The Second Annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival featured some magnificent cars from both sides of the Atlantic and a brand new element in the form of junior karting champions!
The Second Annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival featured some magnificent cars – assembled from both sides of the Atlantic – captured the imagination of the locals who were out in force with their prized-possessions and introduced a brand new element in the form of junior karting champions from the UK’s foremost karting series – Formula Kart Stars. The latter has the backing of Formula One Management and the project to bring them over to the Bahamas was whole-heartedly endorsed by Anthony Hamilton, father of Formula One World Champion Lewis, who ‘cut his teeth’ in the FKS series.
Indeed Speed Week’s first big event was the Karting Challenge, held in the shadow of Nassau’s brand new Thomas A Robinson Sports Stadium, constructed at a total cost of some $100 million. The management team of the Stadium were very supportive and allowed the creation of a challenging circuit in their parking lot. Starting at mid-day on Sunday, it was, in its way, truly historic as, as these young Kart Stars took to the starting grid they signaled the return of racing to Nassau for the first time in fifty years. Young they may be but the racing would have done credit to seasoned veterans as they fought their way between the barriers of what all proclaimed was a far better circuit layout than they had anticipated. After some extremely close dicing Reece Wade was the winner of all three heats and became the darling of the Bahamian crowd!
While the karters were enjoying their event and enthralling the assembled crowd, our US entries were being loaded onto our exclusively-chartered ship at West Palm Beach under the watchful gaze of a family of manatee.
The Mailboat makes regular trips into Nassau but rarely does it carry such a precious cargo, some ultilising spare space in one of the two Ferrari transporters also on board. After an overnight crossing, the cars and trucks’ short but somewhat noisy journey to our paddock caused a real buzz, reminding all (as if they needed it) that Speed Week had come to town!
Opening Ceremony & Welcome Reception
That evening, those already on the island were treated to a Cocktail Reception hosted by Patricia Oakes at Jacaranda House in downtown Nassau – a beautiful colonial building dating back to 1840 and sitting in one-and-a-half acres of tropical gardens. Although it has been modernised, it basically remains the same today as it was 100 years ago and has been in the hands of the Oakes family for the last 60 years. The relevance being that Sir Sidney Oaks was one of the triumvirate of visionaries who founded the original Speed Weeks back in the 50s.
After Tuesday’s Entrants’ briefing and supper gave all the Entrants the opportunity to finally meet each other as well as the BSWR Team, it was ‘down to business’ on Wednesday with the Official Opening Ceremony taking place in front of the colourful and historic Fish Fry buildings in the Arawak Cay Heritage Village. And the assembled cars were as colourful as the backdrop, drawing admiration from media and onlookers alike. As were the Speed Week Girls, making an appearance for the first time – the sheer length of their legs and their height (all could easily have been picked for a basketball team) – drawing almost us much comment as the cars!
MC Jay Michaels introduced the Royal Bahamian Police Band who began the celebrations in fine style, followed by speeches from The Honorable Danny Johnson, Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture, BSWR President Jimmie Lowe and Chairman & Event Director David McLaughlin. Finally, Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes declared the 2nd annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival open and flagged the cars away with the now traditional Bahamian National Flag. Sir Stirling Moss didn’t need asking twice and was quickly away with Minister Johnson at his side (who, rumour has it, is still grinning). A fabulous cacophony of sound followed them as the remainder of the field also proved their eagerness to get underway. There wasn’t a spare seat in the house and Anthony Robinson, the CEO of Sun Oil/Shell in the Region could be seen hitching a ride in Andreas Mohringer’s stunning Ferrari 375 MM – the last unrestored example remaining in the world. Anthony was delighted to recognise the long and successful history of Shell with Ferrari by taking part in this cavalcade. Paul McWeeney the Managing Director of Bank of the Bahamas grabbed a ride in the Cobra as a just reward for his enthusiastic and much needed support for the Formula Kart Stars. One of the broadest smiles during the Opening Ceremony was from Lady Foulkes as she whizzed around the circuit as a passenger in David McLaughlin’s Lotus Elan Sprint, driven by his wife Lorina. Last year Lady Foulkes had said how much she would love a ride and David was delighted to be able to make her wish come true. Even though we’d had to reduce the length of the circuit due to a burst water main and no amphibious vehicles on the entry list, everyone thoroughly enjoyed their first opportunity to blast around the useable and most picturesque part of the course – right along the edge of the beach, so much so there was a great reluctance to stop – so we gave them more laps than originally planned. But stop they finally did and were quickly replaced by the young karters, who were not going to be outdone in terms of speed or spectacle as they charged up and down in front of the Fish Fry, giving many of the locals their first opportunity to see go-karts ‘driven in anger’. Equally reluctant to stop (or slow down), the Formula Kart Stars finally lined up for their photo call to tumultuous applause.
