Records tumbled at Bushy Park Barbados over the weekend (January 23/24) as newcomers Suleman Esuf and Guyana’s Calvin Ming shook up the established order in the Suzuki Challenge Series SR3 Cup. Drivers from the UK, United States, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago joined the Barbadian regulars for the inaugural Radical International, as the three-round Winter Cup got under way with an action-packed two-day double-header.
Embarking on his first-ever season of circuit racing, Esuf shocked the establishment with pole position and a new qualifying record (58.965s) on Saturday, shaving 1/100th off Summer Series Champion Sean Maloney’s previous best. Ming joined him on the front row, with Sean, Mark and Stuart Maloney completing the top six along with David Simpson, who qualified with a sub-60sec lap for the first time. Quickest of the UK visitors, Brian Caudwell started seventh, ahead of David Coelho (Trinidad & Tobago), Jim Parr (USA) and fellow Brits Jack Manchester, Bill Henderson and David Frankland.
Saturday’s programme ran from the southern grid. Esuf and Ming looked set for a memorable one-two in the opening race, but the Guyanese teenager was caught in the closing stages, passed first by Sean Maloney, then in a last-lap shuffle by Mark Maloney, as Sean slipped from second to fourth. Judged to have jumped the start, however, Ming was demoted to fourth, with Caudwell fifth and Stuart Maloney sixth.
Making the most of the reverse grid for race two – only the top half of the field was reversed on safety grounds – Caudwell and Esuf were at the front until lap five, when a shake-up of the top four handed Sean Maloney a lead he would keep to the end, chased over the line by Ming. Simpson finished third, having fought hard to keep Mark Maloney at bay, with the recovering Caudwell and Esuf completing the top six.
Sean Maloney made sure of his start from pole in race three, leading Ming, Mark Maloney and Simpson throughout; Esuf passed Stuart Maloney for fifth on lap 10, to complete an impressive track racing debut. Such was the pace that a new lap record was set in every race, twice by Mark Maloney, before brother Sean took it back in race three.
On Sunday, Ming established a second new qualifying record in as many days (58.869s), ahead of Sean, Stuart and Mark Maloney, with Esuf and Caudwell on row three. Ming led throughout the day’s first official SR3 race (an earlier attempt was abandoned), heading home the Maloneys in qualifying order; he was deemed to have jumped the start again, however, the 10-sec penalty dropping him to fourth. Simpson and Parr were fifth and sixth.
Ming would not repeat the mistake, leading the field home in the remaining two races to end the day the highest points-scorer in the SR3 Cup. With another new lap record to his credit (58.716s) from race one, Sean Maloney claimed two more podium finishes to lead the Winter Cup standings after two of three rounds, 13 points clear of Ming, with brother Mark third.
While there were no newcomers on the Swift Cup grid, some personal bests were achieved over the weekend. On Saturday, Jamaica’s David Summerbell Jnr (Team Simpson Finance) claimed his first pole position with a new qualifying record (1:16.299), while Ryan Wood (Team Digicel) equalled his best qualifying performance with second; Mark Thompson (Team Hard Rock Cement) and T&T’s Ryan Peyrau (Team Suzuki) were on the second row.
Summer Series Champion Summerbell led from lights to flag in race one, leading home Peyrau, Jason Parkinson (Team Infra Rentals), Wood and his Digicel team-mate Daryl Clarke and ‘Snappa’ Husbands (Team Williams Industries). In race two, Thompson won his first race since mid-way through the Summer Series, leading home a family one-two, brother Kurt (Team Glassesco) claiming his best-ever Swift Cup result, second. Parkinson was third again, ahead of Peyrau, Freddie Gale (Team Gale’s Agro Products) with Samantha Summerbell (Team Suzuki) equalling her best result in sixth.
While her father David could manage only seventh in race two, he bounced back with another victory in the day’s final outing, giving him the early lead in the Winter Cup, ahead of Peyrau, Parkinson, Thompson, Kurt Thompson and Wood. Mark Thompson’s return to form in race two also netted a new lap record (1:15.898).
On Sunday, Peyrau claimed pole position with another new qualifying record (1:16.090), ahead of a Swift Cup best of second for Josh Read (Team Massy United Insurance), with Parkinson and Summerbell on row two. Peyrau made a clean getaway, leading from lights to flag, with Read, Parkinson, Mark Thompson, Husbands and Summerbell completing the top six in an unusually sedate race.
In the reverse grid race, pole-sitter Paul Bourne looked set to achieve his first Swift Cup race win, a superb defensive drive keeping him ahead until part-way through the final lap, when Ryan Wood and Daryl Clarke both squeezed past for a second Team Digicel one-two (it first happened last October), leaving Bourne third. Peyrau finished fourth, with Parkinson again in the mix, in fifth, and Mark Thompson sixth.
Peyrau doubled up in the last race of the weekend, assuming the lead of the Winter Cup by 22 points from Parkinson, in turn two points ahead of Summerbell. Mark Thompson, Wood and Clarke complete the top six, with all to play for in the final round on February 28.
Pro Surfer and Suzuki Caribbean Brand Ambassador Chelsea Tuach was on hand to present the awards in the Bushy Park Cafeteria on Sunday afternoon.