The redevelopment of the 40-year-old Bushy Park race track in Barbados into a multi purpose motor sport facility has been welcomed not only at home, where it will provide a springboard for sustained growth of the island’s most popular spectator sport, but also regionally and internationally.
A grant from motor sport’s world governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), supplemented by significant local funding, created the Master Plan on which the development is based. Nearly all the original 1.3 kilometre layout remains within the extended 2.02kms circuit, which is being developed to achieve FIA Grade 3 approval. In addition, internal link roads will create more than one circuit configuration, including a kart track meeting Grade A venue requirements for CIK-FIA events.
Over the last two weeks, Race 1, Barbados TV channel CBC’s weekly motor sports programme, has broadcast panel discussions on the redevelopment. Operations Director for developer Bushy Park Circuit Inc (BPCI), Mark Hamilton, said: “The existing track has a great story to tell . . . the new track will have an even greater story to tell.”
Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams, one of the circuit’s creators in the 1970s and a former lap record holder, agreed: “The sky’s the limit. The potential for development is quite extraordinary.” Patrick Weekes, who first raced there in the ‘90s, added: “Circuit racing is where it has always been at, and I believe the drivers will have a wonderful time.” Veteran racer Doug Maloney, now in his fifth decade of competition, said: “I am very excited, it will be a good fast circuit. I like Brands Hatch in England and one day we will have something so good that we can invite drivers from there to race here.”
Doug’s son Mark, who is head of the development team, added: “Motor sports tourism is a tremendous thing. Bushy Park will be great for off-season tours, sun, sea and some fun on a racetrack.”
BPCI decided from the outset to use both traditional and social media to release updates about progress; a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BushyParkCircuit) created just over two weeks ago attracted more than 250 ‘likes’ overnight, a number which passed 1,000 last weekend.
One of the early postings by the developer was an in-car simulation of a lap of the revised circuit, which has already been ‘shared’ more than 180 times, an unusually high level for a locally-based Facebook page in the island. While the simulation was created early in the planning process and is not 100 per cent true to the final development, particularly in terms of elevation changes, it gives a good feel for the new circuit.
Marcus Pye of Autosport, the UK’s leading motor sport magazine, devoted his weekly ‘Humble Pye’ column on September 12 to the start of work at Bushy Park and the impact next year’s re-opening will have. A long-serving commentator, journalist and organiser, Pye knows the island and its motor sport history, having visited more than once. He wrote: “News that work started last month to rebuild the fabled venue around a lengthened 1.2-mile track to FIA Grade 3 specification is wonderful for Barbados and the Caribbean region, well established on the global motor sport map by the success of Sol Rally Barbados. For one of the 10 smallest FIA member countries, with a population of under a million, this is the breakthrough of its dreams, and will transform the Caribbean island’s ‘most popular spectator sport’.”
Sam Collins, Deputy Editor of Racecar Engineering in the UK, has mentioned the development on the magazine’s twitter feed, which has more than 18,000 followers, and posted on the BPCI Facebook page: “Can’t wait to bring a bunch of overseas teams to the new track.” Collins also knows the island and was instrumental in the visit of Ireland’s Barry Rabbitt, who made such an impression with local fans in 2010.
Interest is high in the wider Caribbean, too. Guyana’s Amjad Rahaman posted: “I showed my Dad this, he raced at Bushy Park with MGBs way back when, all he said was ‘Wow’. We hope to race at this track in the near future with our Escort. Amazing job, track will be awesome.” Along with Bushy Park, Rahaman’s home circuit of South Dakota and the Dover Raceway in Jamaica have been the three host venues for the annual Seaboard Marine Caribbean Motor Racing Championship since 2008.
A thread discussing the development on the web site Wheels Jamaica had been viewed more than 2,500 times in the first two weeks. Positive posts included: “I am happy that finally we are getting a world-class track in the English- speaking Caribbean. It will lift the sport to a better standard, thus lifting the machines that race on it as well.”
Of the response so far, Hamilton said: “If I’m honest, we’ve been rather overwhelmed . . . I doubt that a Facebook page which has been created for what is currently just a building site has ever enjoyed quite such an astonishing reaction so quickly. “There has been a real groundswell of support for what Bushy Park will be able to do for motor sport not just in our island of Barbados, but also throughout the region. It has been really encouraging to hear so many favourable comments about the facility from motor sport fans around the wider Caribbean and even further afield in these past few weeks. We look forward to delivering on their aspirations.”