The following is a post about my first time at Dover Raceway. It was one of the best days of my life and though I don’t remember everything (it was a decade ago), I’ll write what I can. I would tell you to close your eyes and join me for the ride, but then how could you read?
So rather, open your eyes, and journey with me on my first time at Dover.
As the morning slips from under the sun, you cannot help but notice how far removed from misery, complications and negative associations, each new day appears to be. Monday the 16th of October, 2006 was no different. If and when you get the opportunity (if you have not done so already ), try going for an extended drive between 4 am and 7 am. I assure you, you will thank me for it.
Now, of course I wasn’t driving. My brother was but the experience is way beyond relaxing.
So on the day in question, we left Kingston early and headed for the hills of Dover. At 6:45 am we were greeted by a rather stern Mr. Ralph** who was unflinching in his use of language when he informed us that we would not be permitted to enter, until the relevant persons arrived. Fortunately, Chris ‘Teach’ McFarlane came and saved the day and all the outcasts and competitors in the IP45 class who were locked out were allowed to venture beyond the closed gates.
Dover, for the most part was still asleep, with less than a handful of persons milling about. Team RS still had their night tent up, yes, Team boss ‘Ice’ and the team of mechanics slept at the track- read – dedication. Most of the garages/pits were locked and the smell of breakfast was slowly beautifying the moist morning air. As I said earlier, there was no indication, that we would all be ‘Rumbling in the Bronx’ in a few hours. You would be forgiven if you were questioning if you were at the correct Dover. There was very little in the way of information that it was race day.
This was about to change as the scrutineers did not waste time and in an air pressure check time, the switches were flicked, keys turned and the cars were making their way to be weighed and examined by Mr. Brown and his crew. With scrutineering underway it was slowly becoming apparent that you were –yes, at the race track.
A practice session confirmed the racing agenda and the early spectators got an opportunity to witness most of the cars go through their paces to facilitate final adjustments. As quickly as practice got underway it ended and qualifying began. Lap times determined the classes for the competitors and we progressed to the opening ceremony.
The official opening ceremony preceded the races and during the ceremony a tribute was made to ‘Dover’s Fallen Heroes’. During the naming of the fallen heroes, ‘Teach’ had a rare announcer’s slip when he identified David Summerbell Jr. and not Snr. as a fallen hero. The fans had a little laugh as Teach apologized, he was forgiven, after which the drivers, sponsors etc. were introduced amidst hand claps and cheers from the appreciative crowd. Then, it was on to the business of racing.
The first race of the day, Improved Production, signaled the beginning of the heroic efforts on the part of drivers which would accompany the races on the schedule. Starting at the back of the grid, Matthew Gore driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo II, brought the spectators rather early to their feet, as he romped through the field, leaving a trail of outperformed vehicles in his wake. Matthew drove to the front of the pack by overtaking everything with an engine and four wheels in front of him, including brother Doug, and Teddy Burton driving the M.A.D. Honda Civic. Unfortunately both Matthew and Teddy’s cars were bitten by mechanical gremlins and did not feature much in the race program for the remainder of the day.
Next up was the IP 45 street class. This class has cars which the fans can identify with, or relate to, and the drivers are for the most part amateurs. The IP45 class had an interesting mix of cars – all daily drivers, but you would not have guessed it when the green flag was waved. Without a hint of uncertainty, Monique Gibbs was the most impressive driver for IP45 race 1. Monique explored the potential of her Mitsubishi Evo VIII and with surgical precision she sliced her way through the field. She led the class to the checkered flag or so we thought. The rules governing the class specify a time restriction, with penalties for failing to adhere to the time constraints. As such the first five drivers/cars across the line, including Monique, were disqualified. In the second IP45 race, however, Monique drove much more controlled and as such she was justly rewarded by placing first.
One of the most impressive drivers for the day to me was Doug Gore who was apparently driving an omnipresent car. It was visible, parading at the front in most of the races, but he did receive a strong challenge from a few drivers. In one of his races, Terron Ramdon rose to the occasion and made a valiant attempt at dethroning Gore’s machine. Terron’s support crew especially those stationed in the Bowla garage were beside themselves with joy. Each time the cars came towards the start finish straight away, their party stepped up a few decibels as they whistled and the ladies screamed as they urged Terron on. Doug did enough to remain in front and took first place while Terron was awarded a well deserved second for his efforts (first in IP35 class) closely followed by Lisa Bowman Lee ( second in class IP35).
During the lunch break, the entertainment package changed gears. A lucky patron won an opportunity to go for a ride around the circuit in one of the race cars. Asafa Powell was present making the trophy presentations, after which he was taken for a ride around the track by one of the accomplished drivers. A few prizes were available from event sponsors, which was welcomed by the patrons as they willfully raced to the announcers station to answer the questions.
After lunch, there were a few more great races but my memory won’t allow me to elaborate on them like the ones I mentioned previously.
All in all it was a fun day and I’m sure it played a pivotal role in my obsession with cars. There was a massive spectator turn out at the venue, the races were competitive and entertaining, the total package included sponsor and fan involvement and spectators got the opportunity to measure up to the world’s fastest (at the time) and most humble human being –our own Asafa Powell. Local ‘superstars’ could always learn a lesson in humility from ‘Afasa’ – a real class act!
** name changed