Next the Kart Stars went to visit the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo and were able to mix with a troop of performing Flamingos and some were even bold enough to hold a Bahamian Boa Constrictor, albeit a baby one! And while the youngsters were doing their best not to get eaten, the Entrants were given the opportunity to experience true Bahamian tradition – a Fish Fry cookout. This was accompanied by a lively Junkanoo celebration (is there any other) and some colourful cocktails – and judging by the flamboyant dancing to the Junkanoo band, they’d ignored the warning given in their info packs that local tipple Sky Juice can ‘creep up on you’! One notable local resident, who should know better, even asked our Entrant Coordinator (who was providing fuel vouchers to the Entrants at the time) for a voucher for ‘the one on the left please’ as he watched the Speed Week Girls posing for photographs with Sir Stirling and Lady Susie Moss – sorry Susie, you were in the middle (but we suspect you have enough trouble keeping up with Stirling anyway)!
That evening, the Welcome Reception, in the more serene setting of Government House, hosted by Governor General Sir Arthur and Lady Foulkes, was an altogether more sober affair – not that there was any shortage of alcohol, far from it. There was plenty of delicious food to accompany it too as the guests took advantage of the lovely balmy evening to wander among the terraces and the beautifully-lit tropical gardens. And along with the sound of cicadas, there was a definite buzz of excitement in the air for what was to come over the next few days.
007 Island Tour & Lyford Cay Concours d’Elegance
The Thursday of Speed Week has very quickly established itself as one of the favourites of the week. The 007 Island Tour, providing the opportunity to drive around the island whilst taking in its best sights at high speed with Police Outriders clearing the way, is a totally unique experience and one that provides a topic of conversation for weeks and months to come…… As if that’s not enough, there is the eager anticipation of what is to come from the 2011 Entrants and the gasps as the new Entrants arrive at the Lyford Cay Clubhouse with it’s grand colonial style, manicured lawn and beautiful tropical garden providing the perfect backdrop for the Lyford Cay Concours d’Elegance. With further ambience provided by musicians with steel drums and an endless supply of champagne and cocktails, the Entrants had their first real opportunity to take a leisurely look at and discuss each other’s cars. And they weren’t the only ‘interested parties’ as the local residents came out in force to view the assembled throng and quiz their owners. One of the most interested of all was the man who, appropriately considering the name of the tour, made James Bond a household name – none other than Sir Sean Connery himself. A short sharp tropical shower meant those with open cars had to move quickly to deploy their covers but it soon passed, leaving only the evidence of how much polish had been deployed on their bodywork and, with the sun reappearing, offering some different photographic opportunities. As did Graycliff’s owner Paolo Garzaroli in the beautiful vintage fire engine owned by another Speed Week Partner Mark Roberts which turned up to join the party and left the marshals scratching their heads as they tried to find somewhere to park it!
