In Nassau, a red 1970 Gold Leaf Lotus Élan, zooms up the hill. A chequered flag waves and a yellow 1957 Ferrari 500 can be spotted up ahead, with a blue Aston Martin DB5 shimmering in the tropical sun in the distance. Someone who looks like Sean Connery is shaking hands with spectators.
It could be a dream. But this is Bahamas Speed Week 2012 in the Bahamian capital. The pace of life can be slow in this part of the world, with the fastest thing on the road the odd lizard or “potcake”, the local name for a mongrel dog. But for seven days in November the smell of burning rubber, the revving of engines and the popping of champagne corks complements the aroma of frying fish and the rhythm of steel pan bands – and things really speed up The original Bahamas Speed Week ran in Nassau from 1954 to 1966, traditionally in the first week of December and brought together stars from the US and Europe in a high octane end of season play off which has, as of last year, returned to take its place as an annual event in the motoring calendar.
In 2012 a group of dedicated classic car owners crossed the Atlantic, bringing with them pristine Aston Martins, Ferraris, Porsches and Maseratis, which they assembled at Arawak Cay against a back drop of colourful shacks, turquoise sea and huge cruise ships.
The opening ceremony of Speed Week took place at the cay with a Le Mans style start, but as a concession to 82-year-old Sir Stirling Moss, who took part in the original Speed Weeks and patronised the Revival for the second time in 2012, the drivers walked rather than ran to their cars. Sir Stirling, however, showed the crowd that he is still a deft hand at the wheel of his 1950s-era OSCA FS372 sport racer.
Jay Michaels, moderator at the opening ceremony, has compared Speed Week to other racing events such as LeMans, Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500. But in Nassau things are done in a slightly different way. Before the wheels were allowed to spin, the cars and their drivers were blessed by the Rector of the capital’s St Francis Xavier Catholic cathedral.
This year a Bocar XP-5, a Cooper Monaco CM/4/59 and a DeLorean DMC 12, among others, sparkled in the Bahamian sunshine, all brought by ship from the UK, the USA, and Europe.
The cars are the stars here and all have their stories. Chief executive of Bayford Oil Group Jonathan Turner carried off the Best Car in Show award for his Jaguar C Type. His is the second name on the magnificent solid silver trophy, the first being Wal-Mart chairman Rob Walton who won the cup last year with a $7m Maserati 450S. Austrian Andreas Mohringer brought his lovingly preserved 1953 red Ferrari 375 MM Pinin Farina Spyder, the only one in the world.
But Speed Week isn’t just about rich businessmen. This year the classic cars were joined by a group of Formula Kart Stars from the UK, with eight cadets ranging in age from nine to 12 years old, and eight others aged 16 up, who were dubbed “the Formula 1 stars of the future”. Lewis Hamilton, among others, started his career this way and Bahamas Speed Week Revival event director David McLoughlin said the sight of some of Britain’s finest young kart racers from Essex and Kent could provide inspiration for Bahamas’ own karting future.
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By Judith Baker