The island of St. Lucia is home to roughly 163,000 people, although some 300,000-400,000 visitors pass through the English- and French Creole-speaking island every year. It’s easy to see why, as St. Lucia is the quintessential vacation destination for honeymooners and families alike and famous for its twin volcanic peaks known as the Pitons. Their industries include clothing, electronics assembly, beverages, foods, packaging and agriculture, with exports like bananas, cocoa and vegetables. This means that infrastructure, transportation and energy costs are high and for the average Sent Lisyen (St. Lucian), life can sometimes be challenging. It is more so for the enthusiast, who may find it difficult to own and modify a car for racing, unless he or she runs a few profitable businesses. Why does any of this matter? It’s because this picturesque little island has secured one of the best drag strips in the English-speaking Caribbean. It’s successfully opened its doors to motorsport tourism, bringing high-octane excitement alongside its warm, friendly people and surrounded by natural beauty.
Day 1: Thursday 25 April
After an evening flight into Vieux Fort’s Hewanorra International Airport, on the southern side of the island, we were shuttled to the Kimatrai Hotel. As a logistical formula, you couldn’t ask for a better layout. The Hotel, Port Vieux Fort, where the cars are offloaded, and the Airport, which is connected to the racetrack are all within 10 ten minutes of each other via car. Other hotels, guesthouses and shopping centres are also located nearby. We were just in time for the event briefing, which was held at the hotel’s conference room. and There we met a few new, and many familiar faces from the motorsport communities from Grenada, St. Lucia, Trinidad and St. Vincent and enjoyed some dinner afterwards. We also met the innovative promoters and event planners for Drag Wars Retribution from Absolute Promotions, headed by businessman Neil Beepat, who contracted the experienced Autosport AutoSport team from Trinidad & and Tobago to handle the race competition and administration.
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Day 2: Friday 26 April
On Friday morning, excitement had got the better of us. Before heading to the racetrack, we had a small window of opportunity to do some touring and snap a few shots of Christine, our gorgeous Drag Wars model from Trinidad and Tobago. Neil made a phone call and our tour minibus was there to whisk us away to the town of Soufrière, the original capital of the island. We passed a few historical landmarks along the way, like the first church and school built in St. Lucia, dating back to the 1800s. We also browsed the handcrafted local souvenirs and purchased a bottle filled with roots, plant material and a red, rum-based liquid, curiously labelled St. Lucian Viagra. After seeing the smoke on the volcanic Pitons up close, we headed back to Sugar Bay for some fantastic photos and a round of cold beers. After, we popped into the famous Ladera Resort and enjoyed a wonderful lunch with a singularly spectacular view of the Pitons and Sugar Bay at the base. Had we known there was this much to see and do, we would have planned a few additional days for extended touring.
By the time we arrived at the Michael Molinero International Raceway at Vieux Fort, cars were already into the practice and tuning session. Also known locally as the “Caca Beff” thanks tofor the regular deposits made by resident cattle when the track was inactive, this auxiliary airstrip is conveniently smooth and made of unpaved concrete. The first 330 feet were coated with track bite compound, while the first 100 feet had additional treatment for added grip. Large digital scoreboards were placed on either side of the racetrack, as per US-style layout for each lane. Save for a dip-turned-bump after the finish line on the right lane, there is little to find fault in as basic racetracks go. The rains, however, had been pouring for more than a week before this meet’s window of sunshine and this took away the St. Lucian home tuning advantage. The northern Caribbean islands, i.e.that is, Antiguan, BVI and other racers were unable to attend due to logistical and cost problems with their shared shipping plans.
The track’s excellent preparation was proving to be extremely effective and as the front-wheel drive cars rejoiced, the Trinis were among the first casualties. The popular Boost Factory 2JZ-powered Silvia driven by Wazeer Khan sustained engine damage in practice but not before dropping a 9.4s run, while Richard Gardner’s 4WD SR20-powered Pulsar suffered an engine failure. Later on, Omar’s Evo III, which produced a best time of 11.2s also broke, Jody Ali’s Supra suffered catastrophic engine failure, while Everard Bowen’s B14 Sentra and Kerron Garraway’s SR20-powered Lada Riva Wagon, both suffered mechanical failures. The cars that survived put down some serious passes like Kenny’s MK III Supra, which ran a 9.3; Fazad’s Charmant, which ran a 10.0; and Hemchan ‘Sparky’ Ramoutar’s 120Y, which wheelied into a 10.2. Gary Smith also locked in a successful 10ten-second run. By all accounts, the times were at least 0.5s faster than at the Camden airstrip in Trinidad, a most promising opportunity for the 22 cars and 3 motorcycles representing Team team T&T.
