The First Annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival proved to be a great success, enjoyed by entrants and members of the public alike. Not to mention Sir Sean Connery and patron, Sir Stirling Moss!
If ever an event deserved to be revived, it was the Nassau Speed Weeks – originally held from 1954 to 1966 with Phil Hill, Masten Gregory, Bruce McLaren, Roger Penske and, of course, Stirling Moss amongst many of the famous names driving away with the honours. A high-octane end of season ‘play off’ in the sun between the Americans and Europeans who came together for some serious racing and even more serious partying! And so, a full two years after the Bahamas Speed Week Revival was conceived, ‘battle’ recommenced – although this time the race was on as much to see who could have the best time as well as record it!
Sir Stirling Moss
The event needed a motor racing Patron and there was only one person to ask – former Nassau resident, former Nassau Speed Week winner and motor racing icon Sir Stirling Moss who, not content to be just a figurehead, immediately entered his own OSCA, qualifying his entry with those now immortal lines “In my day I went to race and the others to party – I think in 2011 it may be the other way around” – and so the tone for the event was set!
The Cars Arrive
Taking place on the beautiful New Providence Island in the Bahamas, logistics for the event were never going to be easy but 16 cars from Europe duly found themselves packed into containers at the end of October and one of the principal event sponsors, the Ministry of Tourism, arranged for a Roll-on Roll-off cruise ferry to come from West Palm Beach, Florida directly into Nassau to bring the US Entrants over.
Day One – Speed Week Revival is Go!
On the opening day and lined up in front of the colourful Fish Fry restaurants at Arawak Cay Heritage Village, the entries for the inaugural Bahamas Speed Week Revival made a fine sight indeed and when they were flagged away by Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes, a wonderful cacophony of sound joined the visual impact. The Entrants enthusiasm was as plain to see too as they ‘ganged up’ on the lead camera car, the latter only just saved from being engulfed by the distraction of snow white sand dotted with palm trees leading down to the sparkling turquoise sea tacked right onto the edge of the circuit – a truly unusual sight for a racing driver!
The Minister of Tourism, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace realised a boyhood dream as he became a delighted passenger in Stirling Moss’s OSCA while John Lewis ensured he would not get any speeding tickets by inviting the Commissioner of Police to partner him in his 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa – the latter was later photographed holding very firmly onto his hat!
After returning to the tented Race Car Paddock, the drivers and their partners not only had the opportunity to sample the local fish fry ‘cook out’, accompanied by local beverage of varying strengths (mostly very strong), they also had their first experience of Junkanoo (a very lively and colourful carnival parade with the participants wearing fabulous costumes which originally celebrated the emancipation of slavery in the islands). Many joined in enthusiastically, demonstrating some rather flamboyant moves – fuelled, no doubt, by local tipple ‘Sky Juice’.
At that evening’s Welcome Reception the Entrants enjoyed the hospitality of Patrons Sir Arthur and Lady Foulkes at the beautiful colonial-style Government House, former home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor following his abdication as King Edwards VIII. A wonderful setting to round off Speed Week’s opening day and whet the appetite for the days to follow.
Day Two – 007 Island Tour
The next day provided the opportunity for some high-speed sightseeing on the 007 Island Tour, so named as a number of the Bond movies were filmed on location in the Bahamas including the latest Casino Royale remake, calling in at the ultra exclusive Lyford Cay – home to the original James Bond, Sir Sean Connery who came out for a look and a chat. Here the Clubhouse formed a fabulous backdrop to the Concours d’Elegance and while the cars sat glistening in the beautiful Bahamian sunshine for the judges, their owners were treated to a superb lunch. Top honours deservedly went to Walmart boss Rob Walton’s gorgeous, original Speed Week, Maserati 450S.
One of the joys of Speed Week is the opportunity to drive race cars on public roads and the police outriders saw to it that no junction, traffic light, one-way system or speed limit impeded the convoy on its even more scenic cross-island return to the paddock. The run back along the sea was one of the most beautiful of all and was, in fact, the road from the opening sequence of Casino Royale. Judging by the waves and smiles as they returned to the paddock, everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the day so far.
