champion.
Trinidad will be represented by Yazid 'Daryl' Ali and Haresh Nanan, both competing in Barbados for the first time. Ali’s Honda Civic was completed late last year, replacing a Toyota Starlet, in which he claimed podium finishes at Trinidad’s Wallerfield circuit and the San Fernando Grand Prix and placed second in the 2012 Drag and Wind Championship.
Nanan, who campaigns a Nissan Sentra, is the eldest of four sons of former Wallerfield racer Joe Nanan; with youngest brother Amit, he has toured to Guyana for the past two years, with little success in 2012, but both scoring CMRC Group 2 points last year.
The CMRC Group 2 drivers from Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad are among a record regional entry of 26 competitors on two and four wheels, whose race cars and motorcycles are already in transit to Barbados. Ten will face the five-car Team Barbados in the three CMRC races, which will potentially create another record for the weekend -- the biggest CMRC grid since Barbados joined the competition in 2008, the previous record being 12 in Race 1 at Bushy Park in 2011.