Mark Thompson and Sean Maloney head into the second round of the exciting new Suzuki Challenge Series at Bushy Park Barbados next weekend looking to extend their early-season advantage in the Swift Cup and SR3 Cup respectively.
But they cannot expect it to be easy-going, with an expanded Swift Sport grid and nearly everyone more at one with their cars following the season-opener in March.
The Swift Cup is for identical production-based Suzuki Swift Sports, race-prepared in Barbados, offering exciting action for the fans and affordable and competitive racing for the drivers, with the emphasis on skill not budget. The SR3 Cup, for Suzuki-powered Radical SR3 RS open-topped sports racers, offers the fastest racing in the region.
Thompson (Team Rock Hard Cement) might face the easier task of the points-leaders, as two race wins and third place give him a 14-point cushion over Trinidad & Tobago’s Ryan Peyrau (Team Suzuki), who won the middle race at the Valvoline Glassesco John ‘Tiny’ Harrison Memorial Race Meet and collected another podium finish. With two third-place finishes to his credit, Kenrick ‘Snappa’ Husbands (Team Williams Industries) is third and Barry Gale (Team Gale’s Agro Products) fourth.
While Thompson had claimed the first Swift Cup pole position (1m 17.869s) and Peyrau clocked fastest lap in the first two races, it was elder brother Kurt Thompson (Team Glassesco) who set the class lap record (1:18.061) on his way to eighth in the third race.
After race one was run on a damp track and the second encounter was fraught with incident, once drivers had settled to their task in race three, just six-tenths of a second separated Thompson’s best lap and the slowest lap time, a clear indication of the sort of door handle-to-door handle action to expect on the 2.01-kilometre circuit.
New ingredients for next weekend include the arrival of three new competitors. Adding to the regional interest, Jamaican multiple circuit racing and rally champion David Summerbell Jnr (Team Simpson Finance) joins the field, while local fans will be keen to support two multiple race-winners from old Bushy Park, Jason Parkinson (Team Infra Rentals) and Freddie Gale, sharing the Team Gale’s Agro Products entry with son Barry.
It is all much tighter at the top of the SR3 Cup, where just five points cover the leading three contenders, Sean Maloney with 58 points, ahead of brothers Mark (55pts) and Stuart (53pts) second and third. Sean and Mark won the first two races in March, with Sean also the winner on the road of the third, although a subsequent stewards enquiry handed the victory to Stuart.
It was also Stuart who claimed pole (at 59.727, the first recorded sub-1 minute lap of the 2.01km circuit at a race meeting) and established the class lap record at 59.510secs – oddly, faster than his best qualifying lap – at an average speed of 120.988kmh (75.178mph). Ryan Gonsalves from St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana’s Mark Vieira, both experienced racers, were starting to mix it with the Maloneys, despite limited time at the wheel of a Radical, and will certainly draw even closer.
Next weekend’s second round of the Suzuki Challenge Series is the headline event of a joint race meeting organised by Bushy Park Motor Sports Inc (BPMSI) and the Barbados Association of Dragsters & Drifters (BADD). Saturday’s schedule will include half-hour practice sessions for the Swift Cup (1.30 p.m.) and SR3 Cup (2 p.m.), with qualifying at 4 p.m. (Swift Cup) and 4.20 p.m. (SR3 Cup).
Sunday’s races are scheduled for 9.30 a.m., 11.50 a.m. and 2.40 p.m. (Swift Cup) and 9.50 a.m., 12.10 p.m. and 3 p.m. (SR3 Cup).