Our host at Lyford Cay, Peter Vlasov, welcomed everyone and, in addition to showing off the magnificent Pete Gardner Memorial Trophy, which would later be presented to the ‘Best in Show’, introduced a brand new trophy for this year. Amazingly his wife Pippa had tracked down an original Bahamas Speed Week Governor’s Trophy on a well-known online auction site(!) and this was destined to be awarded to the car judged as best in the Super Touring class. Both pristine trophies were much admired by Entrants and guests alike as they took their places inside the clubhouse for lunch, leaving respected international Concours Judge Dave Olimpi and his team to deliberate over who should win them.
Whilst everyone was treated to a sumptuous feast, many could be heard swapping stories of their high-speed trip around the island, which more than lived up to its reputation from 2011. Having also joined us for lunch, Sir Sean Connery graciously agreed to present the awards:
- Best in Show: 1953 Jaguar C-Type, Jonathan Turner (UK)
- Best Race Car: 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC, David & Kate Cottingham (UK)
- Best Touring Car: 1964 Ferrari 330 America, Tony Best (UK)
- Best Super Touring Car: 1992 Dodge Viper, August Schnabel (BAH)
- The Car the Judges Would Most Like to Take Home: 1959 Bocar XP-5, Mike & Dawn Fisher (USA)
As they lined up at in front of the Clubhouse for a photocall, the prizewinners made a very impressive sight indeed and in the final moments before departure, Stirling Moss took the opportunity to become re-acquainted with an old ‘friend’. The Best in Show C-Type was, in fact, the ex-works car that Stirling himself campaigned. But it’s in much better condition now than the last time he drove it – when he flipped it at Silverstone, UK, in 1953!
On the return journey, the drivers made a ‘pit stop’ at the Premier Cru winery, owned by Juan Bacardi, yes, that Bacardi!. This winery is modeled on those found at the very best French Vineyards and is well worth a visit. It is surprising the amount of storage space that can be found in a fifties Le Mans car when the owner really tries…
That day’s exploits were still the topic of conversation as everyone assembled at the aforementioned Graycliff for an evening of immaculate hospitality by loyal sponsors, the Garzaroli family, who added their own delicious chocolate products to their usual spectacular offering of speciality foods, champagne and cocktails. This astonishing venue was originally built in 1740 by a wealthy pirate. Now it is a charismatic hotel, boasting with world’s third best wine cellar (containing the oldest bottle of drinkable wine in the world), a cigar ‘factory’, a chocolate ‘factory’ and the first 5* restaurant in the Caribbean.
The Albany Experience
Friday saw a new event added to the Speed Week schedule with the opportunity for the Entrants, Formula Kart Stars and their families (an entourage of around 50 people) to indulge in the Albany ‘experience’. Albany is a 600 acre oceanfront estate which was created by the Tavistock Group, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els so it’s hardly surprising it boasts an 18-hole championship golf course (designed by Els himself) and to encourage the world’s best to play there, its marina was designed with super-yachts in mind. The Resort’s name is inspired by the historic beachside mansion at its heart, which was originally owned by French filmmaker and Inspector Gadget creator Jean Chalopin. It also featured in one of the most often played clips from the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006). You remember – girl, horse, Daniel Craig and those swimming shorts (recently sold at auction for £44,450/$71,120!) All were encouraged to bring their own swimwear and were welcome to make use of the resort’s other facilities in addition to the beach too – and use them they did!
En route to Albany, the organisers had arranged something very different for the Entrants to take part in. The brand new 1.2 mile Corridor 7 not only provides the main access route from the airport to the new Baha Mar complex (currently under construction) but also opens up an area for a new wildlife sanctuary in conjunction with the Bahamas National Trust. It was finished two weeks prior to Speed Week but its official opening was postponed to coincide with Speed Week so the iconic cars taking part could open it! The investment made by the Bahamian Government in recent years has been huge with two new Airport Terminal buildings now opened and a superb road system linking these with Nassau. Corridor 7 links with the $3.4b Baha Mar Development and Chief Engineer, David Bullock, suggested that the Speed Week Cars might like to be the first to drive it… Like Stirling Moss at the Opening Ceremony, Event Organiser David McLaughlin didn’t need asking twice and, having sampled the new dual carriageway which swoops and curves across the hills, declared it to be just like a section of Spa Francorchamps the world renowned Belgian Grand Prix Circuit. He should know, having raced his ex-Ronnie Peterson John Player Special Lotus 72 there on a number of occasions!
