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Bahamians add island flavor to race week

While many out-of-town racers will be in New Providence for the highly-anticipated Bahamas Speed Week, some Bahamians who are enthused about the sport of racing luxurious cars are also expected to make a memorable showing.

The high-end event will feature vintage cars that have price tags ranging anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million dollars.  Bahamians such as Sean McWeeney, Don Aranha, Mike Pennell and Murray Forde are among the long list of competitors who are anxiously waiting on the checkered flag to wave.  The Bahamas Speed Week, set to take place Wednesday, November 30 to Sunday, December 4, is making a return after 44 years.  The race was last held in The Bahamas in 1967.

“I’ve always had and loved high-performance cars,” said McWeeney. “I used to have a Ferrari and before that a Porsche, now I have a high-performance 1967 Ford Mustang.  This is the first time that I will be participating in the event.

“I am a member of the Antique Auto Club, and just the other day we did what we call a ‘Cruise for the Cure’, which was riding around the island on a 50-mile course.  We had a police escort on that ride which was held to help raise money for the fight against cancer.  I saw that they had a similar event for the speed week and because I just started, I knew it was a lot of fun to do it.  So I am in the two touring events.  But I never thought about doing it over in Europe or in the United States of America, I just like fast cars.  Yes I am looking forward to the event.  I am very excited about it and I think it is going to be a lot of fun.”

With more than 40 entrants confirming their participation, the biggest concern for organizers is the safety and security of all.  A 24-hour surveillance team will be in place guarding the luxurious vehicles.  Some eight security stations will be set up throughout the course, which will give drivers a picturesque view of the capital.  According to Elliott Lockhart, a number of meetings have been held to ensure the necessary safety features are in place.  A three-hour meeting was held yesterday with heads of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, which has announced its support for the event.

Lockhart confirmed that the cars will be stationed and heavily guarded at Arawak Cay. Members of the RBPF will escort the drivers on the ride. The tour will take the luxurious vehicles through the streets of the capital, while the 1.1 mile Arawak Cay Sprint circuit and the Fort Charlotte Hillclimb brings the drivers close to the beautiful beach.

Local car owner Aranha said “the event is long overdue.” He is still puzzled why it stopped and said “this event is something I think the country should have continued doing.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for high-end tourist to come to The Bahamas and enjoy the country, and at the same time have a good time racing high-performance cars,” continued Aranha.  “I started racing a long time ago but since racing had stopped for a while, I turned to drag racing.  This is an open race and no I’ve never (driven) outside The Bahamas, it is too expensive to do so.  Racing is a very expensive business and you need sponsorship.  If you are doing circuit racing, it is highly competitive and very difficult to find good sponsors who aren’t taken.  I have always had a liking for high performance cars, especially the Lotus race cars.”

The Bahamas Speed Week Revival is being supported by the Ministry of Tourism.  Participants will get an opportunity to travel and relax on other islands in The Bahamas.  Other events will include a welcome reception, as well as dinners at Lyford Cay and Graycliff.

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