BUSHY PARK, Barbados -- Host nation Barbados shared the honours with Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago at the opening round of the Seaboard Marine Caribbean Motor Racing Championship (CMRC) 2014/15 at the weekend (July 5/6). Guyana's Kristian Jeffrey claimed a clean sweep in the three CMRC Group 4 races and Jamaica's Kyle Gregg won two Group 2 encounters, but it was Barbados leading the Country Championship standings at close of play.
A record 27 regional competitors participated in the Digicel Williams International Race Meet, the first staged at the redeveloped Bushy Park Circuit. The largest contingent came from Guyana, the only country to field riders in the CMRC Superbike Championship, with Nikhil Seereeram and Stephen Vieira claiming a win apiece.
After testing on Thursday and Friday, teams got down to serious business on Saturday with qualifying for all classes on the 24-race programme. Roger Mayers, CMRC Champion in 2011, claimed pole position for the home team in his Ford Focus, nine-tenths quicker than reigning champion Doug Gore of Jamaica (Audi TT-RS DTM); Guyana's Mark Vieira (Mazda RX-8) and Kevin Jeffrey (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII) lined up on row two, with locals Barry Mayers (Suzuki SX4) and Stuart Williams (Lotus Elise) on row three.
Saturday's race programme was cut short after a number of incidents caused delays, the scheduled CMRC races moved to Sunday morning. As the 14 Group 4 cars set off on their first formation lap, however, the engine of Jeffrey's Evo blew, causing a small under-bonnet fire and a further delay; he played no further part in proceedings.
An incident at the Ws Hairpin at the start of the lap two resulted in early retirement for pole-man Mayers, with a broken wheel on the Focus, then Gore took time to re-start after a spin on the following tour; Vieira seized the initiative, leading until lap five, when he coasted to a halt on the exit of The Bullet, handing the lead to Kristian Jeffrey (Evo IX), who had started on the last row of the grid after issues in qualifying.
Jeffrey claimed a memorable victory in his first serious outing in the car, consolation for father Kevin, by now watching from the Automotive Art Pits Complex. Mark Maloney (RX-3), who also started at the back of the grid, was second, with Williams and Barry Mayers third and fourth. Jamaica's Peter Rae (RX-7) finished fifth, with Guyana's Vishok Persaud (Subaru Impreza STi) sixth and Gore seventh and last. Trinidad's only CMRC Group 4 runner was Kristian Boodoosingh (Evo 6.5), who had qualified seventh, but retired mid-way through the first race, not to be seen again.
In race two, with the grid based on race one results, Jeffrey made the best getaway, to lead throughout, with Vieira second and Gore third. Having started at the back after his race one retirement, Mayers was working through the field when contact approaching the Ws Hairpin sent him off across the gravel trap and into the tyre wall. The Focus was damaged beyond immediate repair, but Mayers said later: "The gravel trap certainly did its job. It slowed me down a lot, otherwise the accident could have been much worse."
Jeffrey made it a hat-trick in the final race -- either he or his father have won five of the last six CMRC races, Kevin with two wins last November on their home track South Dakota. Williams finished second, to end the day second in the Driver's Championship points table, ahead of Rae -- the only driver other than Jeffrey to score in all three races, maintaining his 100 per cent finishing record at Bushy Park -- and Barry Mayers.
The CMRC Group 2 races were just as lively: on Saturday, having set no qualifying time, Gregg was near the back of the record 16-car race one grid but had charged up to fourth when the race was red-flagged, then the restart postponed overnight. He had to do it all again Sunday morning, finishing second to Mark Thompson (Honda Civic), whose determined performances made him the weekend's Overall Champion Driver.
Edward Corbin (Starlet) was third and reigning champion Kurt Thompson (Honda CRX) fourth of the eight finishers - the Civics of Guyana's Shairaz Roshandin and Chet Singh and Trinidad's Haresh Nanan (Nissan Sentra) and Yazid Ali (Civic) completed the field.
In race two, Gregg followed Kurt Thompson for one lap until the local driver retired, then was never headed; Roshandin picked up more points for Guyana in second, ahead of Jamaica's Vivian Mitchell (Civic), then Corbin and Singh. Gregg led from lights to flag in race three, with Mark Thompson second, from Corbin, Mitchell and Singh.
The schedule also included events for Bushy Park Motor Sports Inc's (BPMSI) new classes, in which some regional drivers participated, including Jamaica's Natasha Chang (Civic) and Guyana's Rupie Shewjattan (Evo V), who shared the victories in Sol SuperModified 1, and Guyana's Danny Persaud (Mazda Miata), who won Sol SM2 once.
Round 2 of the Barbados Karting Association's 2014 Championship provided close and entertaining racing - a highlight was nine-year-old Tommy Gore's victory in Saturday's wet race, the reigning CRMC champion's son awarded a special trophy at Sunday's Prize-giving - while the Cockspur Barbados Rally Club Track Challenge made for three hard-fought races, two won by Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi).
An eight-lap Hilti Handicap ended the day in the traditional way. Early leader Tremaine Forde-Catwell (Daihatsu Charmant) - the kart and bicycle racer's car-racing debut - led for four laps, hunted down by the faster cars. Winner was Stuart Maloney (Peugeot 306 Maxi), from brother Mark, with father Doug fourth. Third was Chris Hall in one of the Suzuki-powered Radical sports cars which had been demonstrated over the weekend.