Speeches were made and the assembled ‘grid’ set off for a blast over this wonderful section of road. After two ‘laps’ the drivers made a stop and collected their passengers, lead by Permanent Secretary Colin Higgs riding with Stirling Moss. In the following cars were various people from the construction company who will remember this particular road opening for many a long year!
Bay Street Roadshow
That evening, all the Speed Week cars were escorted to Bay Street in downtown Nassau where the atmosphere was electric. Every time one of the occupants put their hand up to acknowledge the not inconsiderable crowd lining the route and in Bay Street itself, a huge cheer went up and all those who’d seen the cars pass them soon followed, relishing the opportunity to see the cars ‘up close and personal’. There were some unique photographic opportunities as the Christmas lights reflected in the gleaming paintwork of the cars and once again, the assembled throng was treated to an enthusiastic display by a junior and a senior member of the Formula Kart Stars entourage. The Entrants themselves were able to relax with a drink and some food whilst thoroughly enjoying soaking up the unique atmosphere and, when the time came, there was a great reluctance to leave.
Fort Charlotte Hillclimb & Pictet Speed Week Gala
Saturday dawned fine and sunny and there was soon an excited buzz in the huge covered paddock (so huge the Kart Stars nicknamed it ‘The Hanger’). Spending the day there and having time to look around rather than just using it as a starting point led to more than one Entrant exclaiming “I’ve never seen palm trees growing inside a building before!” Entrants also spent a great deal of time in the event’s brand new Drivers and VIP Paddock Club, which not only offered the usual high-quality food and every type of liquid refreshment anyone could wish for but the choice of consuming it inside or out with views of the sea or the fort (Charlotte) from which that day’s action was to take its name. There was also ‘ringside seating’ inthe form of tiered bleacher seats so there was no need to miss any of the action.
And for those who weren’t quite so serious about the day’s events there was the opportunity to drink a variety of champagnes, shop for local artworks, jewellery and official merchandise or partake of a massage or beauty treatment.
A mid-afternoon finish to the Hillclimb left plenty of time for everyone to prepare themselves for that night’s Pictet Speed Week Gala at which there were so many donations to the auction lots the organisers were able to run a silent auction alongside the main one. Additionally, when the young karters took a ‘starring’ role on the dance floor, complete with their karts, MC Jay Michaels encouraged them to remove their crash helmets and walk among the tables to collect donations in them. That alone raised nearly $3,000 for local charities and in all, the evening raised a sum approaching $50,000 for:
- The Ranfurly Homes for Children
- Lyford Cay International School Scholarship Fund
- Project Read with the Rotary Clubs of the Bahamas
- Friends of the Nazareth Centre
After a meal that would have done justice to any 5* restaurant and the main auction, the evening livened-up considerably with a Junkanoo Rush-out, complete with Fire Dancers and first to take to the dance floor was the Chairman of sponsor Pictet, Yves Lourdin. His example was soon followed by the ‘usual suspects’ (you know who you are) and the revelry continued to well-known local band Visage until past the appointed midnight hour.
