Guyana’s Kristian Jeffrey clinched the 2022 Radical Caribbean Cup (RCC) by a margin of just five points with what he later described as a “do or die effort” on Sunday (November 13), winning the final race of the season on the South Dakota Raceway. And there was a double celebration for the ecstatic home crowd, as Guyana won the inaugural Nations Cup, despite Barbadian brothers Stuart and Mark Maloney closing the gap to a single point with victories in the day’s first two races.
Heading into the final round, Jeffrey was 15 points behind his year-long rival Kristian Boodoosingh of Trinidad & Tobago who had wrested the lead from Jeffrey’s grasp last month on his own home turf. Jeffrey had won four of the nine races earlier in the season, with two further podiums, while ‘Boodoostig’ had never been off the podium, scoring maximum points three times in October. A battle of the Titans was in prospect, with the added spice of the extended layout at South Dakota, up from 0.78 to 1.6 miles, being raced on for the first time.
Just as action at the Frankie Boodram Wallerfield International Raceway in T&T had been disrupted, the weather played its part in Guyana, too, while the containers bringing the Radicals south had been delayed, meaning long hours into Thursday night for the teams. By Saturday morning, the RCC drivers had enjoyed only around 15 minutes on track, then heavy rainstorms further delayed matters, although the Guyana Motor Racing & Sports Club (GMR&SC) did manage to run qualifying for the supporting races.
While Sunday was better and there was time to split the RCC field, with five cars in each of two free practice sessions – Boodoosingh topped the first, Guyana’s Mark Vieira the second – qualifying was abandoned, the grid for Race 1 based on championship standings. That put the key protagonists at the front, Boodoosingh ahead of Jeffrey, with Stuart and Justin Maloney next up, then Jamaica’s Senna Summerbell and Sean Maloney, although the latter failed to start with a paddle shift issue.
Boodoosingh led until half-distance before a slow puncture caused by an excursion into the sand dropped him back, initially to fourth before a spin for title rival Jeffrey gifted him third. Jeffrey had a lively race battling with Vieira, Mark Maloney, who got beached in the sand after running off with a throttle issue, and Sol Esuf, who climbed steadily through the field to take second place. Esuf finished half-a-second behind 2018 RCC champion Stuart Maloney, who claimed his first victory of the season, while Summerbell, Justin Maloney and Ahmed Esuf completed the runners. With the bonus point for fastest lap – a time of 1m 16.413s, which now stands as the RCC Race Lap Record for the new circuit – Boodoosingh extended his advantage to 19 points, with 50 still on the table.
Grid two was again based on points, this time with the top half reversed, placing Sean Maloney and Senna Summerbell at the front, and the two Kristians in the bottom half of the pack. At the second start after a brief red flag period, Boodoosingh was in the lead within two laps and Jeffrey in fourth place, but in a mighty tussle with Esuf, Sean and Justin Maloney. A worse fate befell his title rival, however, as a failed water pump caused overheating and a dnf. Mark Maloney assumed the lead, with Jeffrey looking set for second place, until an inspired Esuf demoted him on the last lap. It was Jeffrey’s turn for fastest lap . . . and if he’d held on to that second place, the two Kristians would have been tied on points heading into the last race.
Having finished second twice, Esuf was on pole for the final, the grid based on points scored earlier, with Justin Maloney the only other driver from Barbados, which was now leading the Nations Cup by nine points from Guyana following the Maloney brothers’ two wins. While some drivers elected not to run as daylight was fading, the two Kristians were pumped and ready, with all to play for in the season’s final eight laps. Spurred on by his home crowd, Jeffrey charged straight into the lead, knowing victory would secure the title, whatever happened to Boodoosingh, who ran in third place throughout.
Summerbell had rocketed up to second by the end of the first lap and drove a brilliant race to finish less than a second behind Jeffrey but was later disqualified for missing the weigh station after the race, as was Vieira, who had finished third. So 18 points for second place left Boodoosingh a tantalising five points shy of Jeffrey at year-end, while Justin Maloney finished his impressive season with third place, not quite enough to prevent Guyana winning the Nations Cup by just a single point. (RB)