Barry Gale and Stuart Maloney were the big winners in the second round of the Suzuki Challenge Series at Bushy Park Barbados on Saturday, each claiming two victories, as regular rain showers throughout the afternoon created challenging track conditions. Gale is the new leader of the Swift Cup, while Maloney has reduced Suleman Esuf’s SR3 Cup lead to just eight points.
An action-packed six-hour programme, practice and qualifying – usually two separate sessions – were combined into one 20-minute period for each category, with the clocks running throughout. This allowed drivers to visit the pits for minor adjustments, which many did to try and make the best of the damp and slippery surface. Even when the track started to look dry, grip remained at a premium, with the next shower never far off.
In the Swift Cup session, Gale (Team Bushy Park Experiences) claimed his first pole position by almost half a second from points leader Josh Read (Team Massy United Insurance). Justin Campbell (Team Rock Hard Cement) and reigning champion Ryan Wood (Team ICBL) started on row two, ahead of Trinidad & Tobago’s Ryan Peyrau (Team Simpson Finance), Kenrick Husbands (Team Williams Industries) and Martinique’s Pascal Calvel (Team Suzuki).
Gale defended his advantage into the first corner, then edged steadily away for a lights to flag victory, a huge battle raging behind him in the early stages helping his escape. Read and Wood completed the podium, holding on to first and third in the standings, but Peyrau’s sixth place dropped him to fourth, replaced by Gale in second place.
But those positions would change again on a day in which the rollercoaster of motorsports fortunes was running at full speed. The reverse grid for race two placed Peyrau on the front row alongside Calvel, with Gale at the back. On the advice of friends back home texting him about tyre pressures, Peyrau made some adjustments which improved the handling, allowing him a more comfortable run to his 12th Swift Cup win. Gale made steady progress to finish second, with Campbell equalling his best result in third place. Peyrau was the new championship leader, three points ahead of Gale, with Read now third after a grassy moment mid-way through race two saw him finish seventh.
For the final encounter, with the grid based on points already scored, Gale and Peyrau sat on the front row, with Campbell and Wood on row two. Once again, the field was very closely bunched, with the track conditions prompting some lurid slides. As Gale and Peyrau battled for the lead, Wood led Calvel over the Joker bridge on lap three, rejoining in the midst of a battle involving Campbell and Read. As the four cars exited the Sesash Hairpin, contact started a chain reaction, which resulted in Read losing his front left wheel, the car abandoned on the inside of the exit of the Cockspur Cyclone, while Wood cannoned off into the tyre wall on the outside of the same corner.
The Stewards later penalised Wood for his part in the incident, docking him 25 championship points.
Gale went on to claim his second win of the day, with Peyrau and Calvel completing the podium, and assume the championship lead, by just four points from Peyrau. Despite a ‘bad day at the office’, Read is still third, although he is now 24 points behind Peyrau.
The second round of the SR3 Cup was all about points leader Esuf and Stuart Maloney, who traded pole position times in qualifying, then locked out the top two steps of the podium in all three races. Maloney started from pole, albeit around seven seconds off the pace on a dry track, with Esuf alongside. David Simpson, who had missed the opening round, and Sean Maloney, were on row two, ahead of Mark Maloney and Ryan Gonsalves from St Vincent & The Grenadines.
Pushed hard by Esuf from the start, Maloney prevailed in race one, Esuf edging closer mid-way through the race, but Maloney answering the challenge to claim his second win of the season. Simpson finished third. Mark Maloney made an excellent start from the front row of the reverse grid for race two, passing pole-sitter Gonsalves, but then slid off at the Courtesy Dipper, rejoining at the back of the field. As Sean Maloney failed to complete the first lap and Simpson retired a few laps later, Esuf and Stuart Maloney overwhelmed Gonsalves to finish race two in that order, with Gonsalves third.
Having each scored 43 points in the first two races, Maloney started on pole for the third outing, by virtue of qualifying ahead of Esuf, with Gonsalves and Mark Maloney on row two. Once again, Stuart Maloney and Esuf pulled steadily away from the rest, but Esuf could not find a way past, despite looking at every possible chance at every corner. Maloney’s second victory of the day carried him to within eight points of Esuf.