HOPES FOR XMAS DOVER MEETFriday, October 15, 2021
BY RORY DALEY
FOR the second-consecutive year, there will be no racing at Dover Raceway in St Ann on Heroes' Day weekend due to the moratorium on circuit racing caused by the onslaught of the COVID-19. Monday, October 18, will be celebrated as Heroes' Day.
Junior Barnes, chairman of Jamaica Race Drivers' Club (JRDC), however, has other aspirations. He is hoping his club will be allowed to hold an event on the weekend of December 18.
“The racers are ready. They and the club want to do everything being asked by the Government and the Ministry of Health to have racing return as safely as possible at Dover Raceway,” Barnes told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.
He explained that currently 60 per cent of JRDC drivers have been vaccinated and the event, if held would be limited to vaccinated sponsors, crew and family of the drivers, and spectators with proof of vaccination. The latter would be limited to 3,000.
“Dover Raceway has 40 acres of land and can hold 20,000 people. At 3,000 there is more than enough space for them to be safe and social-distance,” Barnes said.
Barnes added that the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the world governing motorsports body, has offered to pay for COVID-19 training for the club's safety marshals. They would be used in addition to all the necessary protocols as the only genre of motorsports currently able to hold events, karting. The JRDC's last race meet was in October 2019.
The event wouldn't be just for amusement, as Barnes has been candid about the club's financial fortunes during the moratorium. Earlier this year, Barnes pleaded for private sector and Government support for the JRDC, eventually receiving a life-saving donation from the automotive division of Miracle Corporation Limited.
“For the first time we were able to pay our lease bill in full, thanks to Mr Richard Lee and his kind donation to the club, he said.”
However, the lifeline was temporary as the current lease payments to the Dover trustees loom large for 2022. During the pandemic, no payment reprieve has been given to the JRDC, but they have managed to split the payments into five instalments.
“If we don't have a race meet by February, the club will go bankrupt, he said.”
If racing is back up and running, the next thing for Barnes to tackle is the degrading surface of the track. At nearly 40 years old, the asphalt is breaking up and can't be patched anymore. Only a full resurface at an estimated $27 million will fix the problem, but as Barnes stated, the club needs to be racing to address the problem.
“There's no impact on safety. What the bad surface has an impact on is outright speed as drivers have a difficult time finding a tyre compound that will work at Dover. Too soft and they won't last the eight laps. Too hard and they won't get enough heat in them to provide grip,” he explained.
For the duration of the moratorium, Barnes has continued to maintain the circuit and its grounds, providing track testing days, with a maximum of four cars for the day. This has allowed drivers to upgrade their cars in what has been effectively an extended off season.
Barnes bemoans the lack of competition due to the moratorium as he feels it's been impacting the younger drivers, who have no racing to show or increase their skill, or build their résumés for international events.