On April 2nd, a collection of 50-odd racers gathered for one of the wildest grassroots races seen in recent times. Under the scorching Jamaican sun, the Carnival of Speed hosted door-bashing racing on a challenging road course with yesteryear charm. Minimal safety measures, thin tire barriers, blind crests, and a course that blends the technicality of a hillclimb with the quick corners of a proper circuit all contributed to what was ultimately a stunning spectacle.
Set in the picturesque hills of St. Ann, Dover Raceway is home to the annual race. The 1.6-mile course had its stands and hillsides filled with enthusiastic fans. Able to see the entire track from several elevated vantage points, they blasted air horns and cheered for their local hot-shoes. Clear skies and appropriately warm weather made the Carnival of Speed all the more enjoyable.
As the premier racing event in Jamaica, the Carnival of Speed featured some of the quickest cars on the island and brought in lots of business. This event was put together by a collection of sponsors including VP Racing Fuels, Purple Blaster, Falken Tires, AMSOIL, and Motolubes.com. With a variety of machinery and plenty of contenders, the cars were divided neatly into four categories: Thundersport, Super Street 45, Improved Production, and Modified Production — each featuring three races.
A couple of Radicals and one Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII led the fastest (but smallest) Thundersport class. A fleet of lightweight Japanese cars — Civics, Integras, and Corollas, mainly — filled the popular Improved Production classes, with as many as twenty cars racing wheel-to-wheel. Though some of the Thundersport drivers brought sponsorship, most of the entrants were modest, passionate, family-affair outfits wearing smiles as broad as the circuit.
In Thundersports, the narrow confines, tight corners, and bumpy surface of Dover Raceway put the Radicals and Lancer Evolution on the same playing field. Driving the Texaco-liveried Radical RXC, Kyle Gregg won the first and last races, while David Summerbell Jr., driver of a lighter Radical RS, took the second race. The lap times were incredibly quick and quite close to the lap record. Gregg snatched a 1:16.50 — just outside the track record of 1:16.10 — while Summerbell Jr. was nipping at his heels with a lap of 1:16.57 minutes. With such comparable cars and lap times, the two spent the entire duration of these races dicing.
At the beginning of the Thundersports race, Summerbell Jr. locked his brakes into the first corner and took a trip through the gravel trap. Teammate Andre Anderson stumbled in the same section on the following lap and left Gregg to romp to victory. For the second race, a reversed grid saw Summerbell Jr. on newer tires hold off Gregg. For the third and final race, Gregg, taking advantage of his fresher rubber, made a brave pass for the win in the closing moments. As the footage shows, the tension in the air was palpable; the crowd erupting in fanfare as Gregg applied the binders at the last moment and squeaked by (59:50).
Though slower, the battles which took place in the Modified Production (MP) classes were just as thrilling. MP1 had no decisive winner as three drivers — Don Gilbert, Ian Wright, and Nicholas Barnes — each took wins. MP2 set the stage for a hard scrabble between William Myers and Fraser McConnell; the two diced hard with Myers grabbing two wins to McConnell’s one. Peter Jaggon and Kevin Chok took MP3 and MP4, respectively.
Improved Production Class 1 (IP1) was dominated by Ricardo Scott. Nigel Wilmot held off Senna Summerbell for one race in IP2, but lost the other two. Sebastien Rae was twice winner in IP3, though his winning streak was broken by Demar Lee.
Senna Summerbell winning the IP1 race in his Mirage RS.
Twenty motorcyclists, neatly divided into two categories, shared the circuit with the cars. Four two-wheeled races took place; in Motorcycle Class A, Kyle Reynolds won two races from Robert McDonald and Mario Woon, who each took one victory. Motorcycle Class B was dominated by Danielle Davidson, who won three races, with Damien Lee securing one win.
Listening to the interviews and watching the on-track excitement is fascinating. For such a small island, the turnout was remarkable, the competition fierce, and the love for motorsport is palpable. Nowadays, especially in the United States, few racing events hold such a unique combination of relaxed atmosphere, camaraderie, hard racing, and spectacular scenery. Perhaps it’s due to lawyers or safety regulations. Whatever the reason, it just shows that outlandish cars or multi-million dollar facilities aren’t needed for pure, unfettered racing joy.
For lap times and more information, check the Speedhive Results for the event.