Barbados is getting ready to unveil a multi-million dollar motor racing venture that could change the face of sports tourism here and in the Eastern Caribbean.
In a venture that apparently has the backing in principle of the sports international governing body, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), a number of local interests, under the umbrella of the Barbados Motoring Federation, are completing plans for an international standard track and related facilities that would accommodate Formula 3 racing at Bushy Park in St. Philip.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY from Brazil this morning, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy confirmed that he met this week with international track design consultant Clyde Bowen, who is working with the local fraternity to complete the proposal.
“We are extremely enthusiastic about this venture,” Sealy said. “This is a project with massive potential. When we talk about international sports in Barbados, cricket and golf come to mind, but when the world talks about international sport motor racing is at the top of the list – it is at the head of the pack.
“Anyone who has been to Homestead, Florida when Nascar racing is on, or in Miami when there is a Grand Prix on, knows that it is impossible to find a hotel room. If we are able to pull this off we will take sports tourism in Barbados to a whole new level.”
He noted that Government had seen the potential of the project and a number of key players, including Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley and Minister of Housing and Lands Michael Lashley, were already involved in ensuring that the necessary supports were in place.
According to Barbados TODAY investigations, the popularity of motor racing in Barbados and the tremendous public support for the sport have contributed in no small measure to the project’s success so far. One source explained that an international racing official, who attended a local event a few years ago was so overwhelmed by what he saw that he suggested to FIA that Barbados was the perfect place for the its next major move.
FIA, Barbados TODAY was told, committed $800,000 to a study, on the condition that the local fraternity throw in $200,000, which it did. As recently as a month ago, six consultants were in Barbados putting the finishing touches on a number of alternative proposals.
“Right now though, it looks like we will be going with an international standard Grade Three circuit that can accommodate up to Formula 3 racing, along with a drag strip and a host of other facilities. There will be nothing like it in this part of the world!
“We are designing a facility that will be targeted at bringing international racing to Barbados and that will enhance tourism in a big way. We are talking about something that will establish Barbados as an international centre for motor sports. This is a project that will earn major foreign exchange for Barbados,” a source connected to the project said.
While declining to give the possible cost of the project on the grounds that that would depend on the final proposal adopted, the source said it would be a multi-million dollar investment.
Barbados TODAY has also learnt that the tourism component of the project would involve the construction of specialty villas/apartment that would allow international drivers and owners to bring in their racing cars and house them in top class conditions with all necessary facilities at their finger tips.
Clive Bowen was invited in 2005 by Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams to oversee the season finale of the Bajan saloon car championship at Bushy Park, an event which attracted 15,000 spectators. He was brought in to the country to review the circuit’s options to upgrade the 1971 built track to a minimum FIA Category 3 status. The land for the site is currently under control by receivers and the opportunity to develop the facility for future motorsport is in question. One thing is certain; there is no doubt about public support for motorsport in Barbados or the willingness of those in the sport to see the circuit upgraded. Ongoing discussions between Clive Bowen and Bajan authorities maintain hope for the future of the circuit even as recently as May 2008.