Arawak Cay Sprint
No wonder then that there were a number of blurry-eyed Entrants wandering around the paddock the next morning. A good breakfast in the Drivers Club put them right though and they were soon ready for action. As it turned out, a little too soon as the organisers had two unscheduled delays forced on them. Firstly a water tanker had, overnight, hit one of the uprights of the pedestrian bridge used to convey people safely across the track, bringing it crashing to the floor. And secondly, one of the most unusual, if not unique, ‘curved balls’ a motorsport organiser has ever had deal with. Also overnight, someone had seen fit to ‘remove’ the steps on either side of said bridge necessitating some frantic work in order to build some more! Strangely, the drivers were enjoying their extended breakfast break so much, they weren’t keen on coming out even when the track action was ready to start – but all made up for it once they’d had their first taste of the newly-extended Arawak Cay Circuit. With its long beachfront straight and two brand new bridges (one of which was specially resurfaced and opened just for the day) together with some challenging turns and chicanes, it was universally acclaimed. Indeed the prospect of what the Deputy Prime Minister, Philip (Brave) Davis who has been so supportive, calls ‘side by side’ racing now seems a very real one for 2013……watch this space!
There was plenty of action to keep the spectators interested too, with not only a stunning array of iconic cars (with exhaust notes to match) but also the Formula Kart Stars and the team of US Shifter-karts whose appearance last year made such an impression it spawned the idea of including the Kart Stars in 2012. The US karters thoroughly enjoyed the extended circuit and, rumour has it, got airborne over at least one of the bridges on every lap! And, all in all, the spectacle was enjoyed as much by those watching as by the participants themselves.
During the course of the day there were unique photo calls with the turquoise Caribbean sea and cruise liners as the backdrop and those who won auction bids for laps with Stirling Moss, Derek Bell and Andreas Mohringer (thank you all) returned to the Paddock with huge grins on their faces and tales to tell to anyone who would listen.
At the end of the day, with everyone gathered exhausted (especially the organisers) but happy in the Drivers Club, so ably put together by Alexandra Maillis-Lynch and her crew. Stirling Moss kindly delayed his scheduled departure to present the awards and sign autographs and, courtesy of Peter Vlasov, Speed Week President Jimmie Lowe ended up drenched in a Formula One-style shower of champagne. Peter, who has made such a valuable contribution to the making of Speed Week, didn’t escape totally unscathed himself however! A fitting and fun ending to an enjoyable week – except that wasn’t quite the end as those Entrants who didn’t have a plane to catch, set about drinking the bar dry – and very nearly succeeded!
WEEKEND AWARDS (Timing was not compulsory)
FORT CHARLOTTE HILLCLIMB – Saturday 1st December 2012
RACE CARS 1954 – 1966
1st David Cottingham (UK) – Ferrari 500 TRC
2nd Ron Gammons (UK) – Devin SS
3rd Simon Arscott (USA) – Aston Martin DB5
1st Steve Plaster (USA) – Daimler Dart
2nd Jason Lorandos (BAH) – TVR Tasmin 350i
3rd Pablo de Souza (BAH) – Excalibur JAC 427
SUPER TOURING CARS
1st Ed Hugo (USA) – Dodge Viper
2nd John Kane (BAH) – BMW 7 Series Hybrid
3rd Don Pinder (BAH) – Chevrolet Camaro
ARAWAK CAY SPRINT – Sunday 2nd December 2012
RACE CARS 1954 – 1966
1st Simon Arscott (USA) – Aston Martin DB5
2nd Ron Gammons (UK) – Devin SS
3rd David Cottingham (UK) – Ferrari 500 TRC
1st Pablo de Souza (BAH) – Excalibur JAC 427
2nd Jason Lorandos (BAH) – TVR Tasmin 350i
3rd Jody Lowe (BAH) – Jaguar E-Type Convertible
SUPER TOURING CARS
1st Ed Hugo (USA) – Dodge Viper
2nd John Kane (BAH) – BMW 7 Series Hybrid
3rd Martin Thackray (BAH) – Bullitt Mustang
FORMULA KART STARS
CADET COMER – Josh Smith
CADET HONDA – Sam Fitzpatrick
SENIOR MAX – Reece Wade