Racing is in the Catwell blood. At least for two – and possibly three – generations.
Norman Catwell, or Stormin’ Norman, as some in race circles may know him, his son Kyle Catwell and daughter Kayleigh Catwell, not only love racing, but love doing it together.
Norman had long been a marshal on the motor sports scene before he began racing go-karts competitively in 1996, just after returning to Barbados from his honeymoon with his new wife, Gyllan.
It took a toll on him, he recalls.
“That was the hardest thing I have ever done. I vomitted; it took so much out of me. Go-karting is hard, it’s physical and you have to be very fit. I wasn’t prepared and I wasn’t fit.”
But every weekend after that, Norman would practise, until eventually he overcame his obstacles and emerged victorious, competing with the likes of George Ullyett, Nick Gill, Reggie Gill, Stuart Williams, Roger Mayers and Barry Mayers.
After conquering go-karts, he moved on to cars and circuit racing where he picked up not only several trophies, but a nickname that stuck.
“[The now late] John Tiny Harrison gave me the name Stormin’ Norman because I would start really far back in the pack and finish up virtually to the head of the pack,” he says with a chuckle.
“We raced hard and we had fun.”
And that’s just what his 10-year-old daughter is now doing.
Kayleigh started racing go-karts only in January this year, joining the Barbados Karting Association’s (BKA) Easykart programme and already she seems set to surpass her father’s achievements.
With just about half a year into the programme, she has been successful in her outings at Bushy Park, and now finds herself in second position halfway through the BKA/Easykart 60cc Cadet Championship.
“She’s a driver!” Norman gushes as Kayleigh looks on.
“She is fast, and she is determined and she puts a lot of pressure on herself, but I tell her to just enjoy it.”
The St. Gabriel’s School student sees herself going as far as possible and her father isn’t about to get in her way, despite motorsports being viewed by some as dangerous and “a man’s sport”.
“She can carry it as far as she wants to carry it. I don’t have any problem with that because I know the technology in the cars now offer some good protection . . . However far she decides to go, my wife and I will support her. And if she tells me tomorrow she wants to stop, I won’t harp on it or anything,” Norman says.
Kayleigh is not only grateful for that support, but truly appreciates the love with which her father showers her, on and off the track.
“We do everything together,” Norman says as he looks lovingly at his only daughter. “I carry her to school every day just like I carried Kyle to school every day through primary to secondary school.”
And Kayleigh wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love the way my dad is and I would like to be like him one day, in everything,” she says as she turns to hug him tightly.
And although his son is miles away – currently living with his wife and their three-year-old son in Antigua – Norman says the bond is also close.
The two shared a motor sports connection long before Kayleigh was born.
In Norman’s early marshalling days, Kyle, now 30, witnessed a bad accident that seemed to suppress his love for the sport.
“It happened in Easy Hall. The car came around the corner, lost control, rolled over, hit a pole and basically bent in half,” Norman recalls.
Fortunately, both the driver and navigator survived. But it had already shaken Kyle who was no older than seven years at the time.
“Kyle didn’t want to go anywhere at all near fast cars after that. He didn’t even want to learn to drive.”
He eventually regained some interest. But it wasn’t until years later, after studying mechanics at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in the United States that his love for cars was truly reignited and the father and son entered competitions as driver and navigator.
They shared excitement, as well as disappointment on the track.
“We had a fire in the car one year. It wasn’t burned totally, but it was enough to knock us out of the event. That was hard because Kyle had come home for the event and he was like ‘Dad, we got a good chance this year!’ We had the car working really good and we felt really good about our chances . . . But still, we always had fun,” Norman says.
And it seems that the need for speed is moving on to another generation.
Norman says his grandson is already showing interest in go-karting “and if that day comes, I’ll be fine with that too”.