The day’s events didn’t finish in the paddock, however, as that evening the Entrants experienced the hospitality of Graycliff – the first five star Restaurant in the Caribbean which also boasts a hotel and cigar factory within its remarkable grounds. Owned by the Garzaroli family who are dyed-in-the-wool Ferrari fans this was always going to be a fabulous evening. Fine food and wine with great company made the time pass all too quickly and for some there was the added treat of a visit to the wine cellar. Reputedly the 3rd best in the world, their cellar contains over 250,000 bottles including the world’s oldest registered drinkable bottle of wine, a 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein priced at $220,000.
Day Three – Sightseeing
Friday 2nd December provided everyone with some free time to explore the locality, including trips organised by private plane to see other islands within the 700 included in the Bahamas archipelago. Entrants reassembled in the evening and, after more road closures, an appreciative audience greeted the cars in downtown ‘colonial’ Nassau with its high-end retailers. With more hospitality and late-night opening, Entrants and credit cards alike felt a little ‘fragile’ the next day!
Day Four – Fort Charlotte Hillclimb
On Saturday the scenic but challenging Fort Charlotte Hillclimb provided the Entrants with their first truly competitive fix. Climbing steeply from the Sprint Circuit at sea level to the 18th century Fort on the highest point of the island, a combination of sometimes tight and occasionally off-camber corners, short straights and sweeping bends kept everyone focussed and stories abounded over the dinner table at that evening’s Charity Gala Ball. Nearly $50,000 was raised for local good causes that evening with a combination Auction of Promises and donated items. One of the star lots, a Bahamas Speed Week heritage number plate – numbered 007 and signed by Sir Sean Connery – was fittingly won by UK Entrant Stephen Bond who, the very next day, also went on to win against the clock as he piloted his stunning Lister Bristol to take a closely-contested FTD.
Day Five – Arawak Cay Sprint
The final day saw the Arawak Cay Sprint Circuit used ‘in anger’ for the first time. Specially created for the purpose and running right alongside the sea with the Cruise Ships as a back drop, all the drivers had fun learning this tight little circuit which had one chicane right alongside the sea – dubbed Ascari by the Organisers after the F1 champion who pitched his Lancia into the harbour at Monaco. In fact the coastguards had entered into the spirit and had a boat with scuba divers on hand in case anyone wanted to emulate the great Italian! The person most in danger of requiring their services was Rob Walton who’s fabulous Maserati was faithful to period and running on original spec drum brakes. But did that slow him down? Not a bit of it – as he powered the car to second place in hot pursuit of Stephen Bond, proving beyond any shadow-of-a-doubt that the beautiful Concours-winning car was not just for show and that its pilot had very big………. indeed!
During the lunch break Stirling and Saturday arrival, five times Le Mans winner Derek Bell, rewarded the previous night’s lucky auction winners with their passenger rides and the Minister of Tourism gave an interview in which he stated his hope that a permanent site could be created to encompass the temporary circuit each year thus giving Speed Week the ability to hold races in the future.
The Paddock Club proved a great success with Entrants, event sponsors and their guests alike with its relaxed hospitality closely reflecting that of the island.
See You Next Year!
It is always the sign of a good event when the participants are reluctant to leave and this was down as much to the reception they received from the locals as to the event itself. Combined with fabulous scenery, great weather and an equally-great atmosphere, it’s no wonder many have pledged to return in 2012, along with most of the 2011 Sponsors/Partners, some of whom are even negotiating multi-year deals.
In summary the First Annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival was a qualified success that has certainly laid the foundations for more to come, with circuit designer Alan Wilson offering his views on the potential site for a circuit and most of the 2011 Partners indicating their support for 2012 and beyond, all concerned are working hard towards Nassau once again becoming THE end-of-season destination for motorsport enthusiasts from across the globe.
The success of the inaugural Speed Week Revival has spawned a repeat, scheduled for 24th November – 2nd December 2012. As well as a number of original Entrants pledging to return, most of the 2011 Partners have already committed to 2012, some even negotiating multi-year deals. If your interest has been sparked too, please email Carol firstname.lastname@example.org or phone her on +44 7710 877770 to learn more and to get your name on a list that will ultimately be limited to 60.
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