Team St. Vincent was proving to be the most resilient, despite their cars being developed on an island without a racetrack or a straight piece of road longer than an eighth of a mile. A few of the cars from this camp were tuned by T&T’s Prentice Ali of Peak Performance. Their star performers consisted of mainly 4WD cars like an assortment of Imprezas and Evolutions, Jason Moussa’s Nissan Pulsar and an Evo III that put down consistent 10.3s, plus a few FWD machines, including a formidable CRX and a Suzuki Hayabusa bike. In all, they fielded 16 entrants, among them the Olliviere brothers, relatives of Steve Olliviere who is a regular racer at Rally Trinidad. Team Grenada consisted of two cars, namely Alan McIntyre in his Ford Mustang and Joshua Lewis in his Lancer Evolution Lancer. St. Lucia also had a few good runs in practice with their V8-powered Supra known as Khaos, despite a few electrical gremlins that were preventing the correct operation of their nitrous system. Team St. Lucia was by far the largest with 39 cars entered, despite many cars not being ready due to the inclement weather during the week prior. As their Skylines, Starlets, Evos, Civics, Levins and even a Corvette got their practice runs done, teams were working feverishly to ensure they could qualify for their intended racing brackets on Saturday.
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Day 3: Saturday 27 April
Saturday was off to a bright, sunny start, after a mixed-weather Friday and everyone was praying it would abide. Once the timing system was up and running, confirmed by a two 12-second test passes with Neil’s BMW M5 (V8 twin-turbo) versus a 15.7-s run with their Range Rover Evoque, drivers were invited to walk the entire quarter mile for closer inspection. The Trinis came out guns blazing as the Boost Factory MKIV Supra put down a 9.1s pass and the Black Charmant dropped his personal best at 9.7s. Christian Tam dropped a 10.9 with his GC8 Impreza and the Central Speed boys were running 11s. The rRotaries had a moderately good showing with Ricardo Mohammed’s FD RX-7 clocking a 10.8 using just two gears, the OPS FD RX-7 ran an 11.3, Rasheed Mohammed clocked mid 11s with his FC RX-7 and Gregory John’s FB RX-7 also ran strong until he broke the differential.
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Day 4: Sunday 28 April
The final day began with the drivers’ briefing while electricians were abuzz restoring power to the control tower. After this, local government officials endorsed the motorsport tourism initiative, commended the management team, greeted all the drivers and officially opened the competition. The action came fast and furiously as each country’s team battled for dominance in their brackets but then later that evening, the rains made a return. At least, enough of the competition was completed that the bracket champions could be determined. The management team decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to park the cars tightly on the racetrack and invite the crowds for their largest meet and greet ever.
In summary, a satisfied Rawle Mahabir of AutoSport Promotions remarked:
AutoSport takes great pleasure in working alongside Neil Beepat and his Absolute Promotions Team [and] in continuing to build on this international event in St. Lucia. Of all the tracks we have been to throughout the Caribbean, this disused runway is undoubtedly the best quarter-mile track with more than adequate run-off for the fastest cars in the region.The St. Vincent competitors displayed true team spirit and stuck together as they ensured full support for [whomever] was going out for the next run. The Trinis were just going for the kill and some suffered in the process. The St. Lucians were just waiting for the collateral damage and moved in to take podium positions, and Grenada still hung in with Alan McIntyre claiming second place in the nine-second class. When at the end of Sunday’s racing, the prevalent question being asked is ‘When is the next event?’ you know that this one was a real success. St. Lucia just cannot continue to have one international event a year. The competitors love this track and the nodal location. With its close proximity to seaport, airport, hotels and guesthouses, it is just great. We shall not forget the comments made by the two ministers present at the closing prize-giving function, both committing the government to become more involved…
Check out the results below to see how they all stacked up:
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