Mon | May 20, 2019

PJ Gibson: Competition and community in off-road and sailing

Published:Monday | January 28, 2019 | 10:48 AM
Warhorse on the off-road trail.
Warhorse on the off-road trail.

As the passion and enthusiasm for motorsports remain vibrant in Jamaica,Automotives continues to highlight individuals who purvey that passion in multiple genres of the sport. This week, we spoke to P.J. Gibson, entrepreneur, racer, and owner of the famous ‘Warhorse’ in the off-roading community.

Warhorse is a 1979 CJ7 jeep with a standard straight-six engine, modified carburettor, a body-lift, and specially added off-road tyres that Gibson and friends modified for off-road competition. “I have always been interested in off-roading and adventures to go and seek off-the-beaten-track places in Jamaica. About 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to buy Warhorse from a friend of mine. A couple of other friends and I put our time and energy into it and it has taken a while for us to build this jeep. We’ve, basically, built it to handle the off-roading activities that we do.” The time and effort expended on the vehicle paid off as it allowed Team Warhorse to claim the Off-Roading Championship two years ago. Warhorse also secured victory in the obstacle portion of the JEEP JORC Navigational Rally and Obstacle Course held in October.

Competition and community in Off-Roading

Gibson shared that his love for off-roading is stimulated largely by the excitement and healthy competition associated with the practice. “It is extremely adventurous. You, basically, take the vehicle to its limits in the off-road challenges, whether it’s through a mud hole, over rocks, or through a river, basically going where most people won’t go.”

One gets the sense that the healthy competition in off-road is built by communal atmosphere existing around Jamaican motorsports. “In the motorsport community, everyone kinda helps each other out. If you don’t know, you ask somebody and they’ll guide you or connect you to somebody who knows. It’s a situation where everybody kinda gets together and as you work, you learn as you go along.” Gibson also spoke of the perennial sense of adventure in off-roading, which takes members of the community all over the island. “As part of the off-roading community, we drive all over the island to places like Cinchona, up in the Blue Mountains, Mandeville, Black River, and off-the-beaten-track, places such as rivers and beaches. It’s really amazing!”

Even with the strong sense of community, competition in off-road does not come without challenges and preparation. Gibson mentioned some of the key points his team keeps in mind when heading to a competition. “You need to make sure that your equipment is up into standard to even begin to compete. So we usually spend a lot of time working and fixing and fine-tuning the vehicle before we hit the trail.”

Difficulties appear even with such preparation as Gibson mentioned an unfortunate incident late this year where he was not able to complete a trail due to damage to his vehicle. When such situations arise, Gibson toldAutomotives that it does not dampen the will to continue. “The adrenaline is just so amazing that you just want to keep going, and one of the beauties of Warhorse, an older jeep, is that with some binding wire, some duck tape, or a Phillips or a flat, you’d be able get her up and running and going again.” He went on to profess that it was not only about competition, but also about overcoming challenges.

Passion split between Off-Roading and Sailing

Though he has a deep passion for both forms of motorsport competitions, Gibson has had a longer run with motorsport on the sea. “Personally, I am a sailor at heart, and I have competed in quite a few races in and around Jamaica, and I’ve represented Jamaica in many of these racing activities. I’ve, basically, been sailing and competing on the sea pretty much all my life.” His sailboat, Tsunami, is a J/22, Olympic class boat, which won the title of Champion Cruiser for the year – winning more races than any other boat for 2018. Gibson was also part of the Jamaican sailboat team that held the Pineapple Cup Yacht Race record for four years. “The first time in that race was very amazing. We, meaning we the Jamaicans, wanted to compete, but we didn’t have a boat that was capable of competing. We decided to charter a boat and fortunately for us, Ted Turner from CNN heard that the Jamaicans were putting a team together, and he donated his boat to the Jamaican team.” The sailor also competed in the round-the-island race some months ago. However, his team had to withdraw due to damage to the boat in turbulent weather.

Upcoming highlights and competition

For off-road, Gibson and Team Warhorse intend to introduce a new jeep around mid-2019. “It is badder than Warhorse and it is going to make a statement. That’s all I can say about that at this time.” He also expects to restart off-roading competition by February 2019. “If you keep an eye out on social media, you’ll see what’s going on, and everybody’s welcome. It’s usually a really good family affair.”

As a sailor, Gibson will compete in the Pineapple Cup Yacht Race for the second time. “Coming up on January 19 is the Miami-Montego Bay race, which I will be competing in with a Barbadian team.”

As a “competitor at heart” with an overall passion for motorsports, Gibson encourages more persons to participate in any aspect of the sport. “I would encourage anybody who has the opportunity to do either off-roading or sailing to get involved.” For sailing specifically, he refers people to the The Royal Jamaica Yacht Club. “There will be an instructor that will be coming in 2019, and, of course, welcomes all youths and anybody who wants to learn how to sail to come out, see what’s going on, get on the water and try it out. Most of the sailors that are out there on their boats are always welcoming anybody to come on board and be a part of a race.”