BUSHY PARK, Barbados -- The south-east corner of Barbados echoed to the sound of racing engines for the first time in ten months on Sunday afternoon. More than 60 competitors on two and four wheels jumped at the chance to play their part in island motor sport history, when they participated in the first-ever Track Day at the newly-renovated Bushy Park Circuit.
Phase one of the 40-year-old venue’s redevelopment is nearing its conclusion, in time for Top Gear Festival Barbados in two weeks’ time (May 17/18); the participation of 2008 Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and the inclusion of the opening round of the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship have already created worldwide media interest in the event.
But Sunday was all about local competitors. True to its future as a multi-purpose motor sport facility, a broad cross-section of island motor sport was represented, as all Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF) competition licence holders had been invited to participate for a small fee by the venue operator, Bushy Park Circuit Inc (BPCi).
Those from the circuit racing fraternity enjoying hot laps included Steve King in both his Nissan Skyline and Toyota Starlet, Mark Maloney and father Doug, in Mazda RX-3 and Audi A4 quattro respectively and Kurt Thompson (Honda CRX), while rally men Paul Bourne (Ford Focus WRC08), Jamal Brathwaite (Honda Civic Type-R), Bryan Gill (BMW M3) and Dane Skeete (Peugeot 306 Maxi) put in some extra miles ahead of Sol Rally Barbados 2014 at the end of this month (May 30-June 1).
Drag racers enjoyed a rare opportunity to drive the entire 2.2-kilometre circuit, rather than just the new strip incorporated into the redevelopment -- they included Matthew Forde (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III) and Corey Stanford (Toyota Corolla) -- while bikes and karts were afforded circuit time as well. Geoff Ullyett investigated the circuit’s suitability for drifting in his well-known Nissan ‘T10’, while Mark Thompson, running some very old rubber on his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX rally car, visited a gravel trap or two to check out the safety features.
While the pit garages were not available for use, participants were able to park on the pit-lane apron in front of the garages as they prepared for their runs; there was a staggered start from the pit line, cars running in groups of five or six for a 15-minute session, with no racing allowed. A few hundred fans gathered to watch the action in the re-configured spectator area alongside the circuit’s southern straight.
And Bushy Park’s history was not forgotten, either. Among those gathered in the pits were ‘Bizzy’ Williams, who famously ‘designed’ the original circuit in 1971 and was for many years the outright lap record-holder, while former racers from the era, including Hallam Edwards, Don Hunte and Trevor Hutchinson, dropped in to witness the action. Also on hand was Bill Mallalieu, former president of the Barbados Rally Club, which organised the circuit’s race meetings in the 1970s and ‘90s.
A beaming Mark Hamilton, operations director of BPCi, said: “It is fantastic to see the circuit being used and to welcome such a varied group of local competitors. We have received some very favourable feedback on the facility and are really looking forward to the next few weeks of activity here.”