Close racing, wheel-to-wheel action and ecstatic race-winners were all ingredients of yesterday’s launch of the Suzuki Challenge Series at Bushy Park, St Philip.
The two new “one-make” Championships –– the Swift Cup and SR3 Cup –– were the feature events at the Valvoline Glassesco John “Tiny” Harrison Memorial Race Meet, organised by Bushy Park Motor Sports Inc.
The Swift Cup is for identical production-based Suzuki Swift Sports, race-prepared in Barbados, offering affordable and competitive racing for drivers, with the emphasis on skill, and exciting action for the fans. Mark Thompson was fastest in qualifying and claimed two wins in three races to lead the Swift Cup points standings from Trinidad & Tobago’s Ryan Peyrau, who was the other winner.
In the SR3 Cup, Sean Maloney was also a double race-winner, to take an early lead in the championship, ahead of his brothers Mark, who won the middle race, and Stuart, who had qualified on pole position. The open-topped Suzuki-powered Radical SR3 RS sports racers are the fastest race cars ever to compete in the region.
In qualifying, the fastest five cars were covered by less than half-a-second, with Daryl Clarke (Team Digicel), Kenrick ‘Snappa’ Husbands (Team Williams Industries), Josh Read (Team Massy United Insurance) and Peyrau (Team Suzuki) all within striking distance of Thompson (Team Rock Hard Cement).
In race one, on a track dampened by early rain, Thompson made the best start to lead all the way, helped in the early laps by the squabbling trio behind him; while Ryan Wood (Team Digicel) tacked on to the back of that group in the closing stages, Clarke broke away at the front and was right on Thompson’s back bumper at the flag: “I was catching Mark coming to the end, but I just ran out of laps.”
Race two was started from a reversed grid, with Martinique’s Jean-Philippe Mongaillard (Team Suzuki) on pole, ahead of Kurt Thompson (Team Glassesco), Barry Gale (Team Gale’s Agro Products) and Peyrau. The fast-starting Gale looked set for victory, but a determined Peyrau hunted him down, helped in part by contact between Clarke and Read at the Digicel Dipper, which delayed Clarke and put Read out of action with a broken engine mount, impressively the only retirement in three races. Quick work by the Suzuki engineers ensured Read’s car was back out for race three.
Peyrau said: “I’m really happy with the race win. I had a good battle going with Barry and I also benefited from Josh and Daryl’s fender-bender. Thankfully I survived that and was able to dig in, concentrate on my lines and push for the lead.” Gale finished second, with Thompson adding third place to his earlier victory.
With the race three grid based on points scored in the first two races, Thompson sat on pole, ahead of Peyrau, Husbands and Gale . . . and that was the order in which they finished, despite some lively action right through the field. Thompson’s second win gave him a total of 65 points and the early championship lead, ahead of Peyrau (51) and the consistent Husbands, whose two thirds and a fifth gave him a total of 40.
Thompson said: “This is an awesome feeling. Two wins, close racing, I couldn’t ask for anything more. The camaraderie between the drivers is great and that’s what is going to bring back the spirit of racing.”
Peyrau added: “This reminds me so much of my karting days. Close racing with competitive yet level-headed drivers. It’s not about rushing corners and trying to be the fastest. It’s about finding the right lines, spatial awareness and knowing the driver next to you won’t do something rash.”
In SR3 Cup qualifying, Stuart Maloney claimed pole position (at 59.727s, the first recorded sub-1 minute lap of the 2.01km circuit at a race meeting), ahead of brothers Mark and Sean and Guyana’s Mark Vieira. Pole-sitter Maloney shot into the lead off the grid, chased by Sean and Vieira, both taking advantage of a poor start by Mark Maloney. A spin in the damp conditions on the second of 12 laps dropped Stuart Maloney down the field, brother Sean snatching the lead, which he held to the flag, chased home by Vieira, while Stuart and Mark Maloney recovered to finish third and fourth.
American Jim Parr was on pole for the reversed grid race two, ahead of David Simpson, former kart champion Ryan Gonsalves from St Vincent & The Grenadines and Allan Kinch –– Simpson and Kinch both making their circuit-racing debuts –– with the Maloneys and Vieira at the rear. The fast-starting Mark Maloney was soon at the front, and stayed there to the finish. Gonsalves was second for his best result of the day, Sean Maloney added third to his earlier victory, with Vieira still very much in the mix in fourth place.
In the final race, With Mark Maloney on pole, it was his brother Sean who made the best of the start for a lights-to-flag victory; early on, he was chased by Vieira, but an unscheduled trip across the grass on the exit of the MQI Bullet dropped him to the tail end of the field. It was then a Maloney family affair, Stuart and Mark filling the podium places, with Gonsalves fourth.