Returning to glory - Karting interest renewed by older drivers
Some go-kart stars of yesteryear are back, and so, too, are diehard motorsport fans who have begun packing the grandstand at the Palisadoes International Raceway, Kingston, once again.
For some competitors, last Sunday's race meet was a memorable experience - action-packed, thrilling, and filled with laughter.
"It was one of the greatest days that I have ever had out there," remarked Timothy Stewart, who has returned to competitive racing after a six-year break studying overseas. Stewart, who won the pre-final of the Junior Class at the Rotax Finals in Portugal a decade ago, returned to the Palisadoes International Raceway with a bang. He notched up one win and secured at least two podium finishes in the highly competitive Super Rotax Class.
"The class was really competitive. I had a lot of fun and also enjoyed the battles between myself and David Summerbell. My kart was a bit too quick, and because of that, I broke out of the class twice. I am already looking forward to the next race meet, which I understand could be a night event," Stewart said.
Tara Fong Yee, who is one of the very few females to have stamped their authority on the Palisadoes track, also returned in impressive style. She had not raced competitively for the last five years. However, the young entrepreneur wasted no time in taking the chequered flag after surviving several battles with the big guns in the Super Rotax Class.
"It was fun for me. It was good, clean, competitive racing throughout and a great experience for me. Also, it was a good feeling battling out there with people like Doug Gore. I tell you, it was an awesome feeling and I am hoping that I will be available for the next race meet," said Fong Yee.
The America-born Andrew Simmons, who flew into the island without fanfare last weekend for the meet, also made his presence felt in the Super Rotax Class. He won one of the four races, finishing ahead of Gore, Rugie Misir, and Chad Leahong.
"The competitiveness brought back a lot of memories," commented Simmons, who is a master technician with Land Rover in the United States.
Despite the mechanical challenges he encountered during the brief pre-race period, the Miami-based Simmons was able to quickly make adjustments to the kart he was offered to race with. One of the high points for him was to compete in the same event with his father, Mike Simmons. Andrew stressed that it was his father who introduced him to the sport at age 11.
"I have two girls, ages four and a half and two and a half years old. Just like how my father introduced me to karting an early age, I am planning to do the same with my girls," said the younger Simmons, who has vowed to make the trip back to Jamaica for the next meet.
In his post-meet comments, president of the Jamaica Karting Association (JKA) David Summerbell said the atmosphere at the track was very positive. "Each race meet we are seeing more interest, an increase in the level of competitiveness, and a lot of support from the drivers and spectators," said Summerbell.
Karting will take a break this month as the JKA renovates the Palisadoes International for the June 5 meet. "Our focus for the June meet will be on the 50cc Class, which is the future of karting in the island," the JKA president said.
Apart from the returnees, who came out in full force, among the other karters in top form were Jamaica College's Jonathan Law, who dominated the Rotax Senior Class, as well as Paul Moodie and Brandon Finzi Smith in the Comer 80 cc Class. Senna Summerbell, Marc Anthony Eaton, and Justin Sirgany were outstanding in the Rotax Junior Class.