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Life in the fast lane

LeVaughn Flynn, Staff Reporter

PINPOINTING THE start of karting in Jamaica isn't easy. While the Jamaica Karting Association (JKA) website has its genesis as the early 1980s, senior karting aficionados say they have memories of karting in Jamaica from the 1960s.

From the earliest days when karters raced in the car park at the National Arena to Hillrun in St. Catherine in the mid-80s then to its present location at the Palisadoes International Speedway in 1991, karting has long been a sporting alternative in Jamaica. Racing also took place at Vernamfield, the cycling track at the National Stadium and off the Mandela Highway.

The Hillrun track in St. Catherine was the first dedicated karting track. Located close to a fish farm in central St. Catherine, karters competed on land loaned to them by Mark Wong from around 1985 to 1990.

"It certainly wasn't as smooth as the track as we have right now, but for the most part it was asphalted and it had a few concrete patches on it," commented veteran race car driver Peter Rae.

Rae added that helmets were always mandatory but racing suits were not as drivers frequently drove in jeans and T-shirts.

Mex Lodenquay, who raced during the 1970s, said during Hillrun's heyday, the sport enjoyed a "good following" and a "good atmosphere".

"We used to have overseas karters mainly from the Caribbean competing at Hillrun," recalled Lodenquay.

In 1991, the racetrack was moved to Palisadoes, next to the Norman Manley International Airport, and was originally 830 metres long and 20 metres wide.

At the beginning of 2007, the track was upgraded to meet international standards and was lengthened to 1.2 km and widened to 30m.

The facilities supporting the track were also upgraded with a new pit area, proper curbing, tyre barriers, hot pit section and adequate covered seating.

Powerful engines

The track is now eligible to host top international competitions.

With the improvements to the track over the years came better karts. The engines became more powerful as some are now able to propel karts as fast as 85 miles per hour.

There was the McCulloch 91B in the '70s followed by the Yamaha KT 100. Rae describes the KT 100 as the backbone of karting engines in Jamaica, some of which are still used today. There was also the Formula A engine, known locally as the 'Big Juice' because of the immense power it produced compared to the Yamaha. Today, the motors most commonly used are the shifter and rotax engines.

"The karts today are more sophisticated and the chassis isn't as stiff," noted Lodenquay.

"And the track now is really superb," he added.

With the introduction of the Rotax series in 2005, Jamaican drivers had the opportunity to qualify and compete in a world finals.

To date, Timothy Stewart has been the most successful. In the 2006 Rotax World Finals in Portugal, Stewart created history when he won an individual race in the Junior Class, the only driver from the region (North America and Caribbean) to achieve this.

Women have always been active in karting as well. Their participation grew after the track moved to Palisadoes in 1991 and women such as Camille Chen, the late Lora Ewart, Lisa Bowman-Lee and Sue-Ann Panton have held their own.

Additionally, just this year the JKA introduced the Baby Kart Class which has competitors as young as five years old. The association says this is intended to get children interested in the sport during their most receptive years.

JKA Executive

# Neil Williams - President

# Dave Wong - Vice-president

# Calvin Chong - Treasurer

# Marc Evans - Secretary

# Duncan Stewart - Director

# John Ralston - Director

# Jean Noel Foulard - Director

# World-class meets for Palisadoes?

NEWLY ELECTED president of the Jamaica Karting Association (JKA), Neil Williams, says an international meet in Jamaica would provide the perfect windfall for the sport.

With a 'world-class' track in the Palisadoes International Speedway, Williams says Jamaica is now eligible to host international meets, particularly the competitive Rotax World Finals.

"The organisers should have been here in September to take a look at our track but that didn't happen, so hopefully we are still being considered," said Williams, who was elected president on Wednesday night after the JKA's annual general meeting.

Williams, who served as Andrew Jackson's vice-president in the previous administration, added that hosting an international event would have numerous positive spin-offs.

"Such a meet would provide great exposure for karting in Jamaica and internationally," he noted. "Since we renovated our track at the beginning of this year, there has been new interest in the sport and one of the main goals of the new executive is creating more awareness of the sport and getting bigger crowds at our races."

Jamaica hosted regional championships in 2004 and 2005 but with the renovation of the track, which saw it lengthened and widened to international standards, the track is now ready to host a world finals.

"The organisers are very keen on having it here," noted outgoing president Jackson. "The primary objective of upgrading the track was to have international meets here. International exposure would introduce our drivers to different driving styles and give valuable experience."

Jackson, who served as president between 2001-2004 and 2007, said the introduction of the baby kart series (five-eight years old) this year was a huge success and would ensure the continuous development of karting.

"If you learn the basics from early you are most likely to do well throughout the rest of your career," reasoned Jackson.

"We want to continue to grow and develop that class and train drivers to drive better," he added.

Williams, who describes his new executive as a powerhouse, said Wednesday night's general meeting was encouraging as they forge ahead to better things for the sport.

"It was well attended and it's the first in a long time we've had an election. There were multiple people being nominated for very few positions and the result is a very strong executive," he stated.

- L.F.

# 10-y-o makes history

A 10-year-old schoolboy has re-wrote the history books of go-kart racing by becoming the youngest competitor to win the Abe Ziadie Trophy. Colin Daley Jr. not only demonstrated that he has talent, but also that he is one of the brightest prospects in the island at the moment.

This view has been shared by Peter 'Jacko' Moodie and a number of go-kart fans.

"This little boy is one for the future," said Chris Baas, a prominent go-kart fan.

Following his sweet success at the Palisadoes Raceway about two weeks ago, Daley has his eyes now set on the American circuit. The youngster is now preparing to compete in the Grand Nationals early next year in the U.S.A.

The Grand Nationals is a major meet where all the top drivers for each class in the North America region compete against one another. Daley will be one of four junior drivers who will be travelling to the United States between January and March next year to contest the Miami Winter Tours.

The other karters are Thomas Issa, Matthew Williams and Phillip Myers.

A cut above the 'Mini Max Class', Daley won this year's championship with more than 750 points.

- G.S.

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