Winning return for Chen
The last time he crossed the finish line at Dover Raceway, St Ann, was almost two years ago. So, when Charles Chen shrugged off the challenge of the country's top circuit racer, David Summerbell, for a nail-biting finish to one of the Thundersport II events, he was not only elated, but indicated this could be the rebirth of his racing career.
The hard-fought battle was one of the high points of the Carnival of Speed race meet, which concluded on Easter Monday.
"It is the hardest that I have ever driven for an entire race. I felt good that I was able to defend the race line," said Chen, who charged out of corner one ahead of the pack. He held the position until starter Alfred 'Soldjie' Clayton waved the chequered flag, signalling the end of the race.
"It has been a long time that I wanted to have a battle like this. Unless I am battling with the best, I will not learn anymore. Ultimately, although it is a win, the real win for me was the experience of battling with a driver like Summerbell," argued Chen, who is president of the Jamaica Race Drivers' Club (JRDC).
He further explained that being JRDC president took up a lot of his time last year, but since January, he has been able to settle down, and taking the checquered flag was like a shot in the arm for him.
When asked if at any point of the event he thought he had the race wrapped up, Chen repeatedly said no. "It was a case where I had two issues dealing with at the same time. After the first five laps, my brakes started to give way. Second, I had Summerbell right on my bumper, so I had to just play it safe," Chen told Automotives.
Summerbell, who seemed to have the race well calculated and it was just a matter of time before he disposed of Chen, said his alternator failed him. "The alternator stopped working. I never had the power to execute and get by," said Summerbell, who came from the back of the pack to challenge Chen for the lead.
Third was United States-based driver Roger Foo.
Earlier in the meet, Summerbell dazzled his rivals with his Mitsubishi Evolution 8 to register a convincing win in the Thundersport II Class.
Among the other winners on the race card were Nigel Wilmot (Bracket 45T), AndrÈ Rickards (Motorcycle B), Kyle Reynolds (Motorcycle A), Fraser McConnell (Bracket 35), Chris-John Addison (Bracket 39), Dean Corrodus (Bracket 29), Guy Fraser (Improved Production Class), Kishore Williams (Modified Production 1), Kyle Gregg (Modified Production 2), AndrÈ Anderson (Modified Production 3) and Jordan Powell (Thundersport 1).
The meet champions were Dean Corrodus (Bracket 29), Fraser McConnell (Bracket 35) and Kyle Gregg (Modified Production II).
The day was not without spills and thrills. There were at least four on-track incidents which saw two cars going airborne then landing on the track. It was a scary moment for the patrons and relatives of two of the drivers, Sebastien Rae and Ameer Johnson. Both were rushed to the St Ann's Bay Hospital by an ambulance that was on standby at the track.
Rae, a former national circuit racing champion, said the experience as "not a nice feeling".
While Sebastien was still at the hospital, his uncle, Peter Rae, had a minor accident, at the same hairpin corner where Sebastien had crashed earlier.
There were no injuries, but later in the afternoon, the hundreds of patrons were left almost breathless when they watched young Johnson's car drift off track, make contact with an object, then bounce about three times and roll twice.
For a moment, it appeared that Johnson (of Team MoBay) was pinned in the car, which was upside down on the track. Race meet marshals and members of the medical team responded quickly and expertly removed him from the vehicle.
A few hours after that accident, there was another, this time involving AndrÈ Anderson and Heath Causwell. There were no serious injuries either.
"Following these on-track incidents, our aim now is to try and improve safety awareness among the drivers. It must not be a case of just winning. The meet was a good one and what we have observed is that more low-budget competitors are participating